Everywhere we go nowadays—whether it’s to the park, a coffee shop, or even the library—it’s becoming impossible to avoid hearing about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and the metaverse somewhere within earshot. These virtual worlds, or metaverses, offer us the ability to customize our surroundings and share social connections and experiences with other users.
As the NFT phenomenon continues to spread through mainstream culture and influence how we envision the future, the fashion industry is seizing the opportunity to step into the metaverse by designing NFTs—most of which are virtually wearable. From Burberry’s NFT character “Sharky B” for Mythical Games’ Blankos Block Party to Givenchy’s collaboration with graphic artist Chito in developing 15 NFTs, luxury fashion brands, in particular, are showcasing their latest ventures involving the metaverse. Other notable designer brands that have entered the digital realm include Gucci, Jimmy Choo, and Balmain.
In addition to luxury fashion houses, companies such as Nike are also joining this new digital frontier. In December 2021, Nike acquired RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”), a start-up that specializes in creating NFT collectibles, including virtual sneakers—one of the most decisive moves of any apparel company when it comes to expanding their presence in the metaverse. The month before, a highly-coveted virtual estate on Fashion Street in Decentraland, currently one of the most promising metaverse projects, sold for about $2.4 million worth of MANA, the native cryptocurrency of Decentraland. Clearly, fashion brands and investors alike are betting big that these metaverse worlds will someday be thriving virtual hubs of social and economic activity.
Although we’re still a long way away from living in these metaverses, that hasn’t stopped digital fashion from evolving into a subculture of its own—one in which artists are selling their virtual clothing as NFTs. These pieces are intended to be worn by our avatars in the metaverse, allowing us to fully express ourselves within these parallel virtual worlds (eventually). In the meantime, though, artists aren’t just waiting around; their imaginative digital pieces are currently being shared and admired on Instagram. Some of these virtual designs are even edited onto real-life models. Fashion platform This Outfit Does Not Exist, for instance, blends the physical with the virtual in fashion, stating on its website that “the future of fashion is Digital.” Most of its content consists of founder Daniella Loftus adorned in virtual creations while out on the streets.
Will digital fashion become the next fashion trend of the decade? While these digital designs may not be practical (nor even exist) in the real world, the endless possibilities of the metaverse and NFTs could, down the line, lead to a shift in how we as consumers interact with the fashion industry.