Digital worlds are the new frontier of fashion storytelling


Fashion companies have long relied on photography, catwalks (with their elaborate sets and runway notes), store design, and other methods to create fantasies around their brands and products. These days, they’re adding new digital items to their repertoires, including NFTs, video games, and virtual experiences that provide alternative ways to tell stories.

Traditionalists might not see them as the most high-profile channels for building brands, and there have been some high-profile duds that give skeptics reason to pause, like elements of the recent Metaverse Fashion Week. . But they are growing in importance as the audience for video games, crypto and digital events continues to grow. Fashion companies are starting to experiment with them now so they won’t be caught off guard later.

One web3-native brand at the forefront of using NFTs for storytelling is RTFKT, the maker of virtual sneakers and NFTs that Nike acquired last year.

The company has “dropped” freebies on the crypto wallets of those who own the CloneX NFT avatars it created with artist Takashi Murakami. These include a “space pod” which is a kind of housing for the fictional clone – and which RTFKT described as the start of a clone multiverse civilization – and an MNLTH, a mysterious cube that uses programmable “smart contracts”. integrated into the NFTs. For months, RTFKT asked MNLTH holders to solve puzzles it called “quests” to unlock the cube step-by-step, until it finally revealed its first virtual sneaker co-branded with Nike and other products last week.

What RTFKT does goes beyond a series of NFTs. It builds an ecosystem where each release adds to the mythology it wants to create.

RTFKT is adding to the story all the time in various ways. Benoit Pagotto, one of the company’s co-founders, even tweeted recently a logo for the “operating system” powering its virtual “CryptoKicks” with Nike.

“Don’t start panicking, this isn’t a game, we just take the lore we’re building seriously,” he warned subscribers, who tend to panic about new NFT goodies or puzzles. to solve.

Gamification, myth-building, and dropping bread crumbs for fans to obsess over are not new engagement tactics. The original Matrix trilogy and other movies and TV shows used these ideas effectively as early as the 1990s, with plot clues hidden in elaborate websites and video games. But these are not the usual methods of a company that sells fashion, even virtual.

This approach can have its drawbacks, such as creating extremely high expectations for new revelations. When RTFKT first unveiled what’s inside the MNLTH, a common sentiment in their Discord was basically “All that for a shoe?” The price of an MNLTH on the secondary market fell sharply before rebounding. (The price has now increased slightly from what it was before the reveal.)

Other digital mediums like video games and virtual experiences have their own benefits for storytelling. They can be immersive, interactive, and let brands do what they can’t do in the real world, at relatively low cost. Brands such as Gucci, Marni, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Nike and others have built their own miniature worlds where all the elements are there to help tell the story they want, be it creativity , otherworldly beauty, fun and fitness promotion or whatever. other.

Traditional channels can struggle to hit all of these notes simultaneously. The photography can present a fantasy world but is not truly immersive. Physical stores are immersive and interactive but have high costs and are bound by the rules of physics, not to mention zoning laws and other restrictions. Big shows can do almost anything, like in 2017 when Chanel simulated a rocket launch. But it takes a budget the size of Chanel to do it.

Of course, these digital experiences come with their own set of challenges, and experiencing them is far from certain. When working in an interactive space like a video game, you need to translate branding into an experience that is, well, interactive.

“It can be very difficult,” Marcus Holmström, co-founder and CEO of The Gang, an agency that has created experiences on Roblox for brands like Vans and automaker McLaren, told me recently. “If you take a high fashion brand, for example, it might not be easily connected to a game idea. You have to think a little more and think outside the box.

Fashion brands are just beginning to explore storytelling possibilities in these spaces. But they seem likely to continue, because telling good stories is how they get shoppers to buy their brands and not just their products.

To learn more about the technology, do not miss the BoF Professional Summit: New Frontiers in Fashion and Technology on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Full access to the livestream is included with your BoF Professional membership.


Comments are closed.