Tailoring Asset Culture To Luxury Fashion
Last week, after consuming copious amounts of New York and London Fashion Week content, I re-realised two things. One — fashion is a wonderfully baffling, elusive, beautiful thing. And two — spectacle is everything.
Because in a time so troubled by permacrises, doubling down on who we are (or even who we want to be) and expressing it in fantastical ways is grounding. And so much of that can be done through fashion.
In the growing portfolio of Matter Of Form’s commentary — thoughts contributed from every corner of the studio — we’re unanimously of the opinion that status is becoming less about what we own, specifically how much we own. That continues to be true. It’s now what we value, individually and societally, that writes the code of our identity and, in turn, our relation and perception to ourselves and others. But let’s not be naive enough to think that monetary value doesn’t come into play here. Often the things most revered for their quality of craft, history or cultural meaning have a price point to match.
Consider the items that get better, i.e. more valuable, with age: wine, jewellery & watches, coins, art, stocks & bonds, stamps. These are, historically, the things collectors gun for. But increasingly in our ever-evolving and fluctuating modernity, what we value (and therefore want to collect and own) is becoming more diverse. Candles, crystals, merch, fragrances; the list goes on and likely gets weirder.
While every niche is worth noting — even the weird ones — fashion’s role in contemporary collectability is powerful, and our office isn’t immune. A handful of our colleague’s closets rival Carrie Bradshaw’s. And we boast some of the most dedicated sneakerheads in the local vicinity, no mean feat given our Shoreditch surroundings.
When asked ‘why?’, the compulsions given are varied and multiple. But one does stand out: authenticity.
Understanding The Circular Economy
Because we want our products to not only last longer but work harder, circular economy models are entering the chat more and more frequently. As far as research goes, there’s not a singular, universally accepted blueprint of the circular economy. But when in the history of mankind have we all agreed on anything?
At least in this context, most interpretations of the concept are fairly similar, all capture one principle: f*ck single-use.
The circular economy model ultimately describes a journey of resources. Alternative to the current model dominating most industries:
EXTRACTION → PRODUCTION → DISTRIBUTION → CONSUMPTION → WASTE
In the circular journey, we take resources, turn them into products to be sold, bought and used over and over again (being repaired and altered where necessary) until the product gets to a point where it needs to transformed into something else, i.e. recycled or redesigned. The idea being products are never thrown away.
Demystifying Digital IDs
Where Web3 hype may have dropped off for fashion brands, circular business models have boomed. Resale and aftercare offerings abound in luxury fashion circles, from Gucci, Chloé, and Net-a-Porter to Ganni, Mulberry, Coach and Pangaia. We recently welcomed Natasha Franck, founder of EON — an enterprise digital ID technology revolutionising the commerce space, to our What The Luxe podcast to tap into this topic that has frothed fashion into quite the frenzy.
Digital IDs — that is, cryptographic keys or certificates that confirm the authenticity of an entity — play a pivotal role in advancing the circular economy within the luxury fashion industry and will become especially prevalent in the EU by 2030.
Firstly, they enable unprecedented transparency and traceability, allowing consumers to make informed choices about the products they purchase. In an era where sustainability and authenticity are paramount, digital IDs can provide a detailed history of a luxury item, from its origin to its previous owners.
Transparency — another buzzword — helps to combat counterfeit goods and promote the resale of authentic, pre-owned luxury items. As a result, consumers can confidently engage in the second-hand market, extending the lifecycle of luxury products and reducing the industry's overall environmental footprint.
Digital IDs also empower luxury brands to take control of their products' afterlife by implementing buy-back programs, refurbishing, and recycling initiatives. These digital markers ensure that products can be easily identified and reintroduced into the market, preserving their value and contributing to a more sustainable, circular fashion economy.
Secondly, digital IDs foster a sense of exclusivity and personalization that resonates with luxury fashion consumers. These IDs can be linked to unique product stories, craftsmanship details, and even personal messages from designers, enhancing the emotional connection between consumers and their luxury purchases. This connection strengthens brand loyalty and encourages customers to retain and cherish their luxury items, reducing the urge to discard them prematurely.
Additionally, digital IDs can match NFT purposes, offering access to exclusive content, such as limited-edition collections or behind-the-scenes experiences, creating a sense of belonging and community among avid fans and owners. By leveraging digital IDs, luxury brands can not only extend the lifecycle of their products but also build lasting relationships with a discerning clientele, in turn creating a win-win scenario for both sustainability and luxury in the circular economy.
NFTs: No Longer a Novelty
Authenticity is the buzzword of the moment in more ways than one. In their Culture of Trust Study, Vice Media found that large swathes of young people measure a brand’s cultural power against barometers like authenticity, reliability, consistency and a willingness to take risks.
