AI runways, digital fashion showcases, and augmented reality try-ons: Web3 seeks to reignite buzz at New York Fashion Week

This time last year, brands went all-in, guns blazing, into Web3 for New York Fashion Week (NYFW). This Spring/Summer 2024 season, however, it’s a different story. 

During the peak of the non-fungible token (NFT) hype last year, brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Vivienne Tam were quick to tap the cultural relevance of Web3 for fashion month, demonstrating the potential of innovation and diversifying the runway.

While the rush to capitalize on hype also resulted in some lackluster outcomes – the most notable being Afterpay’s disappointing NYFW Key project – it was a promising glimmer of hope for the future of fashion week and the emerging digital world. 

But following 2022’s NFT market crash, lingering speculation, and a global downturn in Web3 attention, brands are taking a more cautious approach. 

The Spring/Summer 2024 calendar may have seen major names step back from Web3-centric endeavors, but tech proponents and early adopters remain bullish on the potential of Web3, and the part it will play in revolutionizing the fashion month schedule.

 Jing Daily dissects the top NYFW Web3 moments below.

The Fabricant showcased its debut NYFW collection this week via the CFDA’s Runway360 platform. Photo: The Fabricant

Sustainable solution

A landmark moment for Web3 came when digital fashion house The Fabricant debuted on the NYFW calendar and presented its long-awaited Wholeland: Primal Rave collection on September 5 via the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) virtual Runway360 platform.

The showcase was the culmination of the brand’s “Wholeland” narrative, which merges couture fashion design and gold standard 3D rendering with Dutch heritage, club culture, and boundary-pushing fashion.

“The six garments we showcased were connected via a storytelling journey, which focused on a character’s evolution as she explores her self-knowledge and self-growth. We also wanted to use it as an opportunity to elevate The Fabricant’s craftsmanship,” Adriana Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira, co-founder and CMO of The Fabricant, told Jing Daily earlier this year.

The brand recently pivoted to a new strategy, in which it will evolve from a digital fashion marketplace to a digital fashion house. Sustainability will play a big part in the house’s roadmap. Through projects like Wholeland, the maison aims to show how technology can offer a more eco-conscious alternative to the fashion month formula. 

The Fabricant’s work eschews seasonal themes and instead champions self-expression and self-exploration. For the new fashion week disruptor, it’s about empowering consumers to prioritize their personal identity over ephemeral trends. 

Audience immersion

On Sunday, Nolcha Shows also made a case for experiential fashion, as it transported audiences from the catwalk sidelines and to the heart of the creative process. 

Marking its 15th year of experiential programming, the organization unveiled its innovative twist on NYFW. It produced a multi-faceted fashion experience that featured runway shows and cutting-edge technology experiences at Mercedes-Benz Manhattan.

In addition to the showcases, attendees were able to immerse themselves in novel tech, including digital wearables, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI) and interactive fashion gaming. 

Designers have struggled to find a place for Web3 and blockchain-powered features during the biannual fashion month calendars. While Nolcha Shows may not hold the same cultural or influential weight as elite NYFW participants, its latest endeavor could be the beacon of inspiration needed for brands to start deploying the technology again.

Collina Strada harnessed the creative prowess of AI for her SS24 collection. Photo: MF Fashion

AI-informed runways

Web3 activations on the traditional runway were few and far between this season. But for Collina Strada’s SS24 collection, creative director Hillary Taymour harnessed AI’s creative prowess to play the role of design assistant. 

Utilizing machine learning tech to inform the playful, quintessentially Collina Strada styles, the collection struck a happy balance by demonstrating how the tech can enhance a designer’s trademark aesthetic, while avoiding feeling overly artificial or devoid of emotion. 

As a long-term advocate of the environment and social awareness, it was an unexpected but welcome curveball from the brand. 

But it wasn’t the first label to harness the cultural buzz of AI this season. For its Copenhagen Fashion Week showcase, Scandi favorite Ganni deployed its own generative machine-learning tech to create the show’s soundtrack, and encouraged audiences to interact with the house’s own version of ChatGPT dotted around the venue. 

NYFW’s digital counterpart

Digital Fashion Week also kicked off on September 7, coinciding with New York’s physical fashion showcase, featuring some of the top cutting-edge innovators shaping the virtual sphere. 

Born from Web3 fashion label Cult & Rain, SYKY, Exclusible, and Solaire were all in attendance. They each joined panels discussing the current state of Web3 fashion, branding in the metaverse, and AI’s impact on design. 

Farfetch Dream Assembly Base Camp participant Spin by Lablaco also unveiled its latest try-on activation, while Saturday’s activities were topped off with a runway show featuring work from digital platform Faith Tribe.

“Networking and building are massively critical while the market matures and Web2 brands deepen their connection with Web3 philosophies,” Andy Griffiths, Chief Marketing Officer of Cult & Rain tells Jing Daily. “The conversations continue to be dominated by AI, but we’re excited by the opportunity to create products that are tech-enabled.”

As of today, Digital Fashion Week remains NYFW’s lesser-known counterpart. Although it has a long way to go before achieving high-profile status among the conventional fashion set, its presence shows that the demand for digital fashion is here to stay.


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