Everyone wants a piece of Bella Hadid. Now, thanks to a new NFT (non-fungible token) platform called CY-B3LLA, they’ll be able to grab one, albeit in a modern, somewhat strange way. In collaboration with reBASE, a social metaverse site, Hadid is releasing a massive range—11,111 unique works, to be exact—of shoppable online art pieces based on her own image. These NFTs are digital assets, essentially cybernetic souvenirs or collectibles. It’s also more than just having the JPEG saved on your desktop: You receive a digital record (essentially a serial number or certificate of authenticity) that proves that you and only you purchased this specific asset. Hadid asked 10 different creatives to make art out of 3D scans of her own body, including portraits where she’s done up like an animated cyborg queen. She’s had a waiting list open for weeks, with over half a million people signing up online, and finally, now that CY-B3LLA is dropping, they’ll be able to get their own slice of supermodel right in their own inbox.
Hadid first had a kernel of the idea thanks to a lifelong interest in gaming. Growing up, her younger brother Anwar loved World of Warcraft, but Hadid herself was always attracted to the poppy universe of Mario. “My alias when I was 18, when I started traveling for work, was Princess Peach,” she says with glee over Zoom. When the world locked down due to COVID, her fascination with online life went into overdrive. “Over quarantine, my dream was to be a full gamer girl and play other people,” she says. “When the NFT craze came, I was genuinely curious about what that community looked like. It went from gaming—me wanting to create this cool avatar and be in that universe and connect with people—to this.”
Naturally, Hadid was excited by the aesthetic possibilities of creating art out of her own image. She submitted to a 3D scan that the artists would then be able to use to create the NFTs. “There were probably 200 cameras surrounding me and I stood in the middle and changed my shape so it got all these different parts of my body, different versions of my facial expressions, fingers, toes. We wanted it to be very realistic,” she says. But beyond the look and feel of the NFTs, she built this new platform to have a community aspect. Though some of the details still sound hazy, purchasing one of Hadid’s NFTs will eventually grant you access to online and real life meet-and-greets with the model. “We’re gonna set up different events. Tokyo—I hope that’s one of our first launch spaces. It’d be an airdrop essentially: If you’re in Tokyo having coffee and all of a sudden I’m right next door to you, you’d get a ping,” she says. “Just going to different places I love and seeing the people who support me and giving them a real hug.”
Hadid certainly knows a thing or two about capturing audience attention online. She has already proven herself as World Wide Web gold. For a recent run of red carpet looks at Cannes Film Festival, for instance, she caused a small internet fashion brushfire by teaming up with stylist Law Roach for an incredible string of archival dresses, including pieces from Chanel, Tom Ford’s Gucci era, and a vintage black Versace dress from 1987 with an epic voluminous bow around the waist. “Who is the one person who could make me feel confident enough to go for my dream of doing all these archival moments? That for me is Law [Roach]. Him and I have very similar minds when it comes to fashion. I told him I wanted it to be classic old festival looks,” she says. “Donatella was nice enough to open up Gianni’s whole archive for us, which is unheard of, and I was so honored. She really had in mind exactly what she wanted for me.”
Regarding CY-B3LLA, Hadid understands that there’s some well-deserved mistrust out there about the celebrity-NFT-industrial complex. “Where that skepticism comes from is the people who just want to have a money grab,” she says. “To me, it’s so much bigger than that. I want it to be a collective. It’s not a one-stop shop—this is a real passion. I want to be used as a vessel for communication and respect and love. ”
Hadid, who has discussed her struggles with anxiety in the past, feels like these yet-uncharted metaverse spaces have potential to be healthier and happier than the online world we are all currently living in. “The whole Instagram and Twitter world, it’s out for me—I just can’t look at notifications anymore,” she says. “Once we start to be so aware of what every single person thinks of us, you start to lose track of what you need and what you want. These horrible anxieties we all have—I feel like that’s what’s circulating on the internet.” There will be a dedicated group for CY-B3LLA-ites on the Discord chat app, and she imagines popping in a couple times a week just to chat with her friends and fans in a low-impact environment made up of like minded people. Eventually, as the metaverse develops into a more fully-realized space, she hopes to find even more ways for her people to inhabit, congregate, exchange ideas, and feel at home. “There’s a scary part of the internet but there’s a really beautiful part of the internet,” she says, “and that’s people being able to find a space where they can belong.”
