Fashion NFTs are a rising trend where technology meets the fashion world. Essentially, it is a way of buying a unique item that you cannot wear in real life.
There's a bit more to it than that, but let's start there. Being able to replicate the desire we have for brand new fashion without creating a mountain of textile waste sounds great. But, as we'll later find out, this is not quite the case.
Come with us and explore this weird virtual world of avatars, real virtual clothes and trainers that will never touch your skin.
If you get a bit lost, scroll to the bottom for a simplified explainer on NFTs, blockchains, cryptocurrency, metaverse...
The main surprise is that these intriguing, virtual fashion pieces can sell for ridiculous sums of money.
We did some digging and found a pair of virtual trainers made by RTFKT that sold for about $47,000 or ~£35,000. Nike have recently purchased RTFKT (pronounced artifact) who are a brand primarily selling 'sneakers' that do not exist in the real world, except for in what is now known as the 'metaverse'. This includes virtual reality, augmented reality or video games worlds (think Minecraft).
Phew, that's a lot to take in, but you can see how it sort of works in the tweet below.
RTFKT is now a part of the NIKE, Inc. family. 🌐👁🗨 pic.twitter.com/5egNk9d8wA— RTFKT Studios (@RTFKTstudios) December 13, 2021
Not all NFTs are astronomically unaffordable, though.
This image shows another avatar made by Karl Lagerfeld, inspired by Lagerfeld's 'real life' Karl by Karl capsule collection.
The second collection of a similiar avatar sold out last September in under 35 seconds.
There were around 777 pieces, at 77 euros each.
In a press statement, a spokeperson for Karl Lagerfeld said: "As with the previous NFT collectibles, users will be able to interact with the digital Karl in augmented reality environments and share images with the hashtag
A new collaboration between Adidas, Prada and digital artist Zach Lieberman will see Adidas continue to invest in fashion NFTs. Their original NFT drop saw them make around $22 million within minutes of the collection going live.
Introducing adidas for @Prada re-source —an ambitious first-of-its-kind NFT project featuring user-generated and creator-owned art, in collaboration with digital artist @zachlieberman.— adidas Originals (@adidasoriginals) January 20, 2022
3,000 tiles, 1 canvas. Play.
Learn more at https://t.co/biHgWL4rQq#adidasforPradaNFT pic.twitter.com/bKBnmkWDWI
Dress X - An App That Lets You ‘Wear’ Digital Fashion
Urging people to buy less clothing, DressX has an entire online platform and an app for hosting its digital fashion designs.
They cite the huge amounts of clothing waste produced by fashion and have set up shop as a way of enjoying new clothes without such waste.
Their sustainability page tells us just how much water it can take to produce our clothes. It takes 7570 litres of water to make one pair of jeans, they say. DressX claims that producing a digital garment emits 97% less CO2 than production of a physical garment.
Environmental impact of NFTs
Right, we've had our fun exploring what wonderful things are created in the form of these digital artworks, but why are they bad for the environment?
Not all NFTs are created equal. Again, without getting too muddled up, depending on which 'blockchain' the NFTs use, some will produce much more energy.
Blockchains are part of how cryptocurrencies work. Two examples are Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Ethereum produces less CO2 than Bitcoin, but to offset the amount of carbon it used in 2020 would still take 84.3million trees to 'capture' the emissions.
But even then things are changing. Cryptocurrencies are starting to change how they work, from "proof-of-work" to "proof-of-stake". Basically it means they can run using much less energy, as much as a thousandth less for Ethereum.
Another way that fashion labels get around using carbon-emitting NFTs is to offset by planting trees.
Going back to Karl Lagerfeld, they promised to plant a mangrove tree for every NFT purchase. And they said which blockchain they use, 'LUKSO', which they claim is less energy-intensive.
Is it enough?
We hope you've enjoyed this brief jaunt through the metaverse. Technology always comes up with lots of different ways to overcome issues of the day.
But, climate change isn't really going to be solved by virtual clothing. It will help to reduce the amount of textile waste by giving people a different way of playing with the latest styles, but the issue is that it can't be worn in real life.
And even the NFTs themselves still emit carbon! Planting trees is not always the answer, especially when done insensitively, where it leads to monocultures.
Some of the tools being developed are useful though. Some of the AR "try on" apps mean you could see what an outfit looked like on you before you ordered it online. But even this wouldn't solve the issue of returns being dumped and deadstock being generated.
The 'metaverse' really is shaping up to be a gold mine for fashion. If you want to delve a bit deeper, then this video should help take you a bit further.
Lost? - Here’s a Key Word Guide to All Things Meta and Virtual
NFTs - These stand for non-fungible (meaning unique, non-replaceable/exchangeable) tokens. It all started off when artists and social media gurus were flogging off digital artwork and images online. Founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9million!
Cryptocurrency - You might have heard of Bitcoin, which is the most popular cryptocurrency. It is basically a digital currency - but unlike pounds or dollars, it is not government-issued.
Blockchains - These are sort of like a database that keeps records about the transactions that happen when people send digital money from one place to another. It helps keeps things secure.
Metaverse - Puzzled by Mark Zuckerberg's decision to rename his Facebook company into "Meta"? Well, it's because they're welcoming in "the next chapter of social connection". And what does that mean? Basically the metaverse is a combination of virtual reality (like the headsets), augmented reality (like the weird filters you can get on your phone that put dancing giraffes on your table) as well as things like video games. It's where real life is kind of crossing over into the virtual space. We might soon be running around with our own avatars...