EDITOR’S LETTER

”NFTs represent a monumental shift in how we view digital ownership. So what does it mean for fashion and design?”

KONRAD OLSSON
On the latest crypto craze
March 17, 2021

People, myself included, are biased towards the physical. But every now and then, we have what I like to call digital awakenings. 

The author and podcaster Christian von Essen was sharing one of those digital awakenings on a recent episode of the Scandinavian MIND podcast. I was talking to Christian von Essen about how our children are spending more and more time — and money! — on digital platforms like Roblox and Fortnite.  

”At first I was reluctant to allow them to spend money on Roblox.” he said. ”But after a while I thought, at least they are not buying other crap.”

As we are getting increasingly aware of the environmental impact of casual consumption, the idea of consuming digital assets is becoming more and more acceptable. We are already watching our films on Netflix and listening to our music on Spotify. 

Now, enter the mother of all digital awakenings — the NFT.

A week ago, on March 11, a compilation of 5,000 JPEG images by digital artist Beeple sold as an NFT for $69.3 million in a Christie’s auction, making Beeple the world’s most expensive living artists after Jeff Koons and David Hockney. 

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen everything from basketball cards to Jack Dorsey’s first tweet being sold as an NFTs — non-fungible tokens. What it is? Basically, it’s a certificate of ownership for an asset that only exists in the digital space. The thing can be bought and sold, verified by blockchain technology. 

Many say this is a monumental shift in how we view ownership of art and other collectibles in the digital space. While we are used to consuming movies and music online, we don’t actually own the individual pieces of art. NFTs changes that. 

So what will this mean for the world of fashion and design? Well, as Content Commerce writes, ”where there is art, luxury will follow.” The sneaker site RFTT recently sold 3,1 million US dollar worth of digital sneakers. A recent article in Forbes magazine stated that ”fashion and entertainment will be the Holy Grail on the blockchain”, and mentioned Argentinian designer Andrés Reisinger, who sold ten pieces of virtual furniture on Nifty Gateway. 

”The most expensive non-existent piece sold for almost $70,000. The furniture can be placed in any 3D space or open world like Decentraland, Somnium Space, or Minecraft. ”

In wrapping my head around this phenomenon, I’ve had a fair share of my own digital awakenings. I feel like my perspective on ownership, value, social currency, signaling, and identity is shaken to its core. 

One perspective: if the value of a Louis Vuitton bag is 90% status, what’s to say that the other 10% can’t be purely digital, versus a physical object made out of leather and stitching?

Another: being first will become cool again. Growing up as a music kid, knowing about the latest up-and-coming indie rock band was hot currency in my crowd. Now, through the blockchain ledger, we will be forever able to see who owned what first. For a fashionista, being able to say you were among the first fifty that owned a piece by Vetement or Margiela will entail a new level of credibility. 

But the most exciting thing about our collective digital awakening is the positive impact it might have on the environment. If we consume more digital stuff instead of physical, we might be able to come to grips with horrendous overproduction of fast fashion clothes and use of high-emission materials like steel and plastics in furniture.  

Or at least, so I thought. The truth is, we still have a long way to go. 

”The trade-off is that this model consumes lots of energy”, writes Wired magazine. ”The system is similar to the one that verifies Bitcoin, involving a network of computers that use advanced cryptography to decide whether transactions are valid—and in doing so uses energy on the scale of a small country.”

What do you think of NFTs? Connect with us on Linkedin or join our upcoming Clubhouse sessions to weigh in. 

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