All in all, she’s aware of how weird this NFT and metaverse talk can sound to people not yet on board with the burgeoning movement, but she’s ready to give herself over to it all the same, one token at a time. “It’s just a beautiful way that we can have a community. I don’t know if I feel like a community leader—it’s not just about connecting me to people, but about connecting people to other people,” she says. “I just want to be an instrument.”
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk
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Photo: Courtesy of Rami Kadi
Once more, Lebanese designer Rami Kadi is stepping out of the norm and embarking on an elusive project that pays tribute to building connections between the human and computer mind. A year before Covid-19 stormed the world, Kadi was the first-ever Middle Eastern designer to present a cyber fashion show. This time, his work stretches way beyond that. His new collection, ‘Lucid Algorithms’ demonstrates the first ever human-computer collaboration of its scale, and is reshaping the stigmas around the relationship between reality and the digital sphere.
Kadi often challenges design barriers by working on new concepts that have never been applied before. For ‘Lucid Algorithms’, the designer conceptualized the main elements that would create the basis of his new line, then fed them into a special algorithm, understanding how the artificial mind breaks down physical beauty. The collection of 40 ensembles features the visuals that were co-created with the algorith.
Rami Kadi’s digital-physical collab will be showcased at Paris Fashion Week, during which he will also conduct a private viewing of his SS 2022 collection, that releases on January 25. This private viewing highlights how the gap between traditional couture and modern age technology can be bridged.
For the house of Rami Kadi, 2022 is all about digital innovations. In case you missed it, the Lebanese designer will also be releasing his first NFT collection on February 2. This collection will act as the first step towards a new journey that the house plans on following in the following years, and reflects its commitment to the metaverse. The launch will follow the mint by a week, where 120 tokens will be available to purchase on Rami-kadi.com, making him the first designer to launch a collection on the Cardano blockchain.
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Will anyone spend six figures – or more – on fashion that can only be experienced in the digital realm? Dolce & Gabbana thinks the answer is yes.
Courtesy of UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana
The couture shows are a magnet for the world’s wealthiest fashion-lovers – where they order made-to-measure clothes and high jewelry for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Euro apiece. But what if those garments and baubles didn’t physically exist? Would anyone spend six figures – or more – for one-of-a-kind handcrafted fashion and jewellery that only could only be experienced in the digital realm?
Italian luxury designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are banking on the answer being yes.
This weekend, at the Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda show in Venice, the Italian fashion duo will unveil Collezione Genesi, a nine-piece NFT – or non-fungible token – collection, produced in collaboration with UNXD, a curated marketplace for digital luxury and culture. Five of the Collezione Genesi pieces – two dresses, a men’s suit, and two crowns – are physical creations, designed by Dolce & Gabbana, that have digital versions that can be used in the metaverse – “a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces” – as Mark Zuckerberg recently described it. Four items are entirely bespoke virtual designs, also for the metaverse.
Dolce & Gabbana will present Collezione Genesi to 450 guests in the Venice Casino during the three-day Alta Moda event. On August 28, the collection will also be mounted online, at unxd.com, for all to see. Dolce & Gabbana and UNXD are hoping the online presentation will draw in the “crypto community”, deep-pocketed cryptocurrency investors who spend large sums on NFTs, says UNXD founder and chief executive Shashi Menon.
Dress From A Dream. Photo: Courtesy of UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana
Tens of thousands of interested parties have already signed up on the UNXD site to participate in the auction, which will start on September 9 at 9am CET, and run for six to nine days, depending on the piece.
In the last year, NFTs have become the “it” item in culture and fashion. Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple, disrupted the art market in March, when Christie’s sold his unique NFT artwork “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” for an astounding $69 million – the third highest price paid at auction for a work by a living artist, after Jeff Koons’s Rabbit, which went for $91.1 million in 2019, and David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),” which sold for $90.3 million, also in 2019. Menon and Dolce & Gabbana believe that Collezione Genesi could be a historic moment in fashion as powerful and disruptive as Beeple’s sale was in the art world.
