The Lionz, the web3 and the dWardrobe
How forward-thinking fashion studios could lead the way to a wider adoption of NFT and web 3 technologies. The game is changing already.
Once a week I hope to deliver value to your inbox as I speculate on how blockchain and immersive technologies are going to transform how we create and share stories in the future.
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Stories and Fiction
The Role of Crypto
Known Origin X Digital Natives
Those Leading the Way
Challenges + Opportunity
The Role of Gaming
This week I want to focus on a lot of the thoughts I’ve had since I went to the Known Origin X Digital Natives event in Manchester last week. It was a real privilege to feel a part of an evening that will perhaps define Manchester as an NFT hotspot.
The talks before the show lit my mind ablaze and so it's important I write about those things now while they're fresh, and get them out into the world for others to think about too.
Stories and Fiction
Humans are inherently storytelling creatures. It is the power we have over our imaginations that define our unique position on this planet. Our past, our present and our futures, as individuals and groups, are woven together in narratives that, when told well, can transcend our own finite allocation of space and time.
We make sense of the events around us in the context of our own story; our own narrative that we piece together from the days we first start asking questions of those taller than us, who we trust to deliver the answers, or at least try.
What we have also always done, is escaped into imagined worlds. We look up at the stars and we imagine what it is that resides out there amongst the cosmos, out of reach. You’d be hard stretched to find someone who doesn’t envision a multitude of possible worlds to be explored against the backdrop of that deep black expanse.
Storytelling; our imagination and the fiction we can materialise from seemingly nowhere open up doors that we can then, by some miracle, share with others around us, to begin an adventure; an escape.
The capacity for complex communication is the primary differentiator between us and other living beings; it is the core foundation of society building organisms.
Technology has continuously transformed our ability to tell stories, over thousands of years. Forms of communication have developed from simply producing simple noises and gestures, to mark-making on caves walls, to creating highly complex languages that codify our feelings and ambitions to one another with greater nuance. From there we developed written mediums of language, etching symbols onto parchments and papyrus to pass on.
Then the Gutenberg Press radically proliferated our ability to share stories across time and space. Our ideas could suddenly be in hundreds of places at once, all with the replication of a vehicle that could carry our message; the story that we had to tell.
A lot has happened since then to us technologically as a species, and the way we create and consume stories now looks nothing like it did back in the 1400’s. My concern is that as technology has evolved, it has been usurped and twisted out of shape. We’re struggling to care for the one thing it should be purpose-built to enrich; our imaginations. It should be bringing us closer to each other and that greater sense of meaning that we are overwhelmed with when we look up at the stars.
However, I have a feeling that we are on the cusp of something that is equally as transformative as the Gutenberg Press, and will radically alter how we create, share and immerse ourselves in the positive stories of our species. More significantly, I think we really need it now.
There are overwhelming forces driving us to figure it out soon: socioeconomic, geopolitical, ecological, epidemiological. Every day, we make too much stuff; we burn too much energy; we hurt too many people. 3D can virtualize our things, collapse distance, inform us, and help facilitate mutual understanding - assuming we also have the proper safeguards and governance. Along the way, entire industries will be hatched, and fortunes made. If you think the Internet changed everything… well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The only way out of this is through, and into the Metaverse. That is, if we make one that is by us and for us. Connected. In 3D.
What is it? Let’s expand.
They seem to be everywhere now. Speculative definitions of the metaverse. This is my pick of the bunch by Tim Sweeney, but I also think Tony Parisi has hit the nail on the head below:
A new class of self-appointed “experts” are jockeying for position as thought leaders… as if anyone knows how this is actually going to play out.
I’m not going to try and broadcast my own definition of what the metaverse is. I believe it’s something we shouldn’t seek to pin down in language, only experience and explore together. After all, it literally means ‘beyond (Greek: meta)’ our ‘universe’. I think Parisi has perhaps distilled the mission statement of what we are attempting to create together most poetically:
After decades of fiction, friction and failure, it appears that we are finally poised to realize a collective dream of that shared, immersive virtual reality known as The Metaverse. Throughout that time my mission has never changed: to use the power of real-time 3D graphics to connect people.
The Role of Crypto
What we can begin to see is how certain unassociated emerging technologies seem to be coming to a moment of synthesis; a singularity point. We need certain conditions to be just right in order for this thing to fly, and fly straight. It seems those foundations are beginning to materialise, as if the script had already been written.
The fundamental building blocks of this shared digital space 'beyond the universe' has to be decentralised ledger technologies, brought into visual reality with advanced immersive technologies that can be powered from devices we can fit in our pockets.
Establishing trust in the economic fibre of the Metaverse is of paramount importance, and the employment of distributed ledger technologies provides a unique degree of assurance in this regard.
Without blockchain technology, we would be having to rely on centralised systems for the construction of this universe that we fundamentally want to be free and openly collaborative. We saw this week, as Facebook blacked out for 6 hours, that these homogenous entities cannot be trusted; not with our information, not with our best interests, and not with the computer power to uphold an expansive digital space.
