Fashion Week is a wild time. Just ask designer Shayli Harrison.
“[You’re] ducking in and out of events constantly,” she told me, in our interview last week. “[There’s] someone saying, ‘Oh, we're here. Quick, jump into this room.’ ‘Oh, this looks good. Dash into that room.’ [Then] someone’s calling for an interview. [Then there’s] a panel discussion. Bumping into friends on the sidelines. Clicking on your mate’s avatar and saying, ‘Hang on a second. I know you.’ It has a great vibe.”
Wait a minute - ‘clicking on your mate’s avatar?’
That’s right. This is not Paris or Milan. This is the Metaverse. “Just as hectic as the usual fashion week,” according to Shayli.
For only the second time, Metaverse Fashion Week took place, virtually, on the Decentraland platform, from March 28-31. The likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, Adidas, and Cristobal Balenciaga all staged virtual events to promote their newest fashions, both digital and physical.
“There's just as much effort and skill involved in putting a digital fashion week together as the physical, I would say,” says Harrison.
Not just a designer, she’s also the CEO of the digital fashion network Mutani. They’ve just launched a special project, in partnership with Bulgarian designer Stefan Kartchev, combining avant-garde fashion with cutting edge NFT-technology.
“Stefan and I graduated together from the Fashion Department [of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp] in 2018. He's a dear friend and a very talented designer. You know, he's worked with Walter Van Beirendonck, for Prada, Jean-Paul Gautier, Wire Project and Rombout.”
For the collaboration, Kartchev, has designed an exclusive series of limited-edition speedwear tops.
“Mutani… targets high-creative, upcoming or avant-garde designers at the forefront of what's new. That's why we work with Stephane. The pieces are also unisex. They have a flexible wear and they appeal to the fashion space as well as the tech space because of the graphic elements.”
“We'll be producing everything on demand for the customer in their size. So it's a really nice way that we can sustainably produce physical fashion and use digital fashion as a way to do that.”
Digital fashion, because each piece purchased comes with an NFT pair - the unique, digital representation of Kartchev’s work. This pairing of physical goods with digital NFTs - tentatively called ‘phygital’ - has become an exciting new frontier for artisans and luxury designers to reinvigorate their offerings in a world of fast fashion and mass production. Digital-native fashion connoisseurs appreciate the opportunity to express their unique identity equally online as well as off.
“Our first NFT sale with [Kartchev] in 2021 was really successful,” recalls Harrison. “We gathered a great community following around his work. When we did that sale, we produced digital items, but we also did one digital item - an extra special, ‘one of one’ that only one person would ever have.
“One person snapped it up, but everyone else said, ‘Oh, what about me?’ So, we've had the community waiting for some time for us to do another launch.”
The Kartchev tops, which will only ever be available for purchase until the 11th of April, can be found on Mutani’s Shopify store. Those unfamiliar with - or simply uninterested in - NFTs need not worry. Everything can be paid for by credit card, and there are no confusing extra steps to take related to blockchain wallets. Everything is as simple and familiar as on any other, non-Web3 Shopify store.
That’s because Mutani is using Venly’s Shopify-NFT App to power their sale. The first of its kind, the app makes selling NFTs on Shopify a breeze, both for customers and for store holders.
“I found that the easy part,” says Harrison, citing the UX as a primary reason for the simplicity of the Venly App. By contrast, she “had to learn how to set up my Shopify store, and that took some serious time!”
With such a simple setup, and a range of features including mint-on-demand functionality to save store holders money, the advantages of Web3 e-commerce have never been more accessible.
“We're now able to see who we're bringing in from Web2 and from Web3. We can take not only Stefan's fashion audience who are not interested in crypto, and our community who are you know blockchain devotees, and bring them to the same space, which is kind of a rare occurrence.”
“Stefan is based in Belgium. A lot of his network is in Western Europe, so he only can reach so far driving his own sales off his website. We see a lot of interaction from his Instagram or our Instagram links coming from those spaces.”
“But when you start to see the linkage with Metaverse Fashion Week and our showrooms there and these virtual spaces that we have, you start to see people tapping in from Korea, Japan, Australia - really everywhere. And that, I think, is really exciting, because it's very hard to get new eyes on your work. We're dealing with a lot of bubbles created through algorithms that are hard to puncture. These closed spaces that we create for ourselves. So I'm seeing a break out of that bubble using this tech.”
“We do plan to engage in more phygital - or digital / physical - actions. I think it's a really interesting space to experiment with. There's a lot of talk now around what you can do for customer engagement with NFTs.”
“So yeah, we certainly have some interesting phygital actions underway, and not only with fashion designers – we're also working with Web3 native communities as well.”
“So supporting their branding, their network and their visuals with some, some merch, but in a more fashionable way because there's a lot of caps and hoodies and socks. That's the easy stuff. But we're going to give it that designer touch. We're doing some algorithmically generated prints, [for example].”
“Really just testing and experimenting and being creative with the technology to support physical production while creating really beautiful digital wares at the same time.”
“I’ve always had a good relationship with Venly because we're both born out of Belgium. So, for me, it's been really exciting to put that relationship into practice and be able to truly vouch for this company that I believe in.”
“I'm interested to take this to the next stage and see what we can build together. On a technical level too, it's just been really flush. Like I said, Shopify was the hardest part for me, so I'm really glad.”
The Mutani x Kartchev Speedwear Collection is available on Shopify only until the 11th of April. Find it here.