In fashion, NFTs have swiftly been gaining traction. In April, Kate Moss collaborated with @MITFNT, an anonymous collective, on a digital artwork – a triptych that captured fleeting seconds of the supermodel at the wheel of her car, walking in the woods, and asleep in bed. A Gucci NFT called “Aria”, a three-channel video playing on a loop, inspired by its autumn/winter 2021 collection, sold in a Christie’s online auction last spring for $20,000. Burberry designed a suite of NFT characters and accessories for Mythical Games’s Blankos Block Party. They sold out in a flash, for a total of nearly $400,000. With global video game sales likely topping $180 billion this year – and much of that money spent on in-game assets, like one-of-a-kind avatars and skins – NFTs have the potential to become an enormous revenue generator for the fashion industry.
Following the success of fashion-driven NFTs, Menon and his partners at UNXD, the same team that created the company behind Vogue Arabia, wondered if NFTs and couture could be united.
In April, they approached Dolce & Gabbana, with whom they had worked numerous times at Vogue Arabia, and made their pitch. “There was a lightbulb moment right away,” Menon says. “Everyone understood how consequential this project could be.”
“We have welcomed the invite as a new challenge,” the designers said over email. “Fashion has always been a blend of different worlds, even far apart from each other, and new technologies have fascinated us since our early beginnings. We thought of it as an innovative way to do what we love.”
The Impossible Tiara. Courtesy of UNXD and Dolce & Gabbana
Dolce & Gabbana already knew that Alta Moda would be staged in Venice, so they turned to the city’s glorious artisan heritage of Murano glass for their inspiration. With that, they created a “dress from a dream”, which is actually two dresses: one gold, and one silver, both encrusted with opulent embroidered images of colourful hand blown goblets. For the men’s bespoke collection, Alta Sartoria, they carried on the theme, designing an emerald-green double-breasted suit emblazoned with more ethereal glassware. For their high jewellery collection, Alta Gioilleria, they designed the Lion Crown, a gold-plated silver headpiece framed with lion heads – lions being one of the important symbols of Venice – and embellished with 26 oval cabochon rubies and nine diamonds, and the Doge Crown, inspired by the looming clock tower in Piazza San Marco, and named for the city’s former rulers. Also in silver with gold plate and celestial blue enamel, it bears the Zodiac signs that appear on the clock, as well as seven blue sapphires and 142 diamonds.
Each of these will be auctioned as a package that includes: the physical and the digital versions; the object’s original sketches by Dolce & Gabbana; access to future Dolce & Gabbana couture shows; a two-week installation of all items in Dolce & Gabbana’s flagship store on Via Monte Napoleone in Milan, with the name of the collector on display; a two-week installation in a Dolce & Gabbana store of owner’s choice, anywhere in the world; and a private tour of Dolce & Gabbana’s Alta Moda atelier in Milan.
“This is the first luxury NFT built with real products,” Menon says. “We have bridged physical and meta-physical.”
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Then there are the four digital-only offerings: the Impossible Tiara, comprised of two large red emeralds, 60 smaller red emeralds, and 713 Paraiba neon turquoise tourmalines, and three Impossible Jackets: shimmering men’s blousons that, like the physical dresses and suits, embody the baroque artistry of Venice. Purchasers will receive the sketches and the same experiential perks afforded to those who buy the physical-digital items.
UNXD took sustainability into account when developing the platform to auction the collection, building on Polygon, a blockchain that is 99 percent more energy-efficient than the notoriously high-energy consuming cryptocurrencies Bitcoin or Ethereum.
“The creative process has been the same that we follow when we make our ‘physical’ creations, only that, this time, the final result has been transferred to the virtual world and ‘translated’ into a digital language, breaking down the boundaries between these two realities,” the designers said. “Is it not fascinating?”
While the Dolce & Gabbana NFTs may be trailblazing, they – unlike the Alta Moda couture offerings – will not be one-offs.
“This is why it’s called genesis,” Menon says. “It’s just the beginning.”
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Originally published on Vogue.co.uk