The future of retail brings fashion, web3 and NFTs into immersive trading

Much is written about the ‘mixing’ of physical and digital under the auspices of ‘unified commerce’. At the same time, we are inundated with all that is metaverse, aka Web3. Are they mutually exclusive? A recent Fast Company article on the future of fashion in Web3 is starting to fill in some blanks.

If Web1 was about “reading” and Web2 about “reading and writing,” Web3 is about “reading, writing, and owning,” says Farfetch founder and CEO José Neves. Fashion, says Neves, is a deeply human endeavor and an essential part of who we are as individuals. Fashion allows us to apply different ‘masks’ based on how we feel, who we want to be or what we want to portray on a particular day. “We always see technology as enhancing the human interaction between curators, creators and fashion levels, as opposed to replacing that human connection.”

Neves continues, “To me, the definition of Web3’s application to Fashion is the application of these principles of user control, user ownership, and decentralized architecture to the fashion use cases.” The technology enables innovation, even if that translates to you and your avatar becoming “digital twins” by wearing the exact same outfit, increasing brand loyalty across the metaverse. Hopefully it’s a good deal more.

A Betta MetaMall

That article brought me back to an interview I did in April with two metaverse change agents, Michael Zakkour and Alan Smithson, who are collaborating on an even more robust venture known simply as TheMall. It is billed as a 100 million square foot “metamall” in cyberspace. The team shared their belief that “retail may well be the driving force behind much of what we call the metaverse.”

Alan and Michael further believe that their early adapters will not be headset-wearing, crypto-wallet-carrying “bro-types,” but rather a mainstream market of 20-45-year-old iPhone-wearing women. They partner with fashion houses to sell products in the mall as well as the in-house creative agencies of various brands or facilitate build-outs with the studio of MetaVRse, which Smithson co-founded with his wife Julie. Their secret sauce is the fact that, unlike other similar tools, their engine can be deployed across multiple operating systems, browsers, and devices with little or no code. In fact, anyone can be a creator.

“TheMall is a combination of e-commerce and pure experience. Brands see this as a marketing and branding and experience game.” says Michael Zakkour. “The brands can do anything, whether it’s pure experience, NFT, a mix of commerce and experience, it becomes their space to do whatever with it.” Michael is one of RETHINK Retail’s Top 100 Retail Influencers and is convinced (as am I) that the future of retail is “immersive commerce”, a seamless blending of online and in-store, the essence of unified commerce. You don’t use the term ‘omnichannel’ in front of Michael, it makes him cringe.

Enter “Tokenomics”

Of course, if you visit TheMall and want to transact, you should do so with cryptocurrency. While crypto assets have captivated the whole world with various promises in economic opportunities, they lack tangibility. A US dollar may be seen and touched, but this is not the case with cryptocurrencies. However, cryptocurrencies are recognized as fungible assets and form the basis of ‘tokenomics’, the combination of ‘token’ and ‘economy’.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) do not share the same value and are therefore unique. NFTs have been trending lately and have sparked a lot of interest in tokenomics, especially with high-profile NFT auctions. The tokenization of assets such as real estate, artwork, images and collectibles with NFT has sparked a new wave of digital ownership while also showing the potential of tokens.

Is it art?

Art has been at the forefront of cultural change over the past millennia. So it’s not surprising that artists and NFTs develop a symbiotic relationship, and another lucrative one. Many relatively unknown talents have broken through in NFT art, and now some of the most respected artists and illustrators are expanding beyond traditional media into digital art and NFT tokens.

I recently interviewed Shaun Neff, co-founder of GODA, whom Forbes called a “brand whisperer.” GODA describes itself as a “reliable, curated resource for leading contemporary artists looking to explore digital as a new medium.” Neff is a serial entrepreneur and has been a founder, investor and advisor for some of the world’s top brands. These include Neff, Sunbum, Moon, Beachhouse Group, Robinhood, Target
Sony, Sandbox, Outlier Ventures and more.

