The fashion world has been set abuzz, with die-hard fashionistas desperately rushing to get their hands on the latest Gucci bag or Balenciaga collection. The catch? None of the glitzy apparel and accessories are real. That’s right, they don’t exist in the real world and buyers won’t ever get to actually wear them. Instead, the latest fashion trend is playing out in the metaverse, where users are looking to glam-up their digital avatars with wearable NFTs designed by luxury houses like Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Burberry. Soon enough, flexing in the metaverse won’t be much different from what we already see on Instagram or TikTok. Wearable NFTs are becoming hugely popular thanks to the irresistible personal branding appeal they have in virtual worlds where people can connect with others in more immersive and interactive ways, courtesy of virtual and augmented reality technology.
What Are Wearable NFTs?
Simply put, wearable NFTs are pieces of virtual clothing or digital accessories like dresses, shirts, jeans, sunglasses or bags that you can use to dress-up your avatar in a virtual world.
These digital-only designs are made possible through the use of blockchain technology and smart contracts, which help prove the uniqueness, authenticity and ownership of each garment or accessory.
In essence, the technology creates digital scarcity while facilitating a raft of upsides. Given the very real problem of counterfeiting in the fashion industry, it’s only natural that fashion NFTs have been a topic immense interest lately. After all, customers willing to purchase US$4,000 digital luxury bags will surely want to make sure they’re not shelling out for a fake, even if only a virtual one.
But the rise of ‘blockchain style’ is rapidly expanding beyond the sale of individual wearable NFTs as more brands pour their creative efforts into designing wardrobe collectibles made in collaboration with celebrities and high profile figures.
The concept of virtual fashion is hardly a novelty to the average internet user. Virtual clothing has existed for well over two decades in gaming and real-life simulators like The Sims or Second Life. So, the metaverse is just taking it a step further by allowing users and creators to have a more personalized experience and explore self-expression in ways that weren’t possible before.
Luxury brands in particular have taken note of the potential of digital couture which could become a $56 billion market by 2030 by some estimates. Last year, Louis Vuitton launched its own metaverse game where players could collect NFTs, while others like Burberry have pursued lucrative partnerships with metaverses like Blankos Block Party and Roblox.
These early forays into the metaverse have proved successful enough that a raft of other brands including Adidas, Nike, GAP and Crocs (yes, you read that right) are joining the bandwagon and offering virtual wardrobes to customers. Many wearable NFT creators have pointed at the emotional connection we have to our clothes and claim that it too can be achieved when you try out and interact with a piece in the metaverse in the same way you would in real life.
What Makes Wearable NFTs So Special?
At the end of the day, just like in the real-world, we also want to dress the part in the metaverse. Wearing a digital dress or a pair of NFT sneakers can feel like an extension of our physical identity or a refreshing outlet through which we can reinvent ourselves. But why exactly is the idea of wearable NFTs so appealing? Here a few reasons:
In many ways, fashion goes beyond fabric. Without the constraints of the physical world like gravity or durability of materials, digital fashion can reach new heights. Garments can be designed out of impractical or even impossible fabrics like liquid gold, water, fire or smoke. This unique blank canvas paves the way for original and eccentric creations.
Body and gender inclusivity
In the metaverse, you won’t have to worry about being too big or too small to fit into a garment that you really want to try on. Wearable NFTs are, in principle, designed to be non-discriminatory, catering to the specificities of the avatars, no matter their body shape or size. In addition, there are several emerging brands focusing specifically on genderless digital-only creations.
Most of us can relate to wanting a particular design but not being able to afford it. With wearable NFTs, not only is fashion fresh and unique, the prices tend to be quite affordable too. This opens up accessibility to all ranges of metaverse users. Accessibility also extends to new designers who can get a fair shot at entering a world that can be hard to break into in the real world.
In a virtual setting, designers won’t ever run out of fabric or samples and supply issues can be a thing of the past. This gives another layer of power and creativity to creators who can work with endless possibilities.
New business models
With wearable NFTs, designers can explore new monetization models where not only they sell garments, but can also become co-owners of their creations or embed royalties into them so that every time an NFT changes hands, the creator automatically gets a percentage of the sale.
One of the worst effects of fast fashion has been the negative environmental impact it has caused, with tons of discarded clothing being dumped into landfills around the globe everyday. Wearable NFTs are billed as an eco-friendly alternative by emitting 97% less CO2 when compared to the production of physical items. In addition, producing digital garments avoids the need for raw materials, transportation, factories or labor costs, making it also a more ethical way of making fashion. However, it’s worth mentioning that NFTs do have a carbon footprint of their own.
Brands And Marketplaces For Wearable NFTs
Gaming is a tried and tested platform for virtual fashion. Players frequently enhance their experience by purchasing add-ons like new weapons, superpowers, cosmetic upgrades and ‘skins’ for their digital avatars.
