Much is being written about the “blending” of physical and digital under the auspices of “unified commerce.” At the same time, we are being inundated by all things metaverse, aka Web3. Are they mutually exclusive? A recent Fast Company article looking at the future of fashion in Web3 begins to fill in some blanks.
If Web1 was about “read” and Web2 was about “read and write,” then Web3 is about “read, write, and own,” says Farfetch Founder and CEO José Neves. Fashion, Neves says, is a deeply human endeavor and a core part of who we are as individuals. Fashion allows us to apply different “masks” based on how we feel, who we want to be, or what we want to portray on any given day. “We always think of technology as enhancing the human interaction between curators, creators, and levels of fashion, as opposed to replacing that human connection.”
Neves goes on, “For me, the definition of Web3’s application to Fashion is the application of these principles of user control, user ownership and decentralized architecture to the fashion use cases.” The technology enables innovation, even if that translates to you and your avatar becoming “digital twins” by wearing the exact same outfit, extending brand loyalty across the metaverse. Hopefully it’s a good deal more.
A Betta MetaMall
That article took me back to an April interview I did with two metaverse change agents, Michael Zakkour and Alan Smithson, who are collaborating on an even more robust undertaking, known simply as TheMall. It’s billed as a 100 floor, 100-million square foot “metamall” in cyberspace. The team shared their belief that “retail may well drive much of what we refer to as the metaverse.”
Alan and Michael further believe that their early adaptors will not be headset-wearing, crypto-wallet bearing “bro-types,” but rather a mainstream market of 20–45-year-old, iPhone bearing women. They are working with fashion houses to sell products within the mall, as well as various brand’s in-house creative agencies or facilitate the “build-outs” with MetaVRse’s studio, which Smithson founded with wife Julie. Their secret sauce is the fact that unlike other similar tools, their engine can be deployed across multiple operating systems, browsers, and devices with little or no code. In effect anyone can be a creator.
“TheMall is a combination of ecommerce and pure experience. Brands are looking at this as a marketing and branding and experiential play.” Michael Zakkour says. “The brands can do anything, whether pure experience, NFT, a mix of commerce and experience, it will become their space to do with it whatever.” Michael is one of RETHINK Retails Top 100 Retail Influencers and firmly believes (as I do) that the future of retail is “immersive commerce,” a seamless blending of online and instore, the essence of unified commerce. One doesn’t use the term “omnichannel” in Michael’s presence, it makes him cringe.
If you visit TheMall and wish to transact, naturally you’ll need to do it with cryptocurrency. Although crypto assets have enthralled the entire world with several promises in economic opportunity, they lack tangibility. A US dollar may be seen and touched, but this is not the case with cryptocurrencies. However, cryptocurrencies are recognized as fungible assets, and are the basis of “tokenomics,” the mash-up of “token” and “economics.”
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) do not share the same value and so, they are unique. NFTs have been trending in recent times, and they’ve sparked a lot of interest in tokenomics, especially with high-profile NFT auctions. The tokenization of assets such as real estate, artworks, pictures, and collectibles with NFT has sparked a new wave of digital ownership, while also showcasing the potential of tokens.
Is It Art?
Art has been on the forefront of cultural change over the millennia. So, it is not surprising that artist’s and NFT’s are developing a symbiotic relationship, and a lucrative one at that. Many relative unknown talents have broken into NFT art, and now some of the most revered artists and illustrators are expanding beyond traditional media into digital art and NFT tokens.
I recently interviewed Shaun Neff, co-founder of GODA, who Forbes called a “Brand Whisperer.” GODA describes itself as a “trusted curated source for leading contemporary artists looking to explore digital as a new medium.” Neff is a serial entrepreneur, and has been a founder, investor, and advisor for some of the world’s top brands. These include Neff, Sunbum, Moon, Beachhouse Group, Robinhood, Target
GODA is also led by some of the biggest names in consumer, art, music, NFT, and fashion. Names like Pharrell Williams, Nina Chanel Abney, and Todd James among them. Many of GODA’s artists built significant followings and reputations in the “analog ” art world before entering the world of digital art and NFT’s. As a trusted partner, GODA ensures their artists seamless, impactful drops that respect the value of their art.
Taking a Brand Stand
As Shaun stated in the onset of my interview, the NFT art world is a crazy new space. It has built a strong following because the barriers to entry have been very low, and unlike analog art there are no middlemen, or gate keepers. And as a result, many artists, illustrators, and graphic designers have jumped into the pool, particularly in the last year.
Besides the low barrier to entry, the “tokenomics” behind the transactions are very appealing. The artists who mint the originals in effect maintain ownership in the original artwork, even as they become minted into a limited number of NFT’s that “live” in the Web3 metaverse.
On the sell side of the equation, it takes considerably more than the artistic creation and the “minting” of the NFT to get noticed, let alone have the work achieve enduring value. According to Shaun Neff, ninety-nine percent of those who have put their work out there, don’t hit anyone’s radar, let alone “the whales” or big collectors that are dominating the digital art collecting world.
In the true spirit of a veteran branding guy, Shaun notes that beyond the creative talent the artists must engage in the highly strategic and calculated undertaking designed to build buzz. That’s where the work of GODA comes in.
Party On Todd
Todd James is an internationally renowned artist who began his art career as a teenager in the New York City adding his unique graffiti to the subway system in the early 1980’s. On August 30th of this year, Todd minted a new collection of 1,533 NFT images with the help of GODA. Mint Pass holders paid .333 ETH (worth $527) on September 1st and had a 24-hr. window to enter a pre-mint raffle for a chance at his new collection. Over 20,000 signed up for a limited number of NFT’s that became available. The Todd James “ART PARTY” Reveal was on September 6th 9am PT/12PM central.
By 3:00PM CST that day 804 owners bought 546 pieces. “The floor price” was ETH .46 (approximately $724.00) for items #545 and #280 had a price of ETH 666 (approximately $1,047,904). The vast majority in that moment were running in the mid-single digits ($7,000-$10,000).
As a modest collector of contemporary art, I appreciated the satirical, often political, and very pop/street art aesthetic of Todd James. And I can’t help thinking about mid-century artists like Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol, or Claes Oldenburg by comparison. In their day, it was a major event when these pop art icons issued a new print edition of say, a dozen images. Each image might have been made available via a couple hundred signed prints, that were essentially identical. By comparison every one of Todd James’ over 1500 images are unique, with their own digital “fingerprint.” Warhol would be impressed, indeed.
The Artist Annuity
The other huge benefit to the artist is that when the NFT trades on the secondary market, they get a cut of that and any subsequent sale. And because all the transactions occur in the metaverse, there should never be a doubt about the authenticity, or provenance of the image. Talk about an annuity.
Another GODA artist who recently moved into the world of NFT’s is the famous African American contemporary artist Nina Chanel Abney. Her first-ever NFT collection “Super Cool World” on the GODA NFT platform was comprised of 5,080 NFTs that are made up of hundreds of traits designed by Nina that reflect her “frenetic collage-like approach to visual media.” The minting began on July 14th for those that won the allow-list raffle, 60,000 raffle submissions were public. Mint Pass holders were guaranteed the chance to purchase.
Nina is most interested in having her collector fans remain in the family. So to reward loyalty and curtail transactions on the secondary market, she has hinted at owners gaining access to “exclusive Nina merchandise, collaborative product releases, airdrops, events, incentivized participation in exhibitions, and surprise raffle drawings.”
Sea Change, or Wait, and See?
What does all this mean to the “established art community,” say nothing of filling the spaces over our fireplaces? Well according to Shaun Neff we can expect future NFT collectors to be purchasing enlarged digital screens to be gracing the walls of our abodes with the ever-changing NFT’s. No doubt it will be controlled by our phones or smart homes. And, of course, the Todd James and Nina Abney NFT’s will be proudly displayed on the walls of our metaverse manors for our avatars to enjoy.