Jonathan Koon’s 8-Bit brings ‘phygital’ fashion to department stores – WWD
The “phygital” phenomenon is hitting some of the world’s biggest stores, like Jonathan Koon’s 8-Bit launched on Monday under his streetwear label, Mostly Heard Rarely Seen. Each item in the collection includes the physical garment and its NFT version.
The term, a portmanteau of “digital” and “physical,” is an apt, albeit clunky, way of referring to digital products, such as avatar clothing or virtual art and collectibles, which come with a physical counterpart or vice versa. For Koon, that translates to athleisure and streetwear with QR codes that not only come with an NFT version of the item, but also speed up luxury shoppers into the virtual world of Highstreet, a metaverse focused on retail and gaming built on the blockchain.
The collection will be worn by Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Beymen and Bloomingdale’s, among others.
Naturally, given the premium clientele, the experience was designed to reduce friction. Cut the security tag to reveal the barcode, scan it and the streamlined process begins to quickly create an avatar – it can even use a selfie for a mirrored digital version of the real-world user – and adorn the character with the virtual purchased garment. Users receive $High tokens, Highstreet’s native currency, so they can immediately explore the environment and buy or sell other items.
If owners want to sell their new NFTs, this process is also simple. It only takes a few steps to monetize it or resell it as a listing on the OpenSea or LooksRare platforms.
When it comes to NFTs, scarcity matters, so products are produced in varying quantities across the wave of retail partners. The most limited execution will probably give the highest value. In this way, NFTs are similar to trendy real-world drops — so much so that Koon compares his initiative to trendy skate brand Supreme, except it’s designed for the metaverse.
But the goal isn’t just to push the product, according to Koon.
In fact, he might have charged a premium, given the painstaking production process. Each graphic was produced using custom cast aluminum moldings and a 30 day production time, with hand filled silicone, industrial heat press and industrial stamping machines to create physically unique objects reflecting the rarity offered by the blockchain. 8-Bit shirts start at a few hundred dollars, but could have justified a much higher price.
Instead, the fashion designer wanted to make the collection accessible, he explained in an interview with WWD. It’s not aiming for one-off transactions, but a much more ambitious vision of turning physical stores themselves into an entry point or portal to the metaverse.
“We imagined [luxury customers] enter Web 3.0 through their world,” he said in an exclusive interview with WWD. “Instead of saying, ‘Guys, come to Web 3.0, come to our space’, and forcing you to come in and teach you about the platform, we’ve created this phygital product QR code system. They are truly physical in nature, but celebrate what we have fallen in love with in the fashion industry – which is fashion retail at its highest level in the luxury department store.
Koon’s understanding of the premium shopping experience is informed by a number of factors. Many of the department stores on his roster of partners already carried his brand, and he also has his own brick-and-mortar experience, having launched a luxury store in SoHo in 2013. In fact, he was a very tech-savvy customer in this store. who turned his attention to crypto in the first place. Not that Koon completely ignores e-commerce. Farfetch is another retail partner, he explained, and it will offer the collection online.
Regardless of how customers shop, the item will provide access to Highstreet, where they can explore the space, check their digital wearables and transact. The latter is essential. Transactions are part of the soul of the platform.
Backed by investors such as HTC, the Taiwan-based tech giant and maker of the Vive VR headset, Highstreet itself has lofty goals to establish itself beyond gaming as a retail-oriented metaverse. , and it’s in talks to bring the brands into space. Koon’s 8-bit, for example, will set up a virtual store there.
Through desktops and laptops, people can enter the world of Highstreet as an MMORPG, or massively multiplayer online role-playing game, to complete quests, do battles, and level up. They can also buy items there. Users interested in shopping or transacting alone, but not gaming, can access these actions through their phones and tablets for a lightweight experience. VR fans can also load up Highstreet and fully immerse themselves through their headsets.
“We’re one of the few that does commerce and games, as well as VR,” said Highstreet co-founder Jenny Guo, “so I think that’s one of our biggest strengths. ” Indeed, the ability to access a platform in different ways is a key promise of the metaverse, but few platforms have figured out how to achieve this.
Highstreet recently put land up for sale in April, with more on the way, and is scoping out a number of potential retailer relationships. It’s in talks with Shopify, for example, about integrating with its platform.
“We’re actually very close to Shopify because a lot of the people running Shopify these days basically went to college with us. So, you know, we’re all Canadian,” explained Travis Wu, co-founder and CEO of High Street. “[It] gives us a little advantage to get involved with them. They haven’t been involved yet, as we’re still figuring out how they can create a custom integration port for us.
Highstreet is growing at a rapid pace, and Jonathan Koon’s 8-bit could bring an infusion of high-value customers to the mix. If it works, if luxury shoppers respond to this less difficult way to enter the metaverse by picking up bundles of these NFTs and physical apparel, this model could become the norm for other tech platforms — and the department stores.