Future Thought: Buying Real Clothes Will Come With Digital NFT AR Replicas

November 17, 2021, 9:30 AM AEST - 1 week ago

It was inevitable that the fashion industry, obsessed as it is with authenticity and exclusivity, would be a perfect fit for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“I believe in a future where augmented reality will be a huge part of society,” said Chris Le, co-founder of RTFKT – pronounced “artifact”, and considered NFT fashion’s frontrunner – earlier this year. “You’re going to be walking out on the street and seeing NFT clothing on people.”

Back in February, the same month that saw the inaugural Crypto Fashion Week, RTFKT sold about 600 pairs of digital sneakers for US$3.1 million in just seven minutes. As for Le’s prediction on augmented reality, consider how AR clothing try-on – 3D digital clothing “fitting” a person as they move in real time, via their phones or other digital devices – is now almost here.

For fashion brands, AR try-on could unlock digital clothing sales, increase conversions and decrease e-commerce returns. It would also accelerate the widespread adoption of AR glasses, already in development by Snapchat, Facebook, Apple and others.

How AR Try-On Works

Here’s how AR try-on works: Unlike a static image that is retroactively fitted in a digital garment, it behaves the same way as Snapchat face filters: when your body moves, the item reacts in synch, responding to the wearer’s movements, measurements and environment in a way that appears to be realistic.

RTFK tests real-time AR try-on technology. Source: RTFK

A significant catalyst in the development of AR try-on has been the sheer number of people in Covid-enforced lockdowns across the globe over the past two years, according to Vlad Vodolazov, CEO and founder of clothing try-on app Clo-Z.

People were stuck at home, and that drastically influenced the way they were shopping, so brands are becoming less conservative in terms of technology and online tools to interact with their community.

Vlad Vodolazov, CEO and founder, Clo-Z

Big Brands Not Quite Ready to Wear

The technology still needs more time before the big luxury brands dive in, says Benoit Pagotto, co-founder of RTFKT Studios, which recently partnered with streetwear label StockX to sell physical versions of what was originally a digital shoe. In May, Silicon Valley investment firm Andreessen Horowitz invested US$8 million in the company.

The tech is moving quite fast, but it’s still not great. It’s good enough for people to understand where it’s going, but not good enough for most fashion brands, who are very serious about their content and need to respect their brand guidelines.

Benoit Pagotto, co-founder, RTFKT Studios

For many it’s just a matter of time, as the motivation and momentum are there. Snapchat, for one, thinks AR try-on technology can help brands reduce returns, one of the fashion industry’s most significant cost drags.

“We’re laying the groundwork for an improved online shopping experience,” says Snap CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel. “We believe that helping people find the right size and improving the try-on experience will increase conversion rates as well as reduce the rate of returns.”

Bring it, or should we say, put it on.

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