For the second time since the global pandemic, New York Fashion Week has hit the city, bringing a slew of cascading black fabric, puffy sleeves and sky-high stilettos to the streets of Lower Manhattan. The models drape themselves in the city, the Perrier water flows and the glitter party as if it were 2019; yet remnants of the pandemic lurk in the crevices. After two years in a digital vacuum, something in the culture has changed – and this time, NFTs, the darling of the techno-pandemic, are taking center stage.
Several runways pay homage to Web3, and like most fashion statements, it’s the opposite of subtle. Designer Tommy Hilfiger’s show was billed at mixing the real world with the metaverse, a mashup he oddly referred to as “phygital” (physical meets digital). The production, staged at a drive-in theater in Brooklyn, was streamed live on Roblox, where avatars wearing renderings of the outfits strutted around a virtual cityscape. Viewers could purchase actual versions of the apparel in-game. Meanwhile, customers who purchased from Alo Yoga’s Aspen ski-inspired collection also received NFT certifying ownership of garments.
But nowhere were NFTs more striking than in Vivienne Tam’s show, which took place on the border of New York’s iconic but distinct neighborhoods of Soho and Tribeca. Much like how the designer’s garments have always stood at the crossroads between East and West, the collection now dramatically revels in that ethereal space between the physical and the virtual. At the top of the elevator and on the sixth floor of Spring Studios, electronic music plays as blocks of colorful pixels flash against the wall. Under the spotlights, two guys are strolling, wearing headgear in the shape of CryptoPunk NFT human faces avatars.
For her show, Tam partnered with First Digital Trust, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency custody service; Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange founded by the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron; and the NFT CyberKongz project, which currently sells for a minimum of $25,000 on OpenSea. His clothes feature the CyberKongz Monkeys and other top-notch collections, including CryptoPunks and the Bored Ape Yacht Club, in various ways: bold earrings, patches on a denim jacket, the bodice of an evening dress. Their resemblance is impossible to miss.
For Tam, it’s on purpose. “I want to bring the worlds of art and NFT together,” she shares from backstage at the show, noting that storytelling is central to both spheres. “For folks in NFTs and the Metaverse, I want to show that the physical world is also important,” she says. In particular, owners and creators of intellectual property benefit when people wear physical manifestations of their avatars.
Contractually, the owners of Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunk NFT own the intellectual property rights to their avatars, meaning that to feature the unique ape and punk artwork on his clothing, Tam had to work with individual owners of NFT who authorized the images to the designer. and his team. A group of so-called whale collectors, who own dozens of NFT properties, allowed Tam to elevate their avatars to the realm of high fashion.
Other featured Tam garments clumsy astronauts, an NFT collection sold on Nifty Gateway, the NFT trading platform owned by Gemini. “The more we can intersect NFTs with fashion, art and different creative communities, the better,” says Cameron Winklevoss, who attended the show with his twin. “It’s super early, but NFTs are here to stay . . . and there are all kinds of dimensions to integrate,” he adds, thinking that NFTs could also offer ticketing for the very event to which we participate.
Another shirt makes its way onto the runway with a sparkling “First Digital” logo emblazoned on the back. According to the company’s CEO, its custody service will help users who purchase NFTs from Tam’s clothing in the metaverse translate that purchase into an actual order, providing more trendy Web3 features.
According to Tam, her collection also embodies the spirit of traditional Chinese mah-jongg, which she compares to NFTs because “it’s about intelligence and playing the game as much as winning it.” When they see her NFT-inspired clothes, she says, “I want [people] getting excited and thinking, ‘Wow, they’re alive!’ It gives me joy.