NFTs first surfaced at NYFW in February, offering exclusive rewards for guests from designers. Now, they’re granting access to more physical experiences and goods, a shift that reflects a growing trend in fashion and retail toward token-gating and phygital products. The keys are not the only blockchain-based tools to access NYFW experiences. Markarian is offering a host of NFT Private Salon memberships ($0 for Silver, $250 for Gold, and $3,000 for Diamond), which come with a chance to win invitations to the 14 September live show (the five Diamond holders are guaranteed invites). Rebecca Minkoff and Mavion also dropped 55 NFTs in July, five of which include tickets to Minkoff’s forthcoming NYFW show.
Early use cases are still nascent. But, if successful, fashion shows could plan to more regularly accommodate NFT holders, who are often brand loyal, engaged and active fans. It’s another way Web3 is working to democratise fashion by providing new avenues for access, so long as fans can afford the NFT. This trend reflects an interesting take on token-gating, which is used to limit access to future product drops and experiences to select NFT holders. The premise holds (one must own a given NFT to attain access), however this approach aims to unlock previously inaccessible experiential opportunities, providing new pathways for brand engagement — should it resonate with consumers.
Last season, Joseph Altuzarra gave corresponding NFTs to show attendees in a bid to “create an extended sense of community”, he told Vogue Business in February. This is the next step. “I want people who are interested in fashion at all levels to be able to participate, which is why I chose to take part in designing this NFT,” he said.
Kim Shui, who first tested NFTs last season, wants to highlight the male dominance of the crypto space. As a women’s clothing designer, Shui hopes that the physical and experiential opportunities unlocked by the key will not only open up the fashion world, but also the crypto sphere, to women who might not otherwise have had access to these spaces.
The lower price point of these NFTs, and the option to split payment into four instalments, reflects a recognition of people’s reluctance to spend big on tokens that grant access to one-off events. The lack of bids on Jason Wu and DressX’s 8.5 ETH (approx. $13,000) Michelle Obama dress — which came with two show tickets — suggests that people aren’t willing to pay through the roof to attend a fashion show.
A $100 NFT key looks more promising — particularly given the potential longevity of its utility. Wang is intrigued by how the project could grow and evolve. “What happens if you hold multiple keys? What does the experience look like for a fan who has held a key for multiple seasons, and what benefits could a fan who bought a key this season unlock for next season? Might community composability enable stickier fanbases and on-chain identity?”
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