Web3 had a small, yet important presence at Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week 2022 consisted of 64 shows and 42 presentations, many of which demonstrated the future of fashion. From the sprayed-on dress worn by supermodel Bella Hadid at the Coperni show to upcycled fresh looks consisting of recycled garments, Paris Fashion Week brilliantly highlighted trends for upcoming seasons. 

While the majority of Fashion Week attendees and designers celebrated physical elements — such as in-person fashion shows and tangible designs — a handful of creators incorporated Web3 features to demonstrate fashion’s enormous digital potential.

Web3 democratizes fashion

Shedding light on this, Victor Weinsanto, a French designer who launched his brand in 2020 after spending two years working with the famous Jean Paul Gaultier, told Cointelegraph that virtual worlds allow creators to design without having to use real fabrics and materials. “In a sense this ensures sustainability, even though a lot of energy and time is used to create such collections,” he said. 

Weinsanto revealed his first digital collection M3TALOVE immediately following his fashion show that took place in the Marais district of Paris on Sept. 26. Unlike traditional fashion week experiences, The M3TALOVE collection was showcased as 3D holograms within a series of glass cases housed in a dark room, equipped with bright lights and a DJ. Such a setting seemed appropriate, as the collection was a collaboration between Weinsanto and K-Pop girl band Lightsum.

The “M3TALOVE” collection from Weinsanto and BNV. Source: BNV

Richard Hobbs, founder and chief operating officer of Brand New Vision (BNV) — the Web3 platform behind M3TALOVE — told Cointelegraph that the idea for this collection was inspired by the possibilities of merging K-pop culture with fashion. 

“This was a collaborative experience with Victor presenting his concepts to each of the eight members of Lightsum, who then gave their comments and suggestions before BNV converted the sketches into digital outfits, along with individual customized avatars for the eight girls.”

Weinsanto added that the M3TALOVE collection was one of the best ways to use nonfungible tokens (NFTs) to showcase a collaboration between music, the Metaverse and fashion. “I wanted a collection that could be wearable, but still have details that would be impossible to incorporate in real life.” 

Going beyond realistic concepts is indeed one of the most important features offered by Web3 fashion. Hobbs remarked that M3TALOVE is an entirely digital collection, noting that this allows for more imaginative concepts, along with the sustainability.

“BNV’s business is digital fashion. If people can wear more virtual products and express themselves in that world while consuming less in the real world, that’s probably a good thing,” he said. Hobbs makes an important point, as it was previously reported that a typical New York Fashion Week emits up to 48,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The French luxury fashion house Balmain also showcased its Web3 presence at Paris Fashion Week this year. Balmain introduced “Balmain Thread,” which is the brand’s Web3 hub powered by the XRP Ledger that is designed to unite their community with NFT projects. Txampi Diz, chief marketing officer of Balmain, told Cointelegraph that Olivier Rousteing — who has been the house’s creative director since 2011 — along with the entire Balmain team, have become acutely aware of the need to democratize fashion. According to Diz, this led to the creation of the Balmain Thread. He said:

“We are stressing the need to open up fashion, democratizing a previously closed-off universe. We knew that we had to introduce the Balmain Thread during our annual Balmain Festival, which is a celebration that mixes our runway presentation for Paris Fashion Week with a one-of-a-kind live concert that is live streamed on Balmain.com.”

Diz explained that Balmain Festival attendees were presented with the opportunity to join the Balmain Thread community when they received their tickets. He added that those live-streaming the festival were provided with links to join on Balmain.com. “And all of those in the audience on the evening of the festival were invited to join by launching ‘The Moment,’ which is a mobile photo experience app powered by MintNFT that allows participants to transform their favorite Balmain Festival fashion moment into their own unique NFT.” 

