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Fashion’s New Digital Frontier

Virtual fashion has blown up this year, as brands have dabbled in gaming and piled into the NFT craze. Is it a bubble or the next big thing?
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This #BoFLIVE event was based on the ‘The Opportunity in Digital Fashion and Avatars Report — BoF Insights.’ Click here to read our full analysis.

One of fashion’s hottest trends this year is clothes that can’t be worn at all. Brands have gone big on virtual dressing, dabbling in digital fashion and scoring blow-out sales on NFT drops.

But is the buzz the mark of a bubble or a real long-term opportunity? For the latest #BoFLIVE event, BoF’s director of research and analysis, Diana Lee, and head of strategy, Rahul Malik, spoke with Rachel Waller, global vice president of channel innovation at Burberry, and Helene Phillips, global head of digital and client experience at Jimmy Choo about how the fashion industry can prepare for the next digital frontier.

The conversation drew on analysis from BoF Insights’ new digital fashion report, focusing on how brands can look beyond the current hype to future opportunities. Digital assets will be integral to future-proofing businesses as consumers spend a growing amount of time online, the report found.

“Fashion is about building universes and making you dream. In many ways, what we have here is an opportunity to bring some of those dreams to life,” said Burberry’s Waller. The digital realm “allows us to tell stories in a much richer way than maybe some of the previous canvases have before.”

Burberry has partnered with the video game Blankos Block Party to launch one-of-a-kind branded avatars. The characters are non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, unique digital assets whose authenticity and ownership are verified by a digital ledger known as a blockchain. It’s part of a strategy to tap into Gen-Z audiences and capitalise on the growing proportion of time consumers are spending online.

To be sure, such projects are still largely experimental and there are plenty of questions around how emerging technologies will serve the fashion industry in the long term. Gaming is one way in for now, but there are other potentially bigger opportunities.

For instance, NFTs have burgeoning applications, including as a creative new type of loyalty scheme to reward communities. The panellists pointed to the fervour of the Bored Apes Yacht Club community — and the associated social capital of being a member — as an example. With the number of possibilities and the options for engagement, it is incumbent on fashion brands and retailers to choose wisely in picking their next steps.

Brands shouldn’t try to go it alone, but collaborate with partners who speak to the audience they are targeting. Jimmy Choo auctioned two types of NFTs that were designed by New York artist Eric Haze and curated by Japanese style icon Poggy.

“The short-term play is having strategic partnerships with the right players,” said Phillips, noting that Jimmy Choo tapped strategic partners to “ensure they had the right contacts on platforms, including with crypto communities.”

Digital Fashion & Avatars Decoded

Related Articles:

The Opportunity in Digital Fashion and Avatars Report — BoF Insights

Dematerialisation: Why the Metaverse Is Fashion’s Next Goldmine

The Metaverse Will Radically Change Retail

To participate in #BoFLive, BoF’s digital events series offering insight, advice and inspiration, visit our calendar where you can find details of upcoming digital events.

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