Currently, the most mainstream take is that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are toys for crypto-billionaires and bored rich people — the case isn’t helped by the fact that stars like Justin Bieber, Post Malone, Paris Hilton, and talk-show host, Jimmy Fallon are splashing millions of dollars on cartoon monkey characters. However, the past year has seen luxury brands, from Balmain to Jimmy Choo to Bulgari start to (slowly) recognize the functionality of these crypto-assets as a route for digital creativity and enhancing consumer experience.
If the upsurge of luxury crypto-releases has led you to question what exactly they are, here is a simplified breakdown: NFTs are unique assets stored on a blockchain, unable to be replaced or traded and only resold by the owner, who receives royalties every time they’re resold. It is a new system to track ownership, while thriving off of the notion of exclusivity that the luxury industry has historically capitalized on.
Those jumping into the still relatively mysterious NFT sea during these early days are finding security through collaboration, such as adidas and Prada linking up with digital artist Zach Lieberman as an extension of their Re-Nylon collection, and Vogue Singapore joining NFT marketplace OpenSea to drop 10 NFTs created by digital artists.
As a community-built space, formed by crypto-artists and collectors, NFTs fundamentally rely on the power of co-operating, combining tools, and creativity. Jing Collabs & Drops’ upcoming Insight Series report: NFT Collaboration: Luxury’s Metaverse Opportunity details how collaboration is so pivotal to succeeding in the NFT realm, breaking down the risks, opportunities, and ultimately, how luxury brands can benefit from Web3.0.
Here, we preview a sample of interviews taken from the report — launching on February 21 — with experts explaining why it’s time for brands to take NFTs seriously.
David Moore, CEO and Co-Founder, KnownOrigin Labs
“Brands need to work for the best interests of building the community and collaborating with existing talent. The next superstars are already here. Brands need to work with what already exists. The ones that have done well have collaborated with an existing community or an existing talent, shining the spotlight on an emerging artist who has been in the space for a while. The NFT community can spot authenticity a mile off and they literally will call it out on social media. You may have seen one of two of those over the last few months.”
Sam Hamilton, Creative Director, Decentraland
“I actually think we’re in a phase before the innovation phase, which is experimentation. I still think we’re trying to figure out what the space is and are still experimenting with what it can be. Artists are still the pioneers and the mavericks — they’re the risk takers. But I also think the collectors that are buying this new technology are part of the matrix as well, because it’s still quite risky and we actually don’t know where all this is going. I think it’s going to grow and I think some will work really well and obviously some will be really rough.
Our inbox is full of different products, different corporations trying to figure out how to get into the NFT space. Some of them are just interested in the cash, but when brands actually talk about the same things we’re talking about we figure out whether it is a good fit. We are super careful about who we partner with. It’s always in the best interests of the community. Brands have to move really quickly and they might have a few missteps. I think it’ll take a lot of time to work out what the fit is and what the balance is.”
Lorenzo Bertelli, Group Marketing Director & Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Prada
“Prada sees the emergent metaverse as a new space for the brand to re-define luxury for the next generation and cultivate shared experiences that honor the brands’ spirit of experimentation and creativity.”
Richard Hobbs, Founder & Ceo, Brand New Vision
“Brands have been thinking about this for a while and are actually coming up with proper strategies. Most of what has gone on over the last year or so have been tests or a bit of a dabble, like Burberry’s partnership with Tencent. Most projects don’t appear to be part of a grand strategy. You can see that brands just think they must do something. But now, brands are showing a more strategic approach and coming up with angles.
For example, everyone was talking about Balenciaga’s Fortnite collaboration but the product itself was quite flat. They could have done a lot more with the virtual product to look better. Fashion is supposed to be about beauty, attention to detail, and passion. But then the metaverse tech is about optimization and scalability, so it’s finding a way of merging the two. Where’s the balance point between them? If you’re employed as a designer in a gaming company, today you’re doing wood, tomorrow you’re doing clouds, and the next you’re doing fashion. There’s no in-game fashion designer. There needs to be innovation and creativity. People are just wanting to make money right now, but NFTs can change the way brands work in a new way of connecting with their consumers.”
Michaela Larosse, Head of Content & Strategy, The Fabricant
“Of course digital fashion is the future of fashion. So every brand understands the value of digital garments and I guess they’re not quite sure how to execute that at the moment. So they’re also integrating these long-term strategies. They have to work out where it builds in value to their community. The metaverse is about collective participation, collective ownership of spaces. It’s a completely new way of thinking about fashion, thinking about participation, and we’ve only just begun the story.”
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