Prada, Jason Wu and Gucci too. Major luxury brands are offering up special access to fashion shows and events to holders of their NFTs — a practice called “token-gating” — that could change the front row and serve as a new velvet rope.
“More and more, token-gated experiences are going to become the thing for 2023,” said Arianee chief executive officer Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel.
Prada and Jason Wu have already added September fashion week tickets to their tokens; Gucci held a private cocktail in New York last June for the holders of their SuperGucci and Gucci Grail NFTs.
Arianee has previously worked with IWC watches and YSL, and is currently working with several other brands on creating specialized experiences that will take place during the upcoming fashion weeks in September or January.
Brands are looking at what they can do during PFW using the official NFTs. “That’s going to open an amazing range of possibilities, and then it creates a foundation, an asset, for the brand to build experiences,” Hurstel said.
As PFW attendees build up their wallets from season to season, and all the years of check-ins that come with it, brands can choose communities of people and give them access to token-gated experiences — aka “parties” in common parlance. Brands can also see the social graph of who has attended past events, and guests have proof they were there.
The data can help brands grow their NFT programs quickly as they figure out how to bridge the gap between the internet and IRL. Plus, pairing an NFT to an event is a way to “cut through the noise” when it feels like a new collection or collaboration is announced every day, Hurstel said.
“Brands need to navigate the journey between the current market hype, the actual utility and the purpose and integrity of the NFT. Because jpegs of images on the internet are one thing, but if it leads to a physical item, that’s where there’s an opportunity,” said Sean Pattwell, chief executive officer of CW8 Communications, which advises luxury brads on NFT and Web3 strategy. Coveted items are one value-add, and coveted invites are another.
“If you have an NFT and it gives you some level of access to experiences and a community, that’s pretty amazing,” Pattwell said.
Traditionally the fashion industry has been exclusive, with shows only open to insiders, though a massive shift in the guest list has already taken place. Hurstel said the brands he works with have noted that shows used to be 10 percent consumer driven, and now they’re 80 percent consumer driven as the number of industry buyers has dropped. They’ve been replaced by influencers and celebs livestreaming, and runways are purpose-built for Instagram.
NFT access is the likely next step in that evolution.
“This kind of unlocking experiences is what’s really exciting. It’s a way to create something meaningful for your key consumers and actually build relationships with new audiences,” Pattwell said. “A lot of people who are in the crypto world, they’re a new network and they have new resources, and want to be able to spend them. Being able to learn about the fashion industry, whether that’s attending a party or going to a fashion show or even being invited to a digital experience — that’s really cool and innovative and completely different.”
Brands will focus on building community and value for the users who buy in.
“There’s going to be a race among different brands to articulate what their community is, what their community stands for and what the purpose and intention of it is. You’re gonna see it in the next couple of months, more and more brands coming out, explaining what are the benefits of holding one of their NFTs.”
Token-gating might be the new normal — at least until NFTs become widely adopted and have their own value as collectibles, Hurstel said. “This is a great way to give value, and you have to compensate the fact that you can’t have the maximum amount of value from an NFT today because the infrastructure and the use agent is not completely built and distributed. So you have to compensate by giving perks.”
Hurstel predicts that will change as quickly as the market has been moving, from cumbersome crypto wallets to something accessible for an average shopper. “What’s going to change tremendously in the next 24 months is the level of the user interface for anyone to be able to own an NFT,” he said.
While this summer has been the “crypto winter” of price drops, disappearing value and well-publicized wallet thefts, luxury brands are still betting on the future.
“Fashion brands are not looking at this from the crypto price speculation, they’re purely looking at this as a new way to engage with new audiences and what type of community they want to build,” Pattwell said. “You can focus on the NFT, but it isn’t actually about the NFT, it’s about the community and the community is where everything happens.”
“If you don’t nurture and build a digital community and continue to communicate with them, bring them things they’re interested in, they’re going to lose interest and abandon ship,” he added. “So it’s really important for any brand to think about the sustainability of it. It can’t be a one and done.”