GODA is also led by some of the biggest names in consumer, art, music, NFT and fashion. Names like Pharrell Williams, Nina Chanel Abney and Todd James among them. Many of GODA’s artists built significant followings and reputations in the ‘analog’ art world before entering the world of digital art and NFTs. As trusted partners, GODA ensures their artists have seamless, impactful drops that respect the value of their art.

Taking a Brand Position

As Shaun said at the beginning of my interview, the NFT art world is a crazy new space. It has built a strong following because barriers to entry were very low, and unlike analog art, there are no middlemen or gatekeepers. And as a result, especially in the past year, many artists, illustrators and graphic designers have jumped into the pool.

Besides the low barrier to entry, the “tokenomics” behind the trades are very attractive. In fact, the artists who create the originals retain ownership of the original artwork, even if they are minted in a limited number of NFTs that “live” in the Web3 metaverse.

On the sell side of the equation, it takes considerably more than the artistic creation and “coining” of the NFT to get noticed, let alone achieve lasting value. According to Shaun Neff, ninety-nine percent of those who have put their work out there aren’t on anyone’s radar, let alone “the whales” or major collectors who dominate the world of digital art collecting.

In the true spirit of an accomplished branding man, Shaun notes that in addition to the creative talent, the artists must engage in the highly strategic and calculated undertaking designed to build buzz. That’s where GODA’s work comes in.

Party on Todd

Todd James is an internationally renowned artist who began his art career as a teenager in New York City and added his unique graffiti to the subway system in the early 1980s. On August 30e this year, Todd created a new collection of 1,533 NFT images with the help of GODA. Mint Pass holders paid .333 ETH (worth $527) on September 1st and had a 24 hour. window to enter a pre-mint raffle for a chance to win his new collection. More than 20,000 signed up for a limited number of NFTs that became available. The Todd James “ART PARTY” Reveal Was On September 6the 9am PT/12am central.

By 3:00 PM CST that day, 804 owners purchased 546 units. “The bottom price” was ETH 0.46 (about $724.00) for items #545 and #280 had a price of ETH 666 (about $1,047,904). The vast majority at the time were in the middle single digits ($7,000-$10,000).

As a modest collector of contemporary art, I appreciated the satirical, often political and very pop/street art aesthetic of Todd James. And I have to think of mid-century artists like Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol or Claes Oldenburg. It was a big event in their day when these pop art icons released a new print edition of say a dozen images. Each image may have been made available through a few hundred signed prints, which were essentially identical. By comparison, all of the more than 1,500 images of Todd James are unique, with their own digital ‘fingerprint’. Warhol would indeed be impressed.

The artist annuity

The other big advantage for the artist is that when the NFT trades in the secondary market, they get a share of it and every subsequent sale. And because all transactions take place in the metaverse, there should never be any doubt about the authenticity or provenance of the image. Talk about an annuity.

Another GODA artist who recently took up residence in the world of NFTs is the renowned African American contemporary artist Nina Chanel Abney. Her very first NFT collection ‘Super Cool World’ on the GODA NFT platform consisted of 5,080 NFTs composed of hundreds of properties designed by Nina that reflect her ‘frantic collage-style approach to visual media’. The beating started on July 14the for those who won the lottery on the admission list, 60,000 entries to the lottery were public. Mint Pass holders were guaranteed the chance to buy.

Nina is most interested in keeping her collectors fans in the family. To reward loyalty and curtail secondary market transactions, she has suggested that owners get access to “exclusive Nina merchandise, collaborative product releases, airdrops, events, incentivized exhibit participation, and surprise raffle drawings.”

Sea Change, or wait and see?

What does all this mean for the ‘established art community’, not to mention filling the spaces above our fireplaces? Well, according to Shaun Neff, we can expect future NFT collectors to buy enlarged digital screens that will adorn the walls of our abodes with the ever-changing NFTs. It will no doubt be controlled by our phones or smart homes. And of course, the Todd James and Nina Abney NFTs will be proudly displayed on the walls of our metaverse mansions for our avatars to enjoy.