The world of NFT is all about fashion and luxury: a shared interest. Speculative bubble or justified enthusiasm?
2021 is the year of NFTs, the famous non-fungible tokens that are panicking young and geeky investors by combining cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Sales have exploded in August; speculators are rushing in with glee. A craze favored by confinements (physical art was no longer accessible) and justified by the growing interest of the art world, sports and media. Marvel has put up for sale several anthology comics, a collector spent 600,000 dollars to buy the jpeg of an old stone, unseen photos of young Kobe Bryant have been auctioned using this process, and even the American Visa acquired the image of a virtual punk (one of 3,840 female punks listed on the platform created by Larva Labs) for 150,000 dollars. A work by artist Beeple was sold as an NFT for 69.3 million dollars at Christie’s last March. The most unexpected examples abound.
It may be useful to point out that an NFT is a digital item which, thanks to blockchain technology, is made non-fungible, i.e. unique and non-exchangeable. The virtual object, whatever it is (an image, a video, a gif, and even why not a computer code), then takes on an original and authentic character since its ownership is verifiable and certified. A single image, recognized as the original model, then takes on the character of a work of art. The interest for the owner of an NFT is therefore to display a social status (in the same way that one displays at home or in a foundation in his name an original painting: the fact of displaying an original cryptopunk in photo coverage of its twitter feed thus becomes a sign of wealth) and/or of valuing a speculative asset.
To some sceptics, this fad is akin to the lottery or a bubble that will soon explode. Other collectors, on the other hand, are betting on the simplification of this practice which will make it accessible to the general public very soon. “In 5-10 years, platforms like Instagram will be able to display NFTs. These works will become means of communication: if Gucci offers NFTs to an influencer, those who follow him will want to buy Gucci ", predicts collector Nikola Niksic quoted by France Info. One small problem: you have to be familiar with technology, have an online wallet, inject cryptocurrency into it and connect to a dedicated sales website. We are more in a geek universe than a traditional collector universe for the moment.
Fashion, and more particularly luxury where exclusivity is highly sought after, have understood the interest of NFTs. Both as a vector of communication but also as a new avenue for the customer experience offering new services. The pioneering house of Gucci (the brand has already launched the marketing of digital products) presented a first NFT in the form of a digital art piece representing a metaphorical universe of a galloping horse. This NFT had a starting bid of 20,000 dollars payable in Ethereum. Rimowa for its part inaugurated its first NFT collection by partnering with design studio Nuova to imagine four pieces inspired by airline furniture. This series called "Blueprints for the Metaverse" consists of physical goods transformed into digital works of art.
Valentino, meanwhile, opened an NFT digital art exhibition this past June around the work of British artist Matthew Stone. And to close this series of examples too numerous to list, let us mention the fashion giant Louis Vuitton. To mark the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of its founder, the handbag maker launched "Louis: The Game ”a video game in which 30 NFTs are integrated. We see Vivienne, mascot of the house, going in search of the 200 birthday candles over a course designed around six worlds. The well-understood idea of the trunk maker is to connect with the ultra-connected generation of consumers to come. A breakthrough in line with the philosophy of Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton who proclaims: "The best way to engage people is to do it through the medium they like." A bet on the future therefore.
Ethics and transparency vs high carbon footprint?
Another potential utility of NFTs is sustainable development. This technology would, in absolute terms, bring luxury and fashion into a new decade of transparency and ethical authentication. The customer could track the history of all transactions from design to repair of the product. The NFT would also make it possible to insure its product or extend its warranty, and more generally to strengthen the links between a luxury house and its client through secure technology. The DressX company, founded in July 2020 by Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova offers virtual clothes that can be worn digitally by its users for their photos and videos: the company has partnered with Crypto.com NFT to stimulate asset buying digitally. One of the main arguments of both companies is to reduce pollution by consuming virtually. Commendable and innovative desires. The only problem: this technology consumes a lot of electricity. The carbon footprint of NFTs is therefore considerable. In short: a technology full of promises but also of paradoxes.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English.
Crédits photos : Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Gucci