Web3 may be touted as the next big thing for fashion, but Web2 channels, such as Instagram, X, and Discord, are playing a pivotal role in its global amplification.
“Web2 platforms are more than just tools; they are the cultural marketplaces of the modern era. Web3, lacking its own widespread channels, still needs these social gathering spots to share its innovations,” Kanika Loomba, head of brand partnerships at digital product platform Next Decade tells Jing Daily.
‘Web2.5’ remains the safer stepping stone for creatives and brands today, as abandoning Web2 channels completely may be a one-way ticket to failure.
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“Traditional Web2 social media is still the primary go-to for culture, news, and the zeitgeist,” Leanne Elliott-Young, CEO and co-founder of The Institute of Digital Fashion says. “It would be crazy to step out of that space, as you would lose the meaningful translations and also visibility.”
As Web3 grapples with fragmented infrastructure and early-stage pain points, a vacuum of support has led fashion innovators to pivot back to Web2’s more established channels.
Exposure is everything
For Web3-native creatives, venturing into the established realm of platforms like Instagram is a strategic necessity.
“Web2 channels will continue to thrive because they capture the attention of a broader and aspirational audience for brands,” Gmoney, NFT collector and founder of luxury Web3 lifestyle platform 9dcc says.
“As we saw even with well-established Web2 startups, persuading people to shift to new social media platforms presents challenges; hence why initiating discussions in familiar spaces proves more effective.”
Digital fashion artist Julia Blanc, for example, has made her TikTok account a home for her virtual fashion creations. Her content is a far cry from the usual ‘get ready with me’ and ASMR clips that are ubiquitous on the social app, but her videos – which often show the process of creating a digital garment – can rack up over 6 million views.
On TikTok, the hashtag digital fashion itself has been viewed over 32 million times, illustrating the size of the network of potential consumers. By forming a presence on these platforms, creators can engage existing audiences to enhance their discoverability.
Digital artist Stephy Fung has grown an online community of 100,000 followers via Instagram and Twitch through her virtual fashion tutorials and behind-the-scenes reels.
“Web3 fashion needs Web2 to help the community thrive, because it’s a way to help connect the two worlds together,” Fung says. “There still is a lot of education to be shared from Web3 to Web2. Utilizing the platforms that Web2 communities use to inform them of the possibilities of Web3 fashion will help them to understand how it works.”
For pioneers like Blanc and Fung, Web2 platforms provide a critical bridge that enables them to translate their ideas into the language of mass adoption. It’s a survival tactic that ensures their work doesn’t remain confined to the Web3 echo chamber, but instead resonates with a mainstream audience.
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A community hub
Besides their marketing perks, Web2 social platforms are – at their core – acutely powerful community hotspots. For Web3 creatives and brands looking to foster their own inner circles, underestimating the cultural power of community loci like X and Discord is a potentially critical failing.
X (formerly Twitter), for example, has established itself as a meaningful channel for Web3 enthusiasts and emerging tech proponents.
“I remain bullish about X, both for my community and 9dcc communications. It has staying power as the central hub for conversations within the crypto and emerging tech space. Additionally, Instagram still holds a significant grip for engaging the fashion community,” Gmoney says.
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Like Fung, Gmoney has cultivated a steadfast community via a Web2 social platform. The NFT collector and entrepreneur boasts over 300,000 active followers on X, who engage daily in online debates and offer feedback.
Major luxury fashion houses, like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, have also built presences in Discord to align themselves with Web3 adopters and its rich user base of gamers. The social server is widely touted as Web3’s central communication gateway.
“It’s fascinating to witness Discord’s emergence as a formidable platform for dedicated enthusiasts,” Gmoney says. “While we may not have reached Discord’s tipping point yet, for early adopters and devoted followers, it provides a vibrant and exclusive engagement experience.”
Instagram remains a visual hotspot
Hilario Pedro, founder of the artificial intelligence (AI) powered streetwear Instagram account Drip Not Found, believes that Web3’s decentralized landscape is still too nascent to compete against robust Web2 platforms like Instagram.
Drip Not Found specializes in sharing daily streetwear outfits and digital influencers, each uniquely generated by AI algorithms, on its page. The aim is to draw in traditional streetwear lovers and foster a new community of innovators through their collective passion. For Pedro, when brainstorming the concept behind Drip Not Found, having an identifiable presence on a Web2 channel was non-negotiable.
“[Instagram’s] extensive user base offers a substantial opportunity to connect with a wide audience and engage potential users who are passionate about streetwear culture, becoming community members,” he says. “We also see Instagram as more visually focused, compared to Web3-centric platforms like Discord and X.”
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Instagram has solidified its reputation as an essential medium for fashion, as well as the de facto portfolio for modern-day artists.
In a realm where aesthetics reign supreme, digital NFT creatives, including Beeple and Amber Vittoria, have achieved celebrity status among the masses thanks to their Instagram presence, rather than siloing themselves in blockchain-based platforms.
Web2 social app Snap has also become a hub for digital fashion tastemakers like DressX, The Dematerialised, and Zero10 to gain recognition.
While the channel shuttered its Web3 division last year, its high-fidelity augmented reality-tech remains popular among virtual garment builders – and with over 750 million daily active users, the app is a highly lucrative gateway into the world of Web3.
It takes Web2
Ultimately, fashion behemoths like LVMH and Kering may remain enthusiastic about Web3, but consumers are still reluctant to make the jump – a hesitancy driven by the arena’s sketchy reputation.
“The pain point of Web3 adoption is the ‘bro’ NFT [communities] and crypto ego; the ‘superstars’ of Web3 aren’t particularly embraced by the fashion industry,” says Elliott-Young.
Elliott-Young outlines how innovation relies on existing structures to lay the groundwork for the future, and maintaining a symbiotic relationship is a more sustainable route. “We believe there is still a lot to unpack for the fashion industry to see the potential of transformative Web3 tools, which is why we keep alive in the Web2 social pits.”
Loomba echoes this sentiment, noting that “for digital fashion creatives, these platforms are indispensable not only for their audience size, but for their narrative power. If Web3 were to prematurely abandon these stages, it would be akin to Shakespeare without a stage — the genius is there, but where’s the audience?”