Remember the MetaBirkins? The fuzzy set of NFT artwork immortalising fashion’s most coveted handbag? Well, as much as the fashion community appreciated it, Hermès apparently didn’t. The luxury brand has allegedly sent a cease and desist letter to Mason Rothschild, the artist behind the MetaBirkins NFTs, according to The Fashion Law.
Mason made the first NFT bag in collaboration with artist Eric Ramirez, and the bag sold for US $47,000 on its release. After this success, he went on to create the MetaBirkins series, which consisted of 100 Birkin-inspired bag NFTs, all in different colours, textures and all entirely unique.
However, despite their popularity, Hermès was not happy. Mason has since taken to social media to reveal that the luxury house filed a cease and desist letter against him and the MetaBirkins project, and has even published an open letter in response to it
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Rothschild argues that his work is protected against Hermès’ trademark infringement claims by the First Amendment, which situates his right to make art from interpretation. He goes on to suggest that by embuing his NFT art in different textures, this draws attention to fashion’s history of animal cruelty – something that Hermès should not be attempting to repress and silence. In terms of selling the art as an NFT, Mason points out that this is the 21st century equivalent of selling prints, essentially imploring Hermès to get with the times.
And, as much as it’s getting messy, we are inclined to agree. We get it, Hermès’ Birkins don’t need the advertising, but they do need the cultural capital and support from new generations if the legacy is to continue to thrive. In a business forged on exclusivity, this can extend to innovation. If world-renowned artists like Banksy can make international careers from what is essentially stencil work, brands are going to have to adapt to their products and what Mason described as “fashion-culture landmarks” being transformed into digital art, too.
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In all though, it seems Hermès was more concerned about being pipped to the post – failing to capitalise on fashion’s wider shift into the Metaverse at the same rate of some of its peers. Instead of repressing young talent, big brands have the platform and resources to be able to amplify it. They could have seen the success of Mason’s artwork, and endeavoured to work with him on a mutually-beneficial project, rather than try and remove any traces from the internet. As well as this being a potential smart PR move on their part, it would also help them get ahead of the trend and remain relevant to the ever-changing fashion landscape which we find ourselves in.
Art has never been afraid of controversy, and as detailed in his open letter, Mason will not be apologising for creating it. Perhaps it’s time big brands started listening to their customer-base and evolving with new, innovative practices. It is 2022, after all.