As the buzz around NFTs begins to stir up the fashion world, Hong Kong-based Richard Hobbs, a digital native in the business of fashion for more than three decades, has come up with a brand new fashtech vision for this industry. With a core team of five and a network of collaborators and designers around the world, he pivoted about two years back to launch bnv.me, apparently the first blockchain validated marketplace for NFTs in the apparel, footwear and accessory worlds. Hobbs talks to Richa Bansal as he dispels a lot of the confusion around it.
How would you make someone who has no knowledge of non-fungible token (NFT), cryptocurrency, cryptokitties etc understand what these newfangled terms mean?
I think the best way to describe an NFT is as proof of ownership for something which exists digitally. Until recently, this was not able to be proven but using blockchain technology allows this to take place. Once you have that proof of existence, which can also equate to proof of ownership, an NFT belongs to a person’s wallet and this allows for the items to be collected, traded, and eventually used in other areas of the web. In our case that’s about working with known brands to make beautiful products and giving the opportunity for consumers to shop for their virtual wardrobes and then collect, trade and eventually wear across digital environments. Same as you can now purchase skins to personalise your digital ID, you will be able to wear limited release branded products. I believe the high will be extremely similar. By keeping the virtual products on the blockchain and as an NFT, it guarantees the authenticity and scarcity of each product unlike in the real world where nobody really knows what “limited edition” actually represents. Having said that, some of our brands are looking to offer something physical as well, i.e. the top bidder can get a one off representation made to order or other incentives such as a discount code for in-store or on-line purchases.
Are NFTs a fad or here to stay?
NFTs are definitely not a fad. They will be here for a long, long time and will be one of the building blocks of metaverse life and transactions. Although the news and the noise at the moment has been about high valuations for single pieces of art, or even memes and tweets, the reality for the future is that NFTs will likely become the primary medium of digital transactions. It will affect not just fashion and art but music, books, events, conferences, concerts. Anything that can potentially take place online could be tokenised and have a value.
You mention metaverse life and transactions. Are human beings gradually on their way to robotisation-the 8-10 year olds as also zillennials rarely move about without their game, ear plugs and cell phone!
That’s not for me to comment on.
The entire viability of your Brand New Vision (BNV) hinges on cryptocurrencies. How much acceptance as well as usage of cryptocurrencies do you see in the near future? And how much of that would be in the digital fashion space?
There are experts and commentators out there who can give a much better idea of what the future of crypto will be, but from my perspective when we came up with the concept of BNV as an auction house and marketplace for digital fashion over two years ago it was obviously apparent that NFTs were the key to making it work for both brands, designers and 3D creatives as well as customers. We are completely changing the relationships between brands and consumers and at the same time also shaking up the economics of the “old” fashion world.
This article was first published in the June 2021 edition of the print magazine.
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