Nicola Formichetti Blends the Fashion and Digital Worlds

A year ago, most people would have assumed that a non-fungible token was a Silicon Valley mushroom-based food alternative, but now NFTs have spilled from Reddit and Discord discussions into mainstream pop culture. For Nicola Formichetti – the creative mind who works with the world’s biggest pop stars like Lady Gaga, Rina Sawayama and Kim Petras as well as most niche fashion brands – it was a world he eagerly embraced even before the term reached critical mass . “I’ve always been interested in the ideas of cyberspace, futurism and computer games. These became my aesthetic as I incorporated elements into my physical work,” says Formichetti. Now he’s ready to bring the notoriously tech-averse world of fashion to Web3, whether the industry is ready or not.

Fusing fashion and technology has always come naturally to Formichetti, even if his peers didn’t understand his intentions. “As I was [the artistic director] by Mugler I started using Twitter to promote my show and do stuff on Instagram. People thought I was crazy, but now it’s the norm,” he recalls. Whether at the helm of Parisian fashion houses or his own label Nicopanda, Formichetti has always been a proponent of democratizing his work and welcoming his followers into his world. When he started delving into digital art in early 2020, Formichetti saw the same parallels. He’d just moved to Los Angeles, burned out dividing his time between New York, Italy and Japan, juggling jobs at three different companies. Then the pandemic hit and he was stuck at home, still working on projects but suddenly having more free time than ever. “I went to Google and typed ‘digital fashion’ and ‘what is blockchain?’ a. I was familiar with cryptocurrency, but it didn’t attract me,” he explains. “I started looking for artists to work with. I felt really inspired and thought it could be a game changer.”

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A man lies on the ground with a dog.
The futuristic-oriented creative director Nicola Formichetti.

Going from researching the concept to developing his own seemed 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 . The images, released alongside Vittar’s latest album, show the artist in fantastic head-to-toe outfits amidst surreal landscapes while surrounded by surging waves of water and sand. They are immediately recognizable as examples of Formichetti’s futuristic and avant-garde aesthetic. However, digital avatars – including one of himself that he created with Georgian artist Gigi Gvalia – may be the most ambitious of Formichetti’s digital work. The 3D models required a small army of cameras to capture every inch of Formichetti’s body, with the images then being manipulated into NFTs. The first, titled “ED3N_001,” features flowers exploding from his torso, while the second, “SELFLOVE,” features Formichetti hugging himself as an act of unconditional acceptance. Both were released in May with a focus on inclusivity and diversity.

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Working with queer artists has always been part of the plan and an extension of Formichetti’s ethos, which has been shaped since his early days in fashion. “I always wanted to beat the underdogs. I’ve supported young designers that people didn’t know about since the beginning of my career, and I still do now,” says Formichetti. “The great thing about Web3 is that everything is created together. Everyone gets their voice heard because we do things together.” The next step is to bridge the gap and bring 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 a lot about futurism, but I’m a very nostalgic person. There is a beautiful saying about how to look back to move forward. And that’s the key: You have to bring something human into the digital world. This mix will make it amazing, you know?”

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