While innovative, Diz pointed out that the ultimate goal behind Balmain Thread is to ensure new forms of communication with the brand’s followers while opening access to those who haven’t been involved with Paris Fashion Week before. He elaborated:

“Inclusion is a keyword in fashion, as we all know that the old vision of exclusivity and closed-off experiences is just not feasible for the new generation of fashion lovers. Web3 is one of the many interesting new tools that allow us to open our world to those who wish to enter.”

While such a concept is catching on with renowned fashion houses like Balmain, emerging brands are also incorporating Web3 experiences to provide greater accessibility for both consumers and creators. 

For example, the Paris-founded fashion company Faith Connexion highlighted their Web3 platform, Faith Tribe, during fashion week this year. Maria Buccellati, co-owner and co-founder of Faith Connexion, told Cointelegraph that Faith Tribe is an incubator under Faith Connexion that allows independent creators to design and customize digital and physical fashion assets that can then be minted into NFTs. Buccellati said:

“We had a showroom at Paris Fashion Week this year to display some of the collaborative names and labels that are part of Faith Tribe. This makes Faith Connexion an inclusive brand, which is different from the major players like LVMH. We are leveraging Web3 to give power back to creators.” 

To put this in perspective, Buccellati shared that Faith Connexion announced during Paris Fashion Week that Gavin Magnus, a fifteen-year-old pop star and social media influencer, will be partnering with the brand to create an NFT line. 

Wahid Chammas, co-owner of Faith Connexion, further told Cointelegraph that Faith Connexion is already working with hundreds of new designers to provide them with tools such as virtual studios, IP registrations and NFT minting capabilities to expand their presence. 

Unlike BNV, which focuses strictly on digital collections, Chammas explained that Faith Connexion emphasizes physical production associated with digital twins. “We believe that any designer will be able to create and curate for us under their own brand, while we enable NFT tags to ensure consumers have digital ownership,” he said. The idea behind NFTs for physical designs will also allow creators under Faith Connexion to have wearables in Metaverse environments that can be used to dress avatars.

Web3 will evolve within the fashion industry

Although Web3 has massive potential to expand the fashion industry’s reach, the fact remains that very few brands and designers are incorporating these elements. While this was apparent at Paris Fashion Week this year, innovative designers like Weinsanto are hopeful that Web3 concepts will catch on. 

Image from Weinsanto’s opening night showcasing the  M3TALOVE collection. Source: @alekkatar #tendaysinparis

“I think that the Metaverse is not yet well known by designers, but soon everyone will want to create collections in the Metaverse, as it is stimulating and exciting, but also easily accessible,” he remarked.

Diz added that it’s inevitable that more and more fashion houses will follow Balmain into the Web3 space since it democratizes the industry. However, he pointed out that education remains a key challenge, which is why Balmain Thread aimed to make the process of joining its community as easy as possible. He said:

“We made it clear that those joining the Balmain Thread community would never need to master any of the complex workings of crypto or blockchains in order to engage creatively with the house – all memberships were minted on the XRP Ledger, while MintNFT guaranteed security by proving authenticity via their video verification technology.”

Although Balmain decided to take this route, some industry experts believe that educating designers and creators at major events like Paris Fashion Week is critical. For example, Enara Nazarova, vice president of Metaverse at Hype — an agency that helps brands get started in the Metaverse — told Cointelegraph that Hype hosted its second digital fashion soirée at Paris Fashion Week to educate attendees on Web3: 

“Inspired by the success of our New York Fashion Week soirée, we convened at the top of Centre Pompidou, where we welcomed the leading builders in the Web3 space to discuss what comes next for the fashion industry.”

While Nazarova believes that Web3 has advanced within the crypto space, she noted that education, along with onboarding users is key for driving adoption. Although this is happening slowly, she is confident that Web3 will have a bigger presence at flagship fashion events in the future.

“Web2 brands can’t ignore digital fashion’s power to connect with millions of consumers through virtual products. Yet transitioning from Web2 to Web3 is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so companies have to embrace experimentation. I think the opportunities for fashion to leverage Web3 infrastructure are just starting to emerge.”