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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk