A year ago, most people would have assumed a non-fungible token was some Silicon Valley mushroom-based food alternative, but now NFTs have gone from Reddit and Discord discussions to mainstream pop culture. For Nicola Formichetti—the creative mind who collaborates with world’s biggest pop stars like Lady Gaga, Rina Sawayama, and Kim Petras, and the most niche fashion brands—it was a world he eagerly embraced, even before the term hit critical mass. “I’ve always been into the ideas of cyberspace, futurism, and computer games. Those became my aesthetic as I would incorporate elements into my physical work,” says Formichetti. Now he’s ready to bring the notoriously tech-adverse fashion world into Web3, whether or not the industry is ready.
Melding fashion and technology has always come naturally to Formichetti, even if his peers didn’t understand his intentions. “When I was [the artistic director] of Mugler I started using Twitter to promote my show and Instagramming things. People thought that I was crazy, but now it’s the norm,” he recalls. Whether it was at the helm of Parisian fashion houses or his own label, Nicopanda, Formichetti has always been a proponent of democratizing his work and letting his followers into his world. As he began diving into digital art in early 2020, Formichetti recognized the same parallels. He had just moved to Los Angeles, burnt out from dividing his time between New York, Italy, and Japan and juggling jobs at three different companies. Then the pandemic hit, and he was stuck at home, still working on projects, but suddenly with more time than ever on his hands. “I went on Google and typed in ‘digital fashion’ and ‘what is blockchain?’ I was familiar with cryptocurrency, but it didn’t attract me,” he explains. “I started finding artists that I could collaborate with. I really felt inspired and thought it could be a game changer.”
Going from researching the concept to creating his own seemed like the logical next step, so Formichetti began working with Brazilian drag performer Pabllo Vittar and 3D artist Alejandro Delgado on a series of four NFTs for his first project. Launched in conjunction with Vittar’s latest album, the images feature the artist in fantastical, head-to-toe outfits in the middle of surreal landscapes as undulating waves of water and sand surround her. They’re instantly recognizable as examples of Formichetti’s futuristic and avant-garde aesthetic. However, digital avatars—including one of himself that he made with Georgian artist Gigi Gvalia—might be the most ambitious of Formichetti’s digital work. The 3D models required a small army of cameras that captured every inch of Formichetti’s body, with the images then manipulated into NFTs. The first, titled ”ED3N_001,” features flowers exploding out of his torso while the second, “SELFLOVE,” has Formichetti embracing himself, as an act of unconditional acceptance. Both were released in May with an emphasis on inclusivity and diversity.
Working with queer artists has always been a part of the plan and an extension of Formichetti’s ethos, shaped since his early days in fashion. “I always wanted to champion the underdogs. I supported young designers that people didn’t know about from the beginning of my career, a9nd it’s the same now,” Formichetti says. “The great thing about Web3 is that it’s all co-creating. Everyone gets their voices heard, because we’re doing things together.” The next step is bridging the gap and bringing these artists into his fashion world and vice versa. But is the fashion industry ready to enter this new, nebulous realm? Formichetti is optimistic. “I talk about futurism a lot, but I’m a very nostalgic person. There’s a beautiful saying about how you have to look back to move forward. And that’s the key: You have to bring something human to the digital world. That mix will make it incredible, you know?”