Will the next big fashion line originate in Web3?
“You don’t have to worry about physical production or transportation of goods,” said CAA agent Tom Capone during the Fairchild Media Tech Forum. “You can really imagine beyond the confines of gravity and general physics. And that’s pretty exciting from a creative perspective.”
The metaverse may still be the purview of tech-savvy early adopters and a small but growing coterie of celebrities. (Mila Kunis recently partnered with entrepreneur Sharad Devarajan to launch Armored Kingdom Media, which will include digital comics, animation, film and a trading card game on the carbon-neutral blockchain Near.)
But legacy fashion and apparel brands including Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Balmain, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Adidas and Nike have embraced the metaverse, collaborating with digital artists and investing in NFT start-ups. And digital artists are increasingly breaking into established markets of entertainment and fashion.
In 2021, Nike acquired Utah-based NFT start-up and digital sneaker maker RTKFT. Gucci has amassed a team of digital creators and in May revealed it would accept cryptocurrency for some physical goods. Balmain has rolled out multiple NFTs on MINTNFT, including Barbie x Balmain and Balmain x Cole, a collaboration with digital artist Jeff Cole on the Balmain unicorn sneaker. Similar to the Barbie collaboration, the Cole project includes unique NFTs with the highest bidder also getting a pair of actual sneakers signed by Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing.
The decentralized, personalized nature of Web3 and the metaverse offers an opportunity for fashion brands to use virtual reality and augmented reality to hyper tailor digital wearables. For instance, in the metaverse, a user could buy a Gucci token and see only Gucci garments, via augmented reality, on the fashion week runway. In the future, luxury goods will increasingly come with complementary NFTs, so that a user can outfit their avatar in the same way they carry their IRL Gucci handbag, added Adam Friedman, CAA executive and investor, Connect Ventures, a joint venture with NEA.
“As the metaverse becomes more mainstream and more adopted and you see more people interacting in the metaverse, you’re going to need to dress yourself and your avatar as you walk around,” he said, during a discussion led by WWD West Coast executive editor Booth Moore. “You don’t want to be left out of the loop. You don’t want to have last season’s sneakers on. The same utility we see in the space in real life, I think you’re going to be seeing [in the metaverse].”
Last year marked a frenzied push by Hollywood agencies into the metaverse. UTA signed three NFT collections — CryptoPunks, Meebits and Autoglyphs — from creative technology firm Larva Labs, which was founded in 2005 by Canadian software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson. Released in 2017, CryptoPunks was among the first NFT project to live on the Ethereum blockchain. A few months later, CAA signed an actual NFT avatar — Jenkins the Valet, launched by Tally Labs, and which emerged from the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT project, whose NFT owners include Snoop Dogg, Tom Brady, Madonna, Justin Bieber, Steph Curry, Paris Hilton and Logan Paul.
Earlier this year, CAA signed 13-year-old Nyla Hayes, the digital artist who created the Long Necky Women NFT series.
“She’s an artist at her core but there’s so much more that we can build with her,” said Friedman. “There’s brand campaign and content opportunities and speaking opportunities.”
The metaverse is minting superstars — including former MLB player turned NFT artist Micah Johnson, whose NFT sales have been valued at close to $20 million. But so far it’s still a very small — and financially volatile — community.
“There’s no doubt that when you look at the space there’s a bit of an echo chamber right now,” added Friedman. “When you see more and more folks jumping into the space, not from a cash grab mentality but more from a [creative mentality], that is how you’re going to see things expand.”
Get your digital wearables before their ETH value hits the stratosphere.