“Please turn off your TV’s and explore the world as much as you can,” says musician Jalal, the brand ambassador behind fashion label Aria Noir. Jalal describes his partnership with the label — which expresses itself as “apparel by designers for designers” and an alternative to fast “McFashion” — as a fusion of his love of rap and apparel design.
That fusion has been accelerated by Aria Noir’s decision to mint non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, of both its apparel and accessories.
In case you haven’t been reading headlines over the past few months, NFTs are rapidly becoming the next major wave in digital fashion, and are typically sold only via cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Their “coming out” party was the first-ever Metaverse Fashion Week, an event that revealed how major labels are already creating one-of-a-kind products for fashionista customers and their eventual metaverse avatars. Hermes, for example, launched an NFT Birkin bag at last year’s Art Basel Miami for the equivalent of about $50,000. The “MetaBirkin” made such a splash that it became the subject of an Elle article.
Aria Noir hopes to make an even bigger splash, considering that its customers are younger and, therefore, more tech-savvy than those of legacy brands. According to Jalal, Aria Noir is built not on conformity, but on creativity and — to some extent — fearlessness.
“Life is full of surprises, many good, many bad,” he observes. “That’s what makes life so beautiful. The day you mature is the day when you realize that in every bad, there’s a positive lesson or outcome, and that’s what you need to focus on.”
The “bad” is that Aria Noir’s digital apparel will have a lot to live up to, given its reputation for luxe materials. Its sunglasses are inlaid with real gold, and even its sweatpants are made from the finest wool available. The “good”is that its fashions will be available to a wider audience. First, however, there is the challenge of designing apparel in an entirely new context.
Jalal describes the creative process as similar to giving birth to something that did not exist before, which is particularly apropos of NFTs. This new class of digital assets did not even exist until several years ago, and only entered the mainstream in March of 2021, when a digital college of Beeple’s art auctioned for over $69 million. Since then, Facebook’s parent company Meta has spent over $10 billion building a digital parallel universe — the metaverse — while celebrities have both minted NFTs and purchased them to use in their online profiles. This month, popular NFT project Bored Ape Yacht Club opened the first NFT-themed restaurant in Long Beach, California.
Crypto and NFTs are linked not only because crypto is the payment standard for NFTs, but because both operate on blockchain technology — a shared, decentralized, and encrypted ledger that establishes ownership of digital assets transparently and securely. Every time a customer purchases a piece of Aria Noir digital apparel, their ownership will be memorialized and authenticated by the entire NFT community or project.
What makes NFTs so exciting to creators is their versatility. While not “fungible,” i.e. interchangeable, NFTs can be used in online profiles, traded or sold at profits, and even used as tickets to digital experiences. Owning a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, for example, provides admission to both virtual and real-life events and venues. In the future, owning a pair of Aria Noir digital sunglasses might grant access to a special gathering of collectors, fashion enthusiasts, a virtual beach club, or even one of Jalal’s concerts.
Nevertheless, Aria Noir’s brand ambassador says that, at least for now, he is most interested in the final product. “These are brand-new things that will exist because of me,” he says. “Even better, when someone else acknowledges its beauty, I’ll be inspired to explore that much further.”