For the second time since the global pandemic, New York Fashion Week dawned on the city, bringing a flock of black fabrics, puffy sleeves and sky-high stilettos to the streets of Lower Manhattan. Models spin around town, Perrier water flows and glitterati party like it’s 2019. However, remnants of the pandemic lurk in the crevices. After two years in a digital vacuum, something in the culture has shifted – and this time, NFTs, the darling of the techno-pandemic, are taking center stage.
Multiple runway shows pay homage to Web3, and like most fashion statements, it’s the opposite of subtle. Designer Tommy Hilfiger’s show was billed as fusing the real world with the metaverse, a mashup he curiously dubbed “phygital” (physical meets digital). The production—staged at a movie theater in Brooklyn—was streamed live on Roblox, where avatars wearing renditions of the clothes traversed a virtual cityscape. Viewers could purchase real-life versions of the clothes in-game. Meanwhile, customers who purchased Alo Yoga’s Aspen ski-inspired collection also received NFTs certifying ownership of the garments.
But nowhere were the NFTs more striking than 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 that ethereal space between the physical and the virtual. Take the elevator and on the sixth floor of Spring Studios, electronic music plays as blocks of colored pixels flicker on the wall. Under the spotlights, a few guys wander around wearing headgear shaped like CryptoPunk NFT avatars of human faces.
For her show, Tam partnered with First Digital Trust, a cryptocurrency custody service based in Hong Kong. Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange platform founded by the Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron. and the NFT project CyberKongz, which currently sells for at least $25,000 on OpenSea. Her outfits include CyberKongz apes and other blue-chip collections, including CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club, in a variety of ways: statement earrings, patches on a denim jacket, evening gown bodice. Their resemblance is impossible to miss.
For Tam, this is by design. “I want to unite the worlds of art and NFTs,” he shares from backstage on the catwalk, 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,” he says. Specifically, IP owners and creators benefit when people wear physical manifestations of their avatars.
Conventionally, Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunk NFT holders own the IP rights to their avatars—meaning that in order to showcase the unique depictions of apes and punks on her clothing, Tam had to work with individual NFT holders who they gave permission for the images to the designer. and her team. A group of so-called whale collectors, who own dozens of NFT properties, have allowed Tam to elevate their avatars into the realm of high fashion.
Other Tam outfits included Awkward Astronauts, a collection of NFTs 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 his twin. “It’s early days, but NFTs are here to stay. . . and there are all kinds of dimensions that need to be done,” he adds, thinking that NFTs could also offer ticketing for the same event we’re at.
Another shirt comes down the runway with a glittering ‘First Digital’ logo on the back. According to the company’s CEO, the escrow service will help users who purchase Tam’s clothing NFTs on the metaverse translate that purchase into a real order, bringing more Web3 functionality to fashion.
According to Tam, her collection also embodies the spirit of traditional Chinese mah-jongg, which she likens to NFTs as “it’s about intelligence and playing the game as much as winning it.” When they see her NFT-inspired outfits, she says, “I want [people] to get excited and think “Wow, they’re alive!” This brings me joy.”