Sometimes a bag is just a bag, a repository for the baubles of daily life. But when it’s an exotic skin bag, handcrafted by a Swiss atelier and authenticated by blockchain, then it’s a Steel — a statement piece from a new American accessories company that promises a fresh take on the luxury NFT experience.
With an eye on blending old-world craftsmanship with emerging technology, the Palm Beach, Florida-based company describes itself as modern, eternal and artisanal. The proposition begins with an heirloom-worthy range of handbags — the art-driven brand calls them “sculptures” — and accessories, all of which are stitched by hand from start to finish by Steel’s Switzerland-based atelier. The assortment, which features French leather or exotic skins such as crocodile, ranges in price from $480 to more than $12,000. The company also plans on limited drops and custom orders through Farfetch’s private client service.
From there old-world tradition meets new virtual technology, taking luxury to the virtual world.
Each sculpture comes with a digital twin, with non-fungible tokens minted on the Polygon Blockchain, and according to founder and creative director Nicole Steel, the brand makes the process of claiming them less daunting thanks to familiar technologies like QR codes and Apple Wallet.
“The experience for the consumer, something that I’m very passionate about, is to bring accessibility and not have the average person who buys luxury goods be intimidated by technology in the blockchain and Web 3.0,” founder and creative director Nicole Steel said in an exclusive interview.
She wanted to offer a more natural way into the technology, so she carefully crafted every step of the process. “They receive the product, scan [the QR code] and then they literally tie their physical product to the blockchain information that is registered to that product specifically,” she continued. “After that, they get an email verifying their information — they are who they say they are, the owner of the product … and the information is then downloaded into their Apple Wallet.”
The mention of Apple recalls a decision reported in early December to block apps such as Coinbase Wallet from sending NFTs without handing over a 30 percent cut. The situation is notable, because support from the world’s top mobile platforms would go a long way in making the tech more mainstream.
Steel, however, created a model that makes use of a ubiquitous iOS feature, the Apple Wallet, without violating the tech company’s rule. The brand used Apple’s PassKit API to create what it calls a “Passport” for owners, which is akin to the physical authenticity card that typically comes with luxury goods. It slips into the mobile wallet “just like an airplane ticket,” said the founder.
Indeed, the Passport acts as a membership card that will grant access to real-world activities, parties and other special events. Of course, owners can choose to forgo the digital goods and membership, and simply enjoy the real-world Steel products in their own right.
The collection includes handbags and Apple Watch cuffs: Icon Mini Sculpture, Icon 28 Sculpture, Everywhere Sculpture, RockStar SmrtKuff and Day to Night SmrtKuff.
Steel debuts with an exclusive Everywhere Sculpture made from Porous Crocodile and a lock encrusted with 213 pave diamonds set in 18K gold in Paris, as featured in Farfetch’s Holiday Gift Guide. It’s available through Farfetch private client stylists, as well as steelamericanluxury.com. Other products will come to select boutiques and modern art galleries worldwide next year.