LVMH Innovation Award 2022 Finalist DressX Wants To Be The Google Cloud Of Digital Fashion
It was one of the 21 brands shortlisted for the 2022 LVMH Innovation Award but what exactly is DressX?
Essentially DressX is world’s largest retailer of digital fashion. Ukrainian founders, Daria Shapovalova and Natalia Modenova, describe it as a ‘meta closet’ — the name they trademarked six months ago alongside ‘meta wardrobe’.
The initial idea involved content driven, social media geared fashion pop-ups in Los Angeles in 2019. “People paid for time slots where they could come in and create content with the clothes on offer as opposed to buying them. But then Covid started,” says Modenova. “So we thought how do we give them that experience without visiting a store?”
“After the pandemic, we realized that fashion and retail would never be the same again and began to understand the true value of digital clothing,” says Shapovalova.
DressX was born in 2020 selling digital looks custom-fitted to photos submitted by users. These days, it has expanded to offer augmented reality and NFT looks that can be ‘worn’ and shared on social media channels.
It sells digital-only pieces both from its own in-house label and those of brand partners like Printemps, American Eagle, Iris van Herpen and Dundas. Most recent addition is Berkska which launched this week.
Earlier this year DressX partnered with social gaming platform Roblox on outfits for avatars, created wearables for Decentraland and launched a digital collection with French retailer Printemps alongside a physical pop-up selling digital fashion in the retailer’s Paris flagship — almost coming back full circle to its L.A. pop-up origins.
Wider projects include a partnership with fashion media company L’Officiel on digital combinations of L’Officiel archive looks — to be showcased in September on The Sandbox metaverse — and a pre-order campaign with Farfetch in 2021 where forthcoming pieces from brands like Off White, Nanushka, Balenciaga and Palm Angels were marketed by models and influencers wearing digitized versions of the physical looks.
To date, DressX has secured $3.3 million in seed funding rounds with investors including the Artemis Fund and U.Ventures’ Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF).
“We are now preparing to partner with other social gaming platforms enabling Ready Player Me avatars (portable between different affiliated metaverses) to wear outfits from our digital library,” says Modenova.
“People don’t just come to play, they socialize there just like they do on social media. The metaverse is the 3D evolution of social media,” adds Shapovalova.
Non disclosure agreements are currently in place but news will be announced in July.
The afternoon prior to the Innovation Award ceremony, Shapovalova and Modenova took time out from Viva Tech and sat down with me in Paris to discuss how the metaverse has turbo charged their business, why physical brands need digital fashion and their ambition to be the Google Cloud of digital wearables.
How has conversation around the metaverse driven forward your business?
Natalia Modenova: When we started we reached out to every single brand and retailer but although they listened to us they said they needed to think about it. But when Mark Zuckerberg renamed Facebook as Meta in October last year, people realized that digital experiences also fall under the definition of the metaverse. That was the big push for them to come back to us.
Daria Shapovalova: The metaverse is the 3D evolution of social media. Investors are now telling us that DressX was their biggest miss and brands are saying they wished they had begun partnering with us a year ago. For example, the pop-up with Printemps gave us the opportunity to create the first physical store in the world selling digital fashion.
SUSAINABILITY, INNOVATION AND CUSTOMER ACQUISTION
How does digital fashion add value to physical brands?
Modenova: First by making something more sustainable because fashion already understands this is a problem. Digital fashion is 97% less polluting compared to physical fashion. It also uses no water or chemicals. For the Farfetch campaign we helped to facilitate a physical process but also showed the value of digital assets. Instead of sending out hundreds of samples all over the world, we gave digitized looks to influencers who created their own content and submitted the images.
Secondly through innovation. If you look back you can see how some brands successfully adopted e-commerce while some did not. So now is the time to learn the lessons from the past and open up the digital economy.
Shapovalova: Digital fashion is a complement to the existing physical reality. It allows brands to speak to new audiences and gain new customers. The average age of Roblox users is 13 to 22 — people who are just starting to experience luxury brands. So they can experience them for the first time on Roblox via digital fashion. People don’t just come to play, they socialize there too just like they do on social media. We believe digital clothing will become a category for every fashion brand in the same way as beauty. For example ever luxury brand has a beauty line which is often the point of entry.
THE CLOUD BASED FUTURE OF DIGITAL FASHION
What are your ambitions for DressX as it evolves?
Shapovalova: Our ambition is to be a Google for your digital wardrobe. A cloud where you can store all your items. DressX enables you to take your closet with you wherever you go.
Modenova: If you take a media call you’ll be able to access your clothing on the cloud via the App on your phone. It won’t matter whether your digital item is an NFT or not in the same way as you can have luxury and mass market items sitting on the same shelf.
Shapovalova: We have told our investors from the start that our goal is to sell a billion digital fashion items. So if every person owns an average of 30 digital pieces that means powering the meta closets for 200 million people.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Shapovalova began her career hosting a fashion show for Ukrainian TV. She travelled to international fashion weeks where she met Modenova. The duo went on to launch a fashion week for the Ukraine which became the largest in Eastern Europe. After the (first) war with Russia started in 2013 they set up the More Dash showroom in Paris which introduced brands to the market such as Ukrainian label Anna October. In 2018 they relocated to California with the idea of merging fashion with experience.