The timing of the emergence and wide successes of Bitcoin, Ethereum and co. is akin to the Great Eagles swooping down upon divine right, to save two little hobbits stuck on the side of Mordor.
By definition, what I’ve come to understand the metaverse to be is for it to be unifying. That’s most likely to happen through it being an open system rather than a singular platform achieving total supremacy. I think what’s indicative of this direction of travel is the success of Bitcoin and Ethereum, which effectively is an economic system catalysed by some elegant but simple game theory, whereby you mobilise billions of dollars of capital and hardware infrastructure in a permission-less sense around the world to secure this network. Of course Ethereum is a continuum of that and so I would argue that if you look at the beginnings of that success and its’ unstoppable nature, that ‘the metaverse’, to achieve metaverse in full, would require that kind of distributed decentralised system. But from a principles perspective the reason I think its important is the alternative is both how the web currently looks; monopolies, pretty anti-social monopolies; whether its a single search engine, a single e-commerce site, whether its a single social network. Really what you witness with a closed system is this process of capture and control. (Podcast: Metaverse Marketing Ep. 1 - 17:00)
As NFTs are proving, there is unbelievable power in community-ownership of decentralised IP’s. Cryptocurrency, and the foundational web3 technologies (NFTs + DAO's + DeFi) will become embedded into the future of brand strategies. Big brands, in order to keep up, will soon have to pivot to these new forms of shared ownership. This meaning that people who own the assets not only enjoy them and get to use them in any way they want, but they have some form of incentive-based rewards and expanded utilities within the project.
What we have seen with successful NFT projects; ones that look after their group, is that people become inspired to engage within the community, to be a part of the brand, and there is tremendous power in that. That power cannot be bought as influencers are in current web2 brand strategies.
The underlying infrastructure for this brave new world is continually advancing, and we will one day reach a point where everybody has the option to live, work, and play entirely within the Metaverse. In that world the value of natively-digital, decentralised mechanisms for the issuance and management of scarce and unique digital “things” speaks for itself.
For this communal reality to sustain itself beyond the emergence and disappearance of companies, no matter how large and omnipotent they may feel, it has to be suspended in the ether between us. As Tim Sweeney said, it has to be “an extensive virtual economy with vast societal impact.” Blockchain technology gives us the rails to run and build on. The rest is down to our imaginations and what we want to do with it.
Known Origin X Digital Natives
We are in a special position right now, where we are free to speculate and imagine where this is going to take us. Actually solving the problems in real-time and building this future from the ground up is going to take a huge collaborative effort, and the work has already begun.
There is a hell of a lot on the line, and plenty of room for error. We must not fall down similar traps that got us to where we are in web2; exploiting the imaginative faculties, extracting all creative value out of civilisation and locking it away in gated pool, open to a tiny minority of bloated white men in big swivel chairs, who are then deemed as ‘successful’.
Identity, ownership, and fair creator economics — the things neither Web or mobile platforms have ever gotten quite right — are also being solved for, but many challenges remain.
We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. I imagine it will be some of both.
I had the fortune of being at the Known Origin X Digital Natives event last Friday in Manchester, and the path is beginning to crystallise ahead of us.
As a frustrated creative who feels this world has lost its’ way in regards to true value and meaning, it’s a relief to see that the best interests are at the heart of those constructing the scaffolding for this new world. The smart people who are building the foundations to this decentralised, economically-sound, virtual space-time, such as the people at Known Origin; those developing the ideas and technologies to support the onboarding of the hordes of creatives like myself, have the greatest interest of the the community at heart.
It's a 'leave your ego at the door' and ‘let's just build this thing together as best as we can’ atmosphere, which is what is driving my optimism in where this is going to lead us. No toxicity; no hierarchy; no expectations; no manipulative games.
Those Leading the Way
Charli Cohen: “My name is Charli and I started my first fashion brand at the age of 15. I wanted to create a brand that I wished already existed. Eight years later, I founded Charli Cohen, a forward thinking fashion brand with sustainability, inclusivity and innovation at its core.”
Charli Cohen was one of the speakers at the event, and I was blown away by how far ahead she is thinking compared to most others in her field. What her work proved to me is that it’s already happening; the change is already underway.
I spoke last week about how clothes and our identities could be deployed in radical new ways with the utility of NFTs. Charli is already building projects with major brands and organisations to do just that.
Proven by recent collaborations with the likes of Pokemon and Assassins Creed, her progressive ideas for where the fashion industry needs to head are taking shape with brands that carry with them huge audiences. These projects create a dialogue with the industry as to what these new ideas can do for them. With that initial bite of curiosity will come experimentation, which will undoubtedly be rewarded, and gradually the mass adoption of NFT technology, gaming environments and the whole ecosystem that we are dreaming about will begin to take shape on its own.
As we become increasingly digital in the ways we communicate, share experiences and interact, Charli Cohen is focused on eradicating the boundaries between physical and digital product.
