In the fourth month of our fashion metaverse series, we’re looking at what brands have entered the space, why it matters and what they are bringing to the table. Here, the metaverse is defined as the future of the internet, a shared 3D virtual universe that users can exist in perpetually.
The start of the new year has heralded multiple entries by luxury brands into the NFT space, albeit only through collaborations. You can get a refresh on NFTs in our NFT explainer. Or, delve into brand strategies with Glossy’s look at how Balmain is expanding into the metaverse or what brands should know when considering real estate purchases in the metaverse.
Here, we break down how four brands have taken the leap and stepped through the digital door into the metaverse. This month, department stores are navigating how to sell NFTs without scaring customers through crypto-jargon, and luxury labels are piling into collaborations.
Gucci x Superplastics: Brand iteration through collectibles
Gucci was particularly active last year, turning out activations like the “hacking” project with Balenciaga, the launch of Gucci Vault and its buzzy collaboration with North Face. Its newest project is with Superplastics, the company making artistic collectible vinyl toys. It has previously released NFTs through the Nifty Gateway, a digital art auction platform owned by the Winklevoss brothers.
Gucci and Superplastics collaborated on 10 NFT designs, with a limited 500-number run in total, which will be released on February 1. Each comes with a ceramic collectible SuperGucci SuperJanky sculpture.
Why it matters: Gucci is focusing on a phygital presence in the NFT space, as evidenced in its previous Gucci Garden activation in the Roblox game. Considering the number of projects Gucci is involved in, the latest collaboration is part of a broad roadmap to develop the brand in the metaverse. That also includes engaging with fans and the Discord community through the launch of a Discord channel on January 21.
Adidas for Prada Re-Source: A long-term metaverse strategy
Launched on Polygon, the less energy-intensive blockchain platform, the NFT project between streetwear giant Adidas and luxury fashion brand Prada builds on the existing collaboration between the two brands, which centers on the Re-Nylon collection. The NFT is made up of 3,000 individual tiles by chosen creators, each of whom submitted photographs and had a digital wallet. Each tile was then minted and put together into one large-scale digital artwork by digital artist and coder Zach Lieberman before the sale of the piece from January 28-31.
The proceeds from the sale of the final piece during an auction on the SuperRare digital marketplace will go to Slow Factory, a non-profit organization focused on education about climate justice and human rights. However, the sales of the individual tiles, which are owned by each creator, and the secondary sales of the final piece and the individual tiles will go towards the creators under shared ownership. The final piece will be shown on screens across Adidas and Prada stores worldwide.
Why it matters: Prada was one of the first luxury brands to experiment in digital worlds, with its 2012 platform “Il Palazzo.” Its NFT project is not a stand-alone luxury item, but the collaboration with Adidas allows it to tap into the streetwear brand’s experience in the space, via the Bored Apes Yacht Club NFTs.
Gap: Gamified hoodie tokens
Gap has recently been in the news recently for its Kanye (Ye)-led collaboration with Balenciaga. Its recent small-scale hoodie NFT drop also dove buzz — and it won’t likely be its only foray into the space. The NFT project, launched on January 13, is built on the more energy-efficient Tezos blockchain and comes in the form of collectible digital hoodies with stacked degrees of rarity. Common level pieces start at roughly $8.30, or 2 tez, rare pieces will start at $24.90 (6 tex), and epic pieces will be $415 (100 tez).
The epic hoodies also come with a physical Gap x Frank Ape sweatshirt. Rarer, one-of-a-kind pieces have not yet been priced. The brand has partnered with the creator of the Frank Ape cartoon character, Brandon Sines. The most interesting part of the collection is that, in the gamified experience, customers will have to buy four common and two rare NFTs to get an epic one, making the hoodies tokens for bigger purchases.
Why it matters: Gap is one of those labels that could benefit greatly from the work with Ye through its NFTs. While the designs are interesting, the token-like feature of the NFTs is more noteworthy. They could prove something the brand builds upon for rarer releases offered via the streetwear drop style that makes certain collectibles legendary.
Pace Rabanne x Selfridges: the first retailer to sell NFTs
Together with Paco Rabanne and art museum and foundation Fondation Vasarely, Selfridges became the first department store to launch an NFT, on January 28. It is doing so through Universe, a project that is bringing fashion, art and NFTs to its shop floors. The exhibition features 55 works by the artist, with 37 available for sale alongside NFTs created by Substance, a luxury NFT platform based in London. For sale between £2,000-£100,000 (about $2,700-$13,400), they will feature either Vasarely’s work or some of the first dresses created by Paco Rabanne, making them more expensive than most NFTs.
The funds from the NFT sales, which will be done in pounds rather than cryptocurrency, will go towards the Fondation Vasarely Museum in Aix-en-Provence and the restoration of artwork. Selfridges is working with Paco Rabanne to make this launch an integral part of the Paco Rabanne collection for Summer 2022, which it’s selling and renting in-store. The department store has also launched a virtual environment in Decentraland where customers can interact with Vasarely’s work.
Why it matters: This is the first time that a department store has launched an NFT project, although Selfridges has already worked on creating a metaverse environment with Charlie Cohen x Pokémon that came out last year. This luxury brand launch is focused on bringing art into the stores, but what may overshadow that is its avoidance of using cryptocurrency, as the crypto community is a valuable new audience it could reach. The store seems to be hedging its bets with pounds, as they are perhaps a more stable financial option for a traditional storefront.
Honorary mention: In an earnings call on Thursday, LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault said that the house is not interested in “selling virtual sneakers for 10 euros,” wary about a repeat of the dot-com bubble — although most NFT projects start at 10 ETH, or about $2,492. He also mentioned that LVMH’s attention, as it pertains to the metaverse, is on the revenue leads gained from it, omitting the community-building possibilities within the environment.