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Up Close With Yahoo x Rebecca Minkoff’s New NFT and AR Experience

Rebecca Minkoff just became the first major American designer to make her collection available via NFT.

In a new tech-forward collaboration with Yahoo Ryot Lab, unveiled Friday, the project offers digital versions of the designer’s fall/holiday looks, along with immersive online and augmented reality experiences.

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The partners took WWD through a tour of the experience, which is debuting alongside New York Fashion Week.

Optimized for mobile and also available via desktop, the project takes viewers through an abstract cityscape modeled after New York City — Minkoff’s inspiration for the new line. Visitors can tour virtual boroughs and neighborhoods representing areas like FiDi, SoHo, TriBeCa and Midtown that are dotted with 2D photographs of models wearing her latest looks.

Fans can scroll through to a stylized version of her SoHo store, cast here to resemble NYC’s Guggenheim museum, and fly around inside to check out the model portraits featured within.

According to Yahoo and Minkoff, who offered WWD an in-depth look, the project is more than just an online flight of fancy. The photos are on offer as NFTs — blockchain-based digital assets that have taken off among art and fashion’s techier set this year, thanks to their uniqueness and built-in authentication.

Immediately, people may notice that the images are interactive, with clicks or taps setting off explosions of color. A pop-out window allows them to bid on the NFT photos, thanks to an auction system run by OpenSea. Separately, a gallery or catalogue view of the NFTs is also available.

The addition of augmented reality adds another dimension, as mobile users can scan a QR code to bring the experience into their own homes. The AR feature opens to a 3D “vignette” of New York overlaid on their living rooms or other spaces and includes audio effects, such as car honking, in addition to the color explosions — which in this case bleed out into their real-world environment.

The final piece, beyond the physical collection, online experience and NFT assets: The partners created 3D versions of the products, which will be available for sale on digital marketplace The Dematerialised.

The variety of tech offers a new and expansive way for Minkoff’s fans to engage with her latest work, which the designer calls her “love letter” to New York.

As she explained to WWD, “Every piece is about celebrating my heritage, whether it is the words ‘I Love New York’ [as featured in her premiere T-shirt], the relaunch of my Morning After Bag on Steroids, the studs and zippers and fringe, and the iconic things that you think of when you think of Rebecca Minkoff — you know, that hard mix with soft. So for me, that’s the epitome of what continues to inspire me about New York. And so it’s about just celebrating that.”

The move is apt, not only because of Minkoff’s long-running love affair with the city, but also because of the timing, given that Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

In essence, the project’s theme appears steeped in a mixture of sentiment and business savvy, as well as a sense of advocacy.

“For 99 percent of the population that can’t attend fashion week, how do we give them this incredible, immersive experience? So when we came together to talk about what we were doing, it only seemed fitting,” Minkoff continued. “You know, you’re getting a gallery-like experience in the real world for those who get to come. But outside of that, you get this universe that [Yahoo’s] team created, to really bring the story of these NFTs to life. So that was kind of the goal.”

The proceeds, she added, are going toward a grant to support female-founded companies impacted by the pandemic, so that they can “hopefully…bounce back,” she added.

As for Yahoo Ryot Lab, this project marks a continuation of the tech development group’s fashion week fascination, which began last February with its previous Minkoff collaboration that rendered her work in AR.

“We’re super laser-focused on giving customers these amazing and immersive experiences, especially in the things they love and especially when a lot of people don’t have access to wonderful and great events, like fashion week,” explained Jo Lambert, head of consumer at Yahoo.

Yahoo’s focus on using technology for content and storytelling has made fashion a particular area of interest, though it also operates in other categories, including gaming and e-sports.

But here, “we’re super excited to work with [Minkoff] and the team, not just because we’ve been able to showcase what’s possible with fashion, but also the combination of fashion and entertainment,” she said. “As it evolved, being able to learn about Rebecca’s collection and engage with the NFTs in that virtual gallery, it really gives us a great opportunity to expand audience reach — not just for Yahoo, but obviously for Rebecca and her team through that next-gen experienced, really mobile active community.”

Indeed, Yahoo appears to have caught the fashion bug now.

In addition to this NFT/AR/3D project, the team is in the midst of another fashion partnership with designer Christian Cowan that’s all about another futuristic piece of tech: holograms. Cowan has been hitting the internet lately to show off camera-laden shoots and a fully digital, 3D version of himself.

Apparently, the latest piece of this collaboration is planned for Friday evening at his NYFW show. Both live audience members and remote fans will be able to access some sort of new holographic experience, set off by a QR code feature integrated into the runway show.

Once live, the designer will feature all of his holograms on the Yahoo + Christian hub online, and the tech company is promoting this and the Minkoff experience through all of its channels, including the Yahoo website, and its social accounts as well.