LONDON – For the average consumer, using cryptocurrency to purchase a digital fashion item that will live exclusively on a screen seems like an elusive scenario – for now.
It may even seem a bit ridiculous to those who still don’t understand what cryptocurrency is – or the blockchain technology that enables it -. But buying fashion and fine jewelry online, without seeing or trying the product, seemed just as overkill a decade ago and now e-commerce has become a mainstream method of consumption.
Much like e-commerce, the trend towards virtual buying and owning is gaining ground.
Marjorie Hernandez, co-founder of the Lukso blockchain network, believes that “the dematerialization of consumption is a reality”. Last year, Lukso raised $ 18 million in funding, and Hernandez believes the network, which is specifically geared towards fashion and lifestyle companies, can transform the power dynamics of the industry.
Lukso, she said, can use blockchain technology to help authenticate real and digital products, store multiple layers of data, and empower brands and individuals to own their data.
Its capabilities have already convinced Eric Pfrunder, the former chief image officer of Chanel, that blockchain will be an integral part of the future of fashion.
Pfrunder has joined the start-up’s advisory board and is working with Lukso’s team to record the Karl Lagerfeld photographic archive he inherited upon the creator’s death, using blockchain technology.
“This involves recording all the photographs, storing all the data, all the details of the photoshoots that Mr. Pfrunder remembers, the anecdotes. When we save an image on the blockchain, it creates an identity for each image, and all of a sudden each of those identities are computer programs that can store all kinds of information. This data is then incorruptible, it will be there forever because blockchain networks are very resilient, ”said Hernandez.
She believes blockchain technology offers a great storytelling opportunity and the ability to capture the memories and stories attached to every image that only Pfrunder knows and would otherwise be lost.
“We take the work of one of the most prolific minds of the past 100 years, Karl Lagerfeld, and his number one collaborator and create an immutable record on the blockchain. This will allow Mr. Pfrunder to auction certain pieces in the future, or send them to museums. The nice thing is that we can keep recording all the data from the future, too, ”Hernandez said, adding that Pfrunder’s vote of confidence in the project is a clear sign that the worlds of fashion and tech are on. the point of getting very close.
“If someone had said 10 years ago that Chanel’s chief image officer would be involved in a crypto project, people would have thought it was impossible and crazy. But what is happening now is that we are slowly getting to the point where the value of the crypto position becomes clearer and the technology becomes more accessible. It’s only a matter of time until we have the kind of tools that will allow people to do transactions, without even thinking about what blockchain is, ”she added, comparing the development of this type of technology to the arrival of the Internet in the world. 90s.
In the same way that the blockchain can be used to store data from a photograph, it can also store data that will help authenticate a luxury handbag, whether real or digital. Once the products are registered on the blockchain network, users will be able to exchange their various assets.
“You can swap a photo of Karl Lagerfeld for a Chanel handbag or Off-White sneakers for your digital fashion dress. It’s a completely different product experience, but all of a sudden they’re redeemable for each other because they speak the same language, they exist in the same currency. This can create a new market in which more women can enter. Commercial markets have been very male dominated to date and we believe this will be a gateway to attract more women to engage in this type of economic activity, ”Hernandez said.
The appetite for these transactions is already visible and the pandemic has only made it stronger. According to Hernandez, having fewer opportunities to wear actual clothes means people get used to creating digital lives and characters “to stay sane” and be entertained.
Creative industries – be it fashion, art or design – play a key role in beautifying these digital lives. Last month, Christie’s sold a digital collage for $ 69.4 million in its first auction featuring only digital artwork. Overnight, the artist behind the work, named Beeple, became “one of the three most valuable living artists,” according to the auction house.
Lukso is also working on the launch of a digital wallet with wardrobe that will allow users to store all of their digital assets in one secure space.
Hernandez is also preparing to launch a digital fashion marketplace, dubbed The Dematerialized, which aims to open up the digital fashion arena to the regular fashion consumer and make transactions as transparent as possible. The platform – which is in beta – will accept all currencies, not just cryptocurrency, and is focused on developing the kind of shopping experience luxury consumers expect.
Once they have made a purchase, consumers can collect the items and dress up avatars during the game. In the future, people will also be able to wear these items on digitized versions of themselves – a technology that Lukso and other developers, including Snapchat, are exploring.
“We need the blockchain to secure legal ownership of digital goods, but the problem with owning blockchain products is you have to be a bit of a geek: you have to have some crypto to pay, you have to know how to handle the wallets; there is a little barrier there. At The Dematerialized, we have focused on removing these barriers and accepting any kind of payment, ”said Hernandez, confident that fashion consumers will follow in the footsteps of players and cryptocurrency natives.
To test the waters, Hernandez opened The Dematerialized to an audience at a Crypto Fashion Week conference. She said 30,000 people gathered at the site and 1,000 digital sweaters sold out in 24 hours. The majority of consumers involved members of the crypto community and gamers, but 30% were pay mode consumers with regular currencies.
Rapid conversions from regular consumers mean brands need to start paying attention. Once The Dematerialized is launched, the ultimate goal is to start integrating brands into the market, supporting them in the process of transforming their actual designs into digital 3D designs, and turning them into digital manufacturers.
One could easily imagine that designers in the best Parisian workshops are scratching their heads at the sheer sound of digital fabrication, but there have been a few early adopters of this technology.
Christian Louboutin and Balenciaga launched new collections via game applications; Gucci launched digital sneakers for $ 12 last month with the fashion tech app Wanna; Harris Reed has mixed physical and digital looks for her Central Saint Martins graduation collection, and London-based Edeline Lee has just uploaded digital versions of some of her fall 2021 looks to OpenSea, a marketplace specializing in “Rare digital objects. “
“COVID-19 forced us to show entirely digitally last season, so I saw it as a perfect opportunity to experiment with the conceptual possibilities of a fashion show,” Lee said.
“The digital space is a large, open terrain where the rules of the game are still organized and optimized, and communities are still forming – some people compare it to the Wild West. I think it has the potential to influence everything in our lives, especially fashion, ”added the designer.
She gave an example: “People go online to find their identity these days, like I walked into a vintage store to find the perfect dress that would represent who I am, as a teenager. Fashion will move naturally in this space, ”said Lee, adding that she was impressed by the openness of the NFT (non-fungible token) community and its goal of shaping a new model of more responsible consumption.
In Lee’s case, every look is time-stamped and authenticated on the blockchain, with the proceeds distributed among the entire team that produced the project, including royalties on secondary sales. Given the digital element, quantities are no longer a problem, nor is the environmental impact.
Hernandez believes that “this could potentially impact the production of material goods, in the same way that YouTube and Instagram have changed the production of content. It’s the same concept of having access to technology that allows you to reach a larger audience, ”she said.
“It’s an exponentially growing market and there is a real intention to build this economy. It’s just about building momentum and these really exciting cross-shopping experiences, ”she added.
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