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MetaBirkins: The missing link in the blockchain?

By Kaycia Ainsworth

2021 saw Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg introducing us to the Metaverse. A metaverse is a virtual 3-D environment accessible through the internet, intended to revolutionize the way that we interact. Zuckerburg gave detailed explanations of how, in practice, the metaverse he had built could restructure the way that we work from home. He theorizes that building an online world resembling an office space can streamline our work whilst keeping us in touch with office culture. If we’re being honest, it looked alot like a humanoid club penguin server.

"He theorizes that building an online world resembling an office space can streamline our work whilst keeping us in touch with office culture."

Trying to humanise this development, Zuckerburg hacked an attempt at relatability - videos circulated of him harping on about Sweet Baby Rays barbeque sauce amid claims he was “out of touch” and is “an alien.” Those undoubtedly extra-terrestrial photos of him surfing in white sunscreen definitely did not help the cause… similar vibes to Ed Miliband and the bacon sandwich scandal that arguably cost him the election.

Alongside this year's NFT boom, the metaverse shows a development of all industries moving toward a more technological future and progression in trusting the online realm. Economists have cryptocurrency, artists have NFTs, and designers now have MetaBirkins. “MetaBirkins” is the name given to the artwork of digital creator Mason Rothschild. Rothschild has created 100 one-of-a-kind NFT designs based on, but not in collaboration with, the Hermès Birkin. Hermès’ own Birkin bag is said to be one of the best investment purchases you can make, a status symbol known for it’s extortionate price and exclusivity in purchase.

To obtain a Birkin is no easy feat. It is so hard to acquire one of the infamous bags that the Birkin has developed its own folklore, riddled with the trials and tribulations you must go through in order to be offered the opportunity to buy one. There is a waitlist - that we can confirm - but almost every other factor surrounding this bag is simply myth. Having to befriend a salesperson in order to convince them to allow you access? Anecdotally true. Whisked away to a secret room in the Parisian Hermès store if you're accepted to buy one? Myth. The requirement of being a long time customer with an extensive purchase history? Myth. Staff telling non-VIP customers that they’re out of stock, even to view, just to get them out of the store? True. The bag has proven to be a better investment than gold or stocks. Only time will tell if Rothschilds’ digital counterpart will carry the same financial and emotional weight.

Purchasable by Ethereum blockchain, Rothschilds’ designs feature all of the characteristics which make a Birkin bag a Birkin - the signature shaping and curled handle combined with classic hardware. The Metabirkin’s lock, buckle loops and clochette are coated in a layer of faux fur, yet another meta reference, of course, the fur is faux, as it doesn't physically exist! Each virtual Birkin has its own individual pattern or graphic design metaphorically emblazoned directly onto its faux fur cloak, with many designs referencing art and pop culture. Iterations include a Grinch inspired MetaBirkin for if you're feeling festive, as well as sixties floral and cow print. For art lovers, there are only-just-distinguishable illustrations of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa, and classical renaissance art such as Michealangelo’s The Creation of Adam, and a Bob Ross MetaBirkin thrown in for good measure, of course.

In short, I could write an essay on how “meta” these designs are: An artistic design you can own but not touch, inspired by a handbag that you probably cannot afford to buy, of a handbag that doesn't have the capability to be worn or hold anything - what a concept! Whilst many may laugh at the idea of purchasing such a frivolous belonging, it signifies another development; for fashion design to be considered as artistic interpretation as well as a functional part of our lives. Where we develop beyond this point, who knows. Will art and fashion merge into one, freeing fashion from the shackles of commercialisation that it must currently pander to in order to exist? Or will this be disregarded as a rich person's playground? In which an attempt to break down the barriers of an exclusive item by offering it to the populous, breeds more exclusivity and only aids in furthering capitalistic ideals of modern design and art.

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