Hugo Boss follows Gen Z into the metaverse with new NFT collection

Premium fashion brand Hugo Boss announced it will launch a special collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in collaboration with Web3 company Imaginary Ones. The exclusive Hugo x Imaginary Ones collection will include 1,001 3D animations entitled ‘Embrace your Emotions’ (EYE), to encourage everyone to connect with their feelings. 

The project has been designed to offer a holistic metaverse experience with many other activities coming up in the near future for Hugo x Imaginary Ones NFT holders, such as exclusive access to Hugo x IO merchandise, activations, Hugo wearables, and Hugo-themed Imaginary Ones drops.

Miah Sullivan, senior vice president of global marketing and brand communications at Hugo Boss, said: “The metaverse is an exciting new space for fashion brands, one that is rich with potential for Hugo. We are excited to partner with Imaginary Ones to deliver an NFT collection of beautiful 3D assets that enables us not only to further explore this virtual world, but also to share a message of self-acceptance and being true to yourself, which is at the heart of what Hugo stands for.”

Earlier this year, the German fashion house released a major update to its brand identity, splitting the Hugo Boss brand into two — Hugo and Boss. The new Boss brand is geared towards millennials, people aged between 25 and 40, and Hugo is designed for Gen Z, people under 25. 

The upcoming NFT collection ties in with the youthful Hugo brand and marks a major milestone in the global brand refresh. It aims to connect with a younger audience through the creation of Web3 experiences and unique digital collectibles. 

There are six legendary characters featured in the NFT collection, each one containing special attributes. Five of those characters represent an emotion we experience on a daily basis — joy, sadness, fear, anger and love. The sixth character is a one-off NFT embodying all five emotions and was sold during an auction earlier this month in support of World Mental Health Day, and 100 per cent of the proceeds were donated to Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM). 

Access to the collection is via an allowlist with 1,000 spots in total, 500 will be allocated to customers who purchase an exclusive phygital T-shirt and the remaining 500 allowlist spots will be set aside for existing holders of the Imaginary Ones’ genesis NFT collection. 

While the focus of the Embrace Your Emotions project is on NFTs and mental health, there will be 500 physical T-shirts for sale, 100 of each character with a graphic print and QR code. Scanning the QR code will direct users to a Snapchat lens to create a special augmented reality filter. 

“Imaginary Ones is humbled and honoured to partner with Hugo and to be the first Asia-born NFT project to collaborate with an international fashion brand. We share the Hugo’s values and commitment to contributing to an inclusive and equitable world. With this partnership, we aspire to strengthen Imaginary Ones’ presence beyond the Web3 space and further our cause in embracing inclusivity and diversity everywhere,” said Clement Chia, co-founder of Imaginary Ones.

Beyond the NFT launch

In the past two years, we’ve seen numerous NFT projects launched by luxury and premium brands. Some have been to simply experiment with the technology and process, although lacking utility, other fashion NFT collections show signs of being part of a future-focused engagement strategy. Both have their advantages because to understand innovative technologies businesses have to try them on for size. 

However, to truly embed Web3 into fashion, brands must develop a thoughtful strategic roadmap that goes beyond the initial NFT launch. For Hugo Boss, it makes sense to establish a metaverse narrative alongside Hugo, as it coincides with a youthful audience and how they interact online. 

In a recent Business of Fashion report titled ‘Gen-Z and Fashion in the Age of Realism’, findings show that Nike, Gucci and Adidas are listed as Gen Z’s top three favourite brands. These brands have made significant inroads into Web3 experiences, particularly Nike and Gucci having created virtual worlds in the gaming platform Roblox in an effort to connect with young people. 

Purpose and connection

Creating purpose and connection in Web3 also requires careful consideration as it needs to align with a brand’s story, strategic objectives and its audience. Otherwise the brand is at risk of being perceived as inauthentic, which counts for a lot in customers’ minds. 

When looking at building a brand presence in virtual environments, it can be easy to identify the visual components needed, 3D experiences and how users will interact within the space, what isn’t easy is ensuring that a strong social purpose and inclusivity is also built in from the start. 

While virtual spaces can provide a platform for authentic self expression, it can be a mask for those not wanting to be seen or judged. Managing our mental health in these environments is just as important as in the physical world, perhaps even more critical because there is limited face to face contact and showing emotion is dulled by the use of emojis and gifs. 

The Hugo x Imaginary Ones Embrace Your Emotions message may be a fleeting effort wrapped up in a NFT collection, however small and regular reminders in different ways help keep these important mental health cues fresh and front of mind. 

As brands start to accelerate content creation for Web3, they will need to incorporate purpose-led engagement strategies to ensure communities and environments are inclusive for everyone. So we can all express ourselves and our emotions in the most authentic way possible. 

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