Forbes India 30 Under 30 2023

"Non-fungible tokens are timeless": Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra, India's celebrated fashion designer launches his first "Non-fungible token" collection and says that the technology is here to stay

BRAND CONNECT
Published: Mar 15, 2022 08:00:46 PM IST
Updated: Mar 24, 2022 02:49:44 PM IST

"Non-fungible tokens are timeless": Manish MalhotraWhen blockchain was introduced by the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto a little over a decade ago, sceptics scoffed at its relevance. Today, the underlying technology has applications that has spawned many industries. Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are among the more exciting ones that have taken off in the last eighteen months or so.

NFTs exploded onto the scene, in March last year, when Christie’s, an auction house sold a collage of images called “Everydays-The first 5,000 days” for a whopping $69.3 million. This propelled Mike Winkelmann, the creator among the highest paid artists of our time.

So, what is an NFT? It is a digital trail of the asset, say, a painting or a Tweet, on sale. These lines of code are stored and verified on the blockchain by a network of computers around the world. Hence, they cannot be tampered with. The buyer does not have to go through the hassles of proving that the piece is indeed original. The blockchain does that verification. Also, each time the asset is sold to another party, the original artist gets credited with an amount. There’s something in it for both the owners of such assets and its sellers.

Today, the value of the NFT market is over $11 billion. In India, too, artists have experimented with the technology. Among those is Manish Malhotra, the celebrated fashion designer. Forbes India got in touch with Mr Malhotra to ask what got him interested in this newfangled technology.

When did you first hear about NFTs and what piqued your interest?

As a person, the brand and I constantly believe in evolving with today's audience; also, I have been researching its potential. I mean, people questioned the expansiveness of the internet back in the day, and look where we are now. Due to the digitization of fashion with our in-house couture films, and our virtual store on the MM website, this seemed the appropriate next step to enter the new industry.
 
Can you please give a few examples of your collections that you have listed as NFTs?
The five NFTs that we decided to start with were the iconic ones, the crowd's favourite and most importantly, unseen from my point of view. All of these are close to my heart.
 
The custom-made constellation illustration called the “Illuminous Showstopper'' was the initial sketch sold at the highest price and curated for my dearest friend and muse, Kareena Kapoor.
 
The blue saree sketch, later worn by Deepika Padukone, in the movie 'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' reflects the character's transition from self-inhibited to free-spirited, a relevant emotion to most.
 
Alia Bhatt’s Chikankari hand-drawn sketch illustrates the revival of the craft in its modernized form by the women of Mijwan Welfare Society, an NGO founded by Shabana Azmi, Namrata Goyal, and me to extend support to female artisans by generating education and employment.
 
A vintage picture of supermodel Lisa Ray, called Archival Diaries, from the '90s, was shot in the initial photoshoot days of the brand. It was the nostalgia that sold me. The downpour GIF was an unexpected yet delightful greeting as the models remained unaffected while walking the ramp and rather enjoyed the uncertainty. It just shows the obstacles that come our way can be overcome with immense positivity. They helped in displaying our collection fabulously to raise funds for children battling blood cancer.
 
How would you argue with someone who might say that after all, the buyer only gets access to a few lines of code on a digital ledger that point to the piece of art and not the original work itself?

NFT gives you ownership of the work. It verifies your digital asset and monetizes your art.
 
In one of your interviews online you mentioned that NFTs "are a complete game-changer". Could you please elaborate?

Initially, the entirety of NFT to me was like what is even going on here, and as my art sold out in seconds, I knew the future of digital was materialized. It's going to be a mainstay in culture.
 
If you go to the cinema, concerts, events, museums, fashion shows, very soon, all tickets will be NFT’s. It’s already turning into a crucial component of picking up projects. Not just art, even the invoices of your art could be NFTs very soon.
 
The prices of cryptocurrencies across the board have plummeted in the recent past. Do you think this impacts the NFT market in a bad way or should one look at the whole thing from the long term perspective?

We’re also testing the waters now and exploring its horizons.
 
How do you see the future pan out for NFTs? Currently, it's worth $11bn worldwide. Do you see the interest rise or is this a passing fad?

NFTs have become the new unicorn of the world. Apart from its initial complexities, blockchain is an ecosystem to drive creators to incorporate NFTs into their business strategy and open avenues to reach a broader audience base. In the past, markets struggled with attracting the most exquisite buyers and collectors. NFTs could change the rules of this luxury game forever as they are meant to be timeless. When the internet was introduced, people were sceptical about that too, but look where it has brought us. This, too, will have various viewpoints but I think it’s definitely here to stay.

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