Be on the lookout for femtech, NFTs in 2022

Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana
A dress from Dolce & Gabbana’s Collezione Genesi, the first NFT collection by the brand

What will the new year bring us in fashion? To see what 2022 has in store, let’s first look back at 2021.

Thinking of the important fashion news items from last year, one that immediately comes to mind is Virgil Abloh, the artistic director for men at Louis Vuitton, dying on Nov. 28 at the age of 41. As a Black designer and a leader of street luxury, he obviously had such great potential to fundamentally change the way of fashion. Alber Elbaz, who died on April 24 at the age of 59 from COVID-19, was the women’s designer for Lanvin for 14 years and showed Paris elegance for today with perfection beyond words. Although they were worlds apart in the fashion they pursued, they were key people in their respective strongholds. Their deaths were a great loss to the industry.

In the business scene for 2021, sustainability continued to be a big theme, and a new term advocated by the United Nations called SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) became a common phrase as well.

Femtech business finally took flight in the realm of lifestyle. Femtech, a mash-up of “female” and “technology,” is about products and services for women to solve women’s health issues using technology. Since femtech is expected to grow into a ¥5.3 trillion global market in 2025, relevant companies have launched project teams to develop new products. While most femtech items on sale so far are feminine hygiene products, there are also various services to support women and provide them with the correct information on various issues women suffer in secret, such as menopause, vaginal care and sex-related trouble. I hope femtech will be big business for women, by women, from 2022.

The year 2021 also saw the arrival of a bright new direction in fashion. There have been examples of fashion in the metaverse, or a virtual universe, becoming an enormous asset through nonfungible tokens (NFTs). In September last year, Dolce & Gabbana launched its first NFT collection, Collezione Genesi (Genesis Collection), which included the rights to made-to-order physical and digital versions of nine NFT pieces, including haute couture for men and women as well as high jewelry headdresses; an invitation to Alta Moda, another NFT collection by the brand; and a private tour of the brand’s atelier. The collection fetched 1,885.73 ethereums cryptocurrency (about ¥600 million). There have been cases where a vintage haute couture product went under the hammer as a work of art and fetched nine-digit figures, but the Dolce & Gabbana case proved that digital fashion can be a highly profitable business by interfacing with NFTs.

Belle from the animated film “Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime” (Belle) wears a dress and jewelry designed by Anrealage. This image comes from the brand’s NFT purchased by the NFT Naruto Museum.

The movement does not end at high fashion. Nike, Inc. announced on Dec. 13 the acquisition of RTFKT (pronounced artifact), a company producing virtual products and services that redefine the boundary between physical and virtual values by using NFTs and AR (augmented reality). RTFKT and Nike jointly produced 600 pairs of limited-edition virtual sneakers in early 2021, which sold out in seven minutes, achieving sales of $3.1 million (about ¥350 million). This means a single pair of sneakers not for use went for ¥600,000.

There has been a case of NFT fashion products fetching a high price in Japan as well. Anrealage, a rising fashion brand whose designer is Kunihiko Morinaga, worked with the animated film “Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime” (Belle) directed by Mamoru Hosoda last year and designed some of the costumes for the film, including the ones worn by the protagonist, Belle. During the Paris Fashion Week in October, the brand remotely put on a collection featuring both real and digital works based on the Belle collaboration. The 11 digital works from the collection went under the hammer, and the NFT Naruto Museum made a successful bid. The museum in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, is Japan’s first and sole facility with a focus on the sale and distribution of NFTs.

To outstanding and creative designers who have not yet reached fame, the world of NFTs will prove an attractive business model.

This year, we are likely to see more and more news stories about NFT fashion products in the metaverse. The prospect gives me the feeling there is a bright future for the fashion industry. I look forward to what new developments will come out of this area.