That Viral Harry Styles Cardigan Just Got Auctioned as an NFT

The love affair between fashion and NFTs shows no sign of abating. The latest nonfungible token to get everyone tingling with excitement: a perfect 3-D digital replica of the patchwork JW Anderson cardigan that became a viral hit during the pandemic when Harry Styles wore it. Created with xydrobe, it sold at auction on Dec. 14 for two Ether (the cryptocurrency), or approximately $7,500.

That’s a lot less than the records set by Beeple, or even Dolce & Gabbana, but still almost four times the price of the original garment IRL, making Jonathan Anderson the latest designer to join the metaverse collectors club. (All proceeds will be donated to AKT, a charity that supports LGBTQ+ youth.) Here, Mr. Anderson explains how the partnership came about and where he thinks it’s all going.

NFTs are very buzzy at the moment. What made you decide you wanted to be part of this trend?

We were approached by xydrobe, and I was curious. I collect art and saw these auction houses selling NFTs. I think sometimes the natural reaction to NFTs is, “Well, I have no idea what it’s about.” But I actually find that the more I dig into it, the more I see people building these incredible things. The world is changing, and there are different ways to look at how art can be perceived.

So you agreed.

I thought, “Well, we are going to do something.” Fashion is about experimentation. It is about taking risks on things. And sometimes it’s about taking risks on things that you don’t know about. But we need something that has some sort of iconography, something to do with history. And the only thing that really worked was this cardigan.

Before it was an NFT, it was its own hashtag: #harrystylescardigan. What exactly happened again?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I started seeing all these people on Instagram wearing this patchwork cardigan that we’d done for a men’s wear collection. And in my head, we didn’t sell very many of them.

So you thought, “Where did these come from?”

Yeah. And I started to follow people on TikTok who were knitting the cardigan. It was because of Harry Styles. His stylist Harry Lambert borrowed it for a rehearsal, he wore it, and it became this absolutely crazy thing. It is probably one of the most positive things that came out of my pandemic experience because I was watching thousands of people from all parts of the world remaking this cardigan, as well as making hats and dog outfits. I even saw curtains at one point. It was completely out of my control, which is what the best things are.

Now it’s in the V & A, right?

I’m on the board of the museum, and we got Harry Styles to donate it. It really solidified a moment of pandemic history and pop culture.

And from there it has become a digital file, which is a kind of 360-degree journey.

It is completely accurate right down to the thread count. It took about 300 hours to make. If it’s going to be out there forever, it needs to be beautifully executed. I think it’s a really special thing.

It’s like recording something. You’re selling the recording of this thing, really like a time capsule. It’s about the idea of craft and how you can kind of encapsulate it into a digital format so that it lasts even longer. For me, this can open a conversation about how things are made. It is the most crazy thing that I have ever, ever worked on.

Were you a gamer?

I was never good at gaming. I remembered playing Mortal Kombat, and I was really bad at it. My brother was very good. I was good at Aladdin. But now I look at the commitment and how gamers interact and think: How do we get people to be looking at a brand and gain that completely different level of commitment? Does the cardigan lead into the metaverse?

Does it? So we are likely to see more of this, and more NFTs?

We are already working on another project with xydrobe. And we’re making some weird faux cartoon characters that will come out next year, where you can chop and change clothing and body parts. I hired this kid I found online who was making these amazing digital videos. They’re kind of like manga imaginary characters that will wear the collection we’re showing in Milan in January, and then you can play with it and put the knits on or chop and change. They have no gender.

Is it fun?

I feel like now, as a creative director, you have to think about communicating in all different media. You can’t just sit in your office and say, “Well, what do we do?” You’ve got to engage. The curiosity level has to be really big or you risk becoming an old fashion designer sitting in an office. It is one of the most fascinating parts of the period we live in.

This conversation has been edited and condensed. It appeared as part of the Instagram Live series On the Runway.