At the same time, buyer focus is shifting towards authenticity in terms of product, concentrating on evaluation and verification as they increasingly view their possessions as assets and commodities.
Product authenticity has historically been a key differentiator between luxury and non-luxury purchases. With dupe culture embedding itself into markets, authentication is being touted to the masses and technology is helping push the agenda.
NFTs are a primary example of both modern collector’s items and verified receipts. They are unique digital certificates, registered in a blockchain, used to record the ownership of an asset. At the height of NFT hype (in 2021, NFT was Collins Dictionary’s Word of The Year), NFTs were popularly misunderstood as digital artworks. Mainly because the majority of NFTs at the time were attached to digital art.
The NFT hype halted abruptly with the crypto crash last year; novelty wore off and everyone noticed a severe lack of utility in most NFT offerings and strategies.
Despite common misconceptions that NFTs represent gimmick and gimmick alone, when used innovatively they have vast potential as a tool for brands. Whether it’s consumer control and increased agency or a key to unlocking ongoing access and perks.
An early adopter of meta-loyalty models, Gucci partnered with disruptor brand Superplastic on a collection of NFTs titled ‘SUPERGUCCI’ in 2021. Reportedly selling $7m in digital collectables that year, the collaboration is now adding value to owners through VIP access to virtual and IRL stores and restaurants as well as brick-and-mortar experiences offering specially curated and merchandised areas for NFT holders.
Another marque making waves with Web3 and NFTs specifically is beloved French maison, Louis Vuitton. In June they announced a new collection of ‘phygital’ Treasure Trunks – silver metal cases adorned with the house’s distinct monogram pattern, each digitally twinned to grant owners access to future products and experiences, as well as a community of fellow holders.
Only a limited number of trunks, each costing €39,000, will be made available and, operating under a concept Louis Vuitton calls ‘soulbound’, holders will not be able to sell them. It’s a strategy that seems to be working as nearly half of the collection was sold in the first 72 hours of sale, adding another layer to the exclusive arena of rarefied goods.
So are NFTs dead? No. But their power as a standalone brand experience is waning. Their place in end-to-end CX needs to be carved out, driven by the knowledge that they’re a technology that can push us into the future faster. And with more flare.
It's hard not to talk about the metaverse when discussing the influence of tech on high fashion. Not least because, in its hype-nascency, it has predominantly been fashion houses who have dipped their toes into this new virtual realm. And especially when last year VR platform Decentraland hosted the marmite of fashion weeks, and then did it again in March of this year.
As the media and audiences grapple with whether the metaverse has faded into irrelevancy or is gearing up for another big wave, other platforms are emerging and looking to become a collector's paradise.
Ralph Lauren’s former digital chief – who has also led web3 projects for the likes of Burberry – founded fashion marketplace Syky in November 2022 to fuse the worlds of digital and physical products. The platform's launch was timed to parallel this month’s London Fashion Week and signifies the beginning of a year-long incubation programme called the Syky Collective.
With a site inviting potential collectors to connect their crypto wallets to the platform, Syky has all the potential to become the BlockBar of fashion assets.
The Value Era
As we move into the value era, where possessions are assets and worth is defined by more than price tags, discerning consumers are increasingly seeking authenticity, uniqueness, and meaningful connections with their purchases.
A mutual beneficiary of the shift is the fashion collectables sector, having emerged as vital cultural assets. They’re not merely garments or accessories; they embody history, craftsmanship, and personal narratives that resonate deeply with individuals beyond the haute couture circles they were previously exclusive to.
As well as offering a tangible link to fashion's rich heritage and cultural significance, they obviously possess the potential for substantial financial value, becoming investments rather than just items of clothing. With the continual uptake of circular economy models in the luxury fashion industry, garments will have longer lifecycles and will continue to generate cash through accrued value, resale and so on.
Because so much of ownership is moving to subscription, the value era will heighten purchase decisions. What do we want to wholly own? What’s worth investing in? Items previously not considered ‘collectables’ will transform into assets we want to collate, especially in the elusive world of luxury fashion.
Brands should be thinking about their collections and key pieces, how they can create value beyond high price points, using details of craft, stories and tech to bring the inanimate to life and then extending that lifecycle — over and over again.
We know what it is to connect with discerning clientele, those who want to invest in emotional links and expressive purchasing decisions. Whether it's through dynamic branding, perfect pixels or end-to-end experience design, chat to one of our consultants via firstname.lastname@example.org and let us build bonds between your brand and your buyers that go beyond “financially sound” to enduring, meaningful value.
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