What do Gucci, Tag Heuer, and Balenciaga have in common? Aside from being long-time luxury retailers, these three high-profile companies now accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment. Balenciaga is a luxury fashion house founded in the early 1900s by the Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga and later purchased by a French-based luxury company called Kering.
Balenciaga has a no-compromise reputation for quality and now the fashion house is making waves with a policy decision to accept cryptocurrency payments for the goods it sells in over 30 high-fashion locations in the United States.
Balenciaga began its journey into crypto by announcing the official site and select IRL locations would be the first to accept cryptocurrency with plans for more of its in-person retail sites to begin taking crypto payments over time in a phased-in approach.
Don’t expect to use just ANY cryptocurrency to buy Balenciaga fashions and accessories. At press time, Ethereum and Bitcoin are accepted as payment. Compare that to Tag Heuer, which has gone on record announcing its acceptance of a larger range of cryptocurrencies (about a dozen) through BitPay.
At press time Balenciaga has not announced a payment provider such as BitPay to handle such transactions. The luxury retailer has stated that more cryptocurrencies may be accepted over time and there are plans to expand the e-commerce option further into crypto as well.
The first in-real-life locations to accept crypto include locations on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and Madison Avenue in New York City.
The rise of cryptocurrency means the rise in fortunes for many of those who invest, buy, and sell cryptocurrency and NFTs.
The luxury brands mentioned here are staffed with keen observers of high-end culture. When celebrity endorsements for cryptocurrency and NFTs became less of a fad and more of an aspiration for new crypto projects, it’s likely that luxury brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, and others took note of what high-visibility celebs have done in the space and tried to adjust business models accordingly.
After all, one high profile person such as a sports star or music celebrity might just be very public about their spending habits in the space; that is not an uncommon practice.
But when there is a growing wave of celebrity endorsements, the fashion houses take note of any such trends that could affect their brand by becoming an early adopter…or waiting to see where the market goes.
And since 2017, the crypto market has fairly exploded in ways that have attracted fashion industry people.
Partnerships between high-profile crypto creators are not shocking. Burberry teamed up with Mythical Games to release an NFT, a high-end Paris fashion design house called Faith Connexion started what some describe as an “open-source design platform” allowing fashions to be minted as NFTs or IRL designs that can actually be worn.
Gucci has become known as an early adopter of crypto and Web3 innovations. Gucci has a discord server that serves two NFT projects; SupperGucci and Gucci Grail. The brand has used NFT projects like these to provide special access to insiders before a new collection is offered to the general public.
As these partnerships between luxury and crypto increase, one issue some buyers want to know about across the board is how refunds and order fulfillment issues are handled. Some innovators in the luxury space have already placed a line in the sand in this area, announcing that refunds would only be offered in the form of store credit or in the same payment method used originally.
Naturally, due to the ups and downs of cryptocurrency valuation, that could mean a windfall for the buyer–a likelihood that depends on whether crypto is in a bull or bear market. It could also mean a refund that is not worth as much as the price originally paid, also dependent on the nature of the market.
At press time, the fashion world is embracing crypto even as there’s been a bull market type cycle in the works. The key to thinking about these partnerships may be to view them through the lens of a cyclical market.
Today’s crypto crash or a facsimile thereof may be tomorrow’s crypto boom. It’s likely the fashion houses are counting on a bull market passing over time and hoping for a return of the glory days of rising crypto values.
Joe Wallace has covered real estate and financial topics, including crypto and NFTs since 1995. His work has appeared on Veteran.com, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and many print and online publications. Joe is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.