Having teased his collaboration with model and Instagram star Jazzelle Zanaughtti, better known by her social media moniker Uglyworldwide, in an interview with WWD earlier in the summer, some 8,000 unique collectible NFTs, built to fit the ERC-721 standard for creating nonfungible tokens, will drop at the beginning of December at ikon-1.com.
Once minted, each ikon-1 token will have its own homepage with expanded views of the NFTs, and the page will act as a ticket to access the virtual ShowStudio and Knight’s future projects and drops.
The first project after the ikon-1 launch will be a virtual live fashion shoot that will only be open to NFT holders.
“Zanaughtti will be wearing some of the NFTs and if you are lucky enough to have one of those, I will then be photographing and creating images of your NFTs,” he added.
Knight discovered Zanaughtti six years ago through Instagram. He considers them “a contemporary version of Cindy Sherman, creating all these exciting different looks for themselves.”
“I remember they shaved their eyebrows off. And at the time, they were with a local model agency in Chicago, which said: ‘Oh, you’ve shaved your eyebrows off. You’ll never work again. You are now sacked from his agency.’ And Zanaughtti’s response was to shave their hair off completely and move to New York,” Knight recalled.
Impressed with Zanaughtti’s bold look, Knight then invited them to work on a Comme des Garçons shoot. “The clothes are amazing. You need somebody who had that feeling of otherworldliness that Rei Kawakubo puts in designs,” Knight added.
These ikon-1 artworks are the results of more than 40 collaborators handpicked by Knight and Zanaughtti. Some of them specialize in digital fashion creation, such as Tribute Brand, Scarlett Yang, Linxi Zhu and Nusi Quero.
The photographer thinks that having these pioneering digital fashion designers on board is the equivalent of having “Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons and John Galliano create a wardrobe for you.”
He learned it the hard way that one will also have to dress to impress in the metaverse.
“I went to a virtual opening of the brilliant Russian doll-makers, the two sisters who made these incredible dolls. They made a virtual space, which actually was incredibly impressive, and I went to visit them in that space. But, of course, because I have a physical appearance in the metaverse, which I wasn’t controlling at all, [and] these two sisters come toward me, both dressed in Chanel — one in pink and one in baby blue — and I looked down at myself.
“I had been given the sort of default clothing to the Oculus Rift, which I’m not gonna tell you what it was, but It wasn’t great. It was not how I wanted to appear in front of these two artists who I had enormous respect for,” Knight said.
Famed hairstylist Eugene Souleiman and nail artist Marian Newman were also involved. They created 50 sets of hairpieces and 15 sets of nails, respectively, for the project.
After all the digital assets were created, it was the responsibility of digital artist Tom Wandrag, who is a longtime collaborator of ShowStudio, to put the 3D models together and switch all the different digital elements around to create these unique tokens for ikon-1.
“When we started doing the combinations, it quickly get into hundreds of thousands. So we took it right down to 8,000. But what’s really interesting is the fact that although it’s the same avatar in the same pose, the range of imagery we’ve managed to create is really very diverse, very different and very exciting.
“There’s another component to this. I worked on about 500 of these in the collection, where I actually got to work on a program called ZBrush, where you can change somebody’s physicality completely. Even that physicality no longer becomes human, you’re looking at something [that] is like an abstract painting. It’s suddenly not quite far from a Pierre Soulages painting,” explained Knight.
Knight is no stranger to digital fashion. One of his earliest projects at ShowStudio, the London-based creative platform he founded in 2000, was a 3D scan of a model on a virtual catwalk. He has also used similar techniques in projects with megastars like Bjork and Lady Gaga, and fashion brands such as Burberry and Margiela.
He said the idea of doing an NFT project started at the beginning of the lockdown, when “it became impossible to continue in the same way that the fashion industry had been working for the last however many years.
“My aim is to make ShowStudio into a virtual space where you can come interact in a meaningful and entertaining way. And this project is the first step toward that,” Knight said.
“When you’re part of a big creative wave that’s happening, you can’t quite ascertain the parameters of that way. Of course, you can look back at Pop Art, Surrealism or Impressionism, and say it’s these artists. They did this. It’s worth that. It changed this and that’s the work.
“But when you’re part of something that’s moving on, and inventing itself as you’re moving on, it’s very hard to see quite how far-reaching that is and what indeed it will become. I’m hoping a virtual ShowStudio will be a much more exciting place than where else I’m seeing at the moment,” he added.
With project ikon-1, Knight said he wants to “set the standard for fashion in the metaverse,” and touted that it’s the first time that an image-maker at his level has produced a full-fledged editorial project that fully utilizes blockchain and NFT technologies.
He believes that these NFTs can be considered “iconic editorial mixed-media artworks and access-tokens to the burgeoning Web3 world that ShowStudio is building in public via projects like this.”
“Fashion needs to change. And the digital world is fashion’s future, in my opinion. Traditionally, photographers consider models as a blank canvas for their ideas; that’s not how we work here. I want Zanaughtti to be at the very center of creating their own avatar,” Knight said.
“I’m not imposing a look on Zanaughtti, but giving them a new dimension to exist in; with all the splendor, with all the surrealism, with all the poetry and the whimsy. We’re creating the first NFT with feelings, with emotions, and with a point of view,” he said.
Knight also thinks that the decentralized nature of Web3 goes nicely with ShowStudio’s long tradition of “never accepted advertising because we never wanted people to tell us what we can and can’t do.”
“If this project brings in money, that would be great. But it’s not the end of why we do it. We do it partly because I love making imagery, and I’m very fascinated with new technology.
“The metaverse is a fascinating new situation for us all. It’s a new civilization. I think it’s really important for artists and people who are working for the love of art to be involved in what ShowStudio has always been about really, making money but sort of creating art and trying to do things that feel exciting. I think it’s important to enter into the metaverse in that mind spirit,” Knight said.
With regard to upcoming projects after ikon-1, Knight said he would love to bring tailoring into the metaverse.
“There are so many interesting things to do and what we will be doing in this virtual space. But as perhaps as surprising as that is, bringing your Savile Row tailoring into the metaverse where people actually don’t have physical bodies is an interesting concept,” he said.