For the second time since the global pandemic, New York Fashion Week has descended on the city, bringing a flock of flowing black fabrics, billowing sleeves and soaring stilettos to the streets of Lower Manhattan. Models drape themselves around town, the Perrier water flows and the glitter party like it’s 2019; nevertheless, remnants of the pandemic are hiding in the cracks. After two years in a digital void, something in the culture has shifted – and this time, NFTs, the techno-pandemic darling, are taking center stage.
Several runway shows pay tribute to Web3, and like most fashion statements, it’s the opposite of subtle. Designer Tommy Hilfiger’s show was billed as mixing the real world with the metaverse, a mashup he curiously labeled “phygital” (physical meets digital). The production — staged at a drive-in movie theater in Brooklyn — was live-streamed in Roblox, where avatars wearing renditions of the outfits strutted through a virtual cityscape. Viewers could buy real versions of the clothes in the game. Meanwhile, customers who purchased from Alo Yoga’s Aspen ski-inspired collection also received NFTs confirming ownership of the clothing.
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 Soho and Tribeca neighborhoods. Just as the designer’s clothes have always stood at the crossroads between East and West, the collection now dramatically enjoys the ethereal space between the physical and the virtual. Up the lift and into the sixth floor of Spring Studios, electronic music plays while blocks of colored pixels flicker against the wall. Under the spotlight, a couple of guys loiter, wearing headdresses shaped like CryptoPunk NFT avatars of human faces.
For her show, Tam has partnered with First Digital Trust, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency custody service; Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange platform founded by the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron; and the NFT project CyberKongz, which is currently selling for a minimum of $25,000 on OpenSea. Her clothes feature the CyberKongz monkeys and other blue-chip collections, including CryptoPunks and 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 by design. “I want to bring art worlds and NFTs together,” she shares from the runway stage, noting that storytelling is at the heart of both spheres. “For people in NFTs and the metaverse, I want to show that the physical world is also important,” she says. In particular, IP owners and creators benefit when people wear physical manifestations of their avatars.
Contractually, Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunk NFT holders own the IP rights for their avatars – meaning that in order to display the unique illustrations of monkeys and punks on her clothing, Tam had to work with individual NFT holders who licensed the images to the designer. and her team. A group of so-called whale collectors, who have dozens of NFT properties, allowed Tam to elevate their avatars to the realm of high fashion.
Other Tam apparel featured Awkward Astronauts, an NFT collection sold on Nifty Gateway, the NFT trading platform owned by Gemini. “The more we can cross NFTs with fashion, art and different creative communities, the better,” says Cameron Winklevoss, who attended the show with her twin. “It’s very early days, but NFTs are here to stay . . . and there are all kinds of dimensions to go into, he adds, thinking that NFTs can also offer tickets to the actual event we are attending.
Another shirt makes its way down the runway with a glittering “First Digital” logo emblazoned on the back. According to the company’s CEO, the escrow service will help users who buy NFTs of Tam’s clothes in the metaverse translate the purchase into a real-world order, offering more Web3 functionality in fashion.
According to Tam, her collection also embodies the spirit of traditional Chinese mah-jongg, which she compares to NFTs as “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] to be excited and think, ‘Wow, they’re alive!’ It gives me joy.”