Charli also talked about another project, RSTLSS, that she has in the works. This is defined by four words: ‘Create. Wear. Play. Sell.’ It aims at providing the bridge to allow designers and creators to sell their wearables for use in the metaverse. I feel, as I felt with the people at Known Origin, this new reality that is being crafted and shaped between our minds, is in absolutely the right hands with Charli Cohen, and I can’t wait to watch reality catch up to her ideas.
Challenges + Opportunity
There is obviously certain challenges that come with onboarding these big brands. They are very much out in the dark when it comes to this technology and the language that we are speaking of. It is something radically different to what they are used to in almost every way. As Charli said, “we need to hold their hands” in this grand migration.
That creates a tremendous opportunity for people with the knowledge and the expertise, in both the crypto-economic sense and also the 3D design sense.
Cathy Hackl spoke of Dimension Studio in Vogue Business, about how they have begun to occupy this new space of 3D capture as, “the metaverse is front of mind for fashion brands hoping to catch a new marketing wave. Brands are queuing up to experiment with virtual activations, particularly in the fashion sphere.”
So this is somewhat a call to action for everyone out there with the vision, the drive to learn and educate, and the passion for 3D design and storytelling. The world needs you!
The professionals of today need to start thinking in 3D, because the professionals of tomorrow will already be thinking in 3D,” says Cathy Hackl. “Agencies will need to partner with people that have game design experience and game theory. They’re going to need those people that not only know how to create beautiful things, but actually know how to make things work in a gamified way inside virtual worlds,” she says.
These are only the technical challenges of onboarding brands as well. Once they start peeling back the layers of the crypto paradigm, they are immediately faced with the predictable FUD that a lot of people fall victim to before they do some proper research, and realise what is actually happening beyond the Daily Mail headlines.
But that is the job that we have as passionate and persuasive storytellers. It is our duty to work together, as we are doing, to dispel this FUD fog and shine light on the shared reality we are collectively dreaming of. I see that as my own mission now, hence these articles.
It’s a privilege to be living in a time when these technologies are beginning to allow immersive experiences and storytelling to once again revolutionise how we connect and interact as a global village.
Understanding how to build and engage digital communities, as well as the tokens and networks that will likely bind them, will grant an advantage. Virtual goods are becoming an asset class in their own right, yet most still aren’t paying attention.
With people such as Charli Cohen, and also Hollie Atkinson from Boson Protocol; who spoke of their ambitions to bridge the physical-digital gap by creating decentralised commerce (dCommerce) platforms, that allow you to explore and shop in the metaverse and then receive items in the universe seamlessly; there is exciting things no longer just around the corner. They're happening already.
All it takes is one potent idea or experience, and people do the learning themselves. That’s been proven time and time again. When the incentives to learn are there, people will put all else to the side and damn well learn how to take part. FOMO is a strong drug. Once that occurs, brands would not want to be left standing, and then the dominoes will really start falling.
Snapchat and Pokémon GO have done more to educate the mainstream on the wonders of immersive content than any VR experience.
I don’t consider myself to be a fashion-head. I rarely buy expensive clothes. However, I am hooked on NFTs, and if things come with extra utility and I’m able to do more than just walk away with an item of clothing that I then have to iron and pair with other things, then I’m a sitting duck for new communities and projects to take part in.
The Role of Gaming
One thing I have always enjoyed is video games. I’ve always been a gamer. The games I enjoy most are the ones where I’m immersed in a completely alternate world, and I’m able to influence the narrative in ways that is unique to my own desire. The metaverse is emerging from a place that is richly game-based; it’s being built in 3D game engines, and most of the NFT communities have launched into Discord to foster a community, which is a platform that was designed with gamers and community in mind.
I believe it’s a huge plus for the space that it’s being developed by gamers and game-minded players, because the nature of video games is inherently community-based and collaborative. We explore, we build, we share our experiences together, we troubleshoot and guide others through periods of difficulty; we live entire lives out in these alternate worlds, and then we do it all over again. It’s a shared world that we foster together, making room for everyone to take part in. The borders dissolve and we enter a world where you can be anything you want.
The next age of play is soon to be amongst us. I wanted to get into some of the thoughts I’ve had about ‘belonging’ in virtual space, but I think I’ll save that for next week. I always end up writing a lot more than I expect for each topic.
Between this post and the last, I have staked a flag in the ground and tried to embrace the challenge we have ahead of us. It’s going to require concentration, collaboration, transparency, hard work, solid research, learning from mistakes, honesty and most importantly a lot of imagination and creative thinking.
Fortunately, what I have felt a part of so far with my journey through Bitcoin and the crypto community as well as with NFTs and the artistic community, we have a hell of an army on our side, and I’m arming myself with all the tools I need to get us to where we want to be.
I hope you find your place in this journey too, because it’s turning into one hell of a ride.
Thanks for reading this week’s (once again lengthy…) post. If you enjoyed it please subscribe below!
Piers Kicks - Into The Void: Where Crypto Meets The Metaverse