Game skins already make up an estimated $40 billion a year market, underscoring the potential of wearable NFTs. Fortnite, for example, made $50 million from one set alone of NFT-branded skins released last year. But the metaverse is fast catching-up with the ultra-fashionable avatars popping up on Decentraland and the Sandbox, among others.
And in this new world where the Devil Wears NFTs, even Vogue is dipping a toe (or two) in digital space innovations. The revered magazine delighted fashion lovers around the world when its Singapore edition released a series of covers featuring wearable NFTs for the much-awaited September 2021 issue, cementing the status of virtual clothing as a trend not to be missed.
Elsewhere, we’re seeing metaverses opting for partnerships with renowned digital artists as is the case with Sensorium Galaxy whose avatars were designed by Jason Ebeyer, an acclaimed 3D artist known globally for his trademark glossy figures and sensual style of artwork.
Ebeyer’s vision has permeated through the fashion sported by Sensorium Galaxy’s avatars which users will be able to fully customize by purchasing new clothing pieces, accessories and cosmetic add-ons from a range of options within the Sensorium ‘lookbook’. Currently, users can get a sneak peak at a selected range of avatars via the Sensorium App.
Wearable NFTs can easily be purchased or even created in collaboration with digital-only fashion brands and NFT marketplaces.
Top Digital Fashion NFT Brands
The ultimate virtual fashion trendsetter, The Fabricant has built a reputation for its edgy designs and high-profile collabs with the likes of Puma, Buffalo London and Iris Van Herpen. The Amsterdam-based digital fashion house was among the first to pioneer the use of blockchain technology in the industry, stating that “NFTs are the starting point of a fashion experience that you can own, in which we can create new ways to experience and relate to fashion.”
Trust me when I say that Auroboros is anything but your typical digital shopping experience. Widely described as a biomimicry fashion label, Auroboros focuses on sci-fi themed couture that is the perfect match for the fashion forward users of the metaverse. Merging science and technology with physical couture, Auroboros is behind some of the most incredible metaverse fashion pieces like the Neuro necklaces, Nymph bags and Venustrap dresses.
This NFT sneaker apparel brand first burst into the scene after selling 608 pairs of NFT sneakers in just 6 minutes last year and bringing in more than $3 million at a time when non-fungible tokens were just entering mainstream culture. Such was the success of RTFKT through collaborations with the likes of Takashi Murakami, Jeff Staple and Lexus, that it quickly caught the eye of big-name brands and was recently acquired by none other than Nike. RTFKT Studios and Nike have just released their first NFT with the “MNLTH” drop, but consumers can expect to see even bigger projects in the future.
As the world's first digital-only luxury fashion brand, Republiqe is a household name when it comes to designing jaw-dropping virtual garments. The brand has a digital tailoring team dedicated to helping customers find the perfect fit for their orders and last year it auctioned off a limited-edition bespoke set of a matching puffer jacket and a dress released in celebration of World Health Day.
Top Digital Fashion NFT Marketplaces
This invite-only virtual fashion marketplace counts heavyweights like Karl Largerfeld and McQ among the many brands it has worked with. With this sort of pedigree, it’s no wonder that their NFTs have frequently sold out in a matter of minutes. Fashionistas will also be able to shop other brands like Tribute, RTFKT and The Fabricant through this marketplace.
Under the tagline ‘don’t shop less, shop digital,’ DressX is a marketplace retailing digital clothing designed both in-house and in partnership with reputed brands. More recently, it partnered with marketplace Crypto.com to offer customers limited-edition drops and exclusive NFT items as well.
How To Create Wearable NFTs?
If you're passionate about this trend, you can go ahead and let your creativity go wild. And no, you don’t have to be an expert to be able to craft your first wearable NFT. Platforms like Decentraland will have tutorials on how to easily create free wearables and help you take your first steps into 3D designing and modeling. Outside of gaming, metaverses and virtual worlds, you can come up with your own collection by experimenting with dedicated software like CLO3D, Marvelous Designer or Blender and using an NFT marketplace to turn your pieces into NFTs. Of course, having some digital drawing and sketching skills is always a major plus.
Wearable NFTs - Clothing Handcrafted For The Metaverse
Clearly, there’s plenty of fashionable options when it comes to wearable NFTs that users (and their avatars) can flaunt across digital worlds. And we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.
From being an environmentally-friendly alternative to fast fashion to embodying the endless creativity opportunities afforded by virtual words, NFTs are the next frontier of self-expression, albeit one that still lives in a gray area of sorts.
French luxury brand Hermès, for example, wasn’t too amused when Meta Birkins started hitting the market, courtesy of a digital artist with no ties to the fashion house, and Nike has wasted no time in following suit.
Controversies aside, wearable NFTs are fast becoming a metaverse mainstay because, let’s face it, we all want to look our best and the metaverse won’t be much different from real life one day