Roksanda’s CEO Jamie Gill explains why digital dresses are the future

Would you purchase a digital dress that can never be worn?

The concept may sound strange, but with the rapidly growing NFT and metaverse boom, that’s exactly what’s on offer as brands begin to recognise the potential virtual garments have to engage a younger demographic.

A study by Business of Fashion Insights revealed that sales of NFTs dramatically spiked in 2021, rising to £8.2bn ($10.8bn) in Q3, compared to just £993,000 ($1.3bn) in Q2. At the same time, 75% of US consumers have accessed a virtual world in the last 12 months, while 50% have expressed an interest in purchasing a digital asset.

One brand jumping on the virtual bandwagon and embracing this new technology is British fashion house Roksanda. With a strong following among older millennials, roughly aged 27-41, the brand is best known for its feminine aesthetic and strong connection to the art world.

“Traditionally in the world of luxury fashion, you engage a younger and aspirational consumer with more accessible pieces – such as cosmetics, perfumes and small leather goods,” Jamie Gill, chief executive of Roksanda, told Charged.

But the luxury fashion brand does not offer many lower price-point items, with Roksanda’s AUR (average unit retail) sitting at around £1,500. So Gill gravitated towards NFTs as a way to entice the younger Gen Z consumer, get on their radar and build brand equity.

As part of its AW22 collection, Roksanda launched a shoppable NFT in collaboration with BNPL service Clearpay and the Institute of Digital Fashion (IoDF).

The NFT itself is a digital rendering of the fashion brand’s demi-couture final look, a striking sculptural gown in a geometric print.

It was launched in a tier system, ranging from £25 for one of 500 3D tokens, to £5,000 for one of 10 3D animations which can be worn by an avatar in the metaverse. An AR function also allows consumers to virtually ‘try on’ their new NFT via an Instagram filter, making it instantly accessible to the core target audience.

The launch also marks the first time an NFT has been shoppable on a luxury label’s website in pounds instead of cryptocurrencies.

credit: vogue business

Gill explains: “As a brand, we’re learning and making sense of how the digital world and metaverse works.”

“Having to create a crypto wallet and buy a cryptocurrency was quite confusing, so we wanted to make it easier – you just come to Roksanda.com and here is your selection of NFTs.”

Roksanda’s metaverse venture has garnered significant attention from fashion-lovers and gamers alike, engaging many that may not have been familiar with the brand before.

“Users of various games and that Gen Z audience we’re not familiar with, have become aware that there is an established British luxury, London Fashion Week brand that has done something interesting in the space,” Gill says.

Following the dress’ dramatic unveiling at the AW22 fashion show during London Fashion Week 2022, Imran Amed, chief executive of The Business of Fashion chaired a discussion exploring how the metaverse will shape the fashion industry.

The panellists included Gill, Leanne Elliott-Young, co-founder of the Institute of Digital Fashion, Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council and Natalie McGrath, vice president of marketing at Clearpay.

Introducing the topic of the metaverse, Amed compared its emergence to the arrival of ecommerce, arguing that while brands were initially resistant to online shopping, they must embrace the potential of this new digital world, or risk getting left behind.

Caroline Rush also had a clear message for the industry, stating: “don’t sit back and think this isn’t for me.”

For Gill, the next step for Roksanda is exploring the possibility of a virtual pop-up shop in the metaverse, presenting a digital collection alongside future physical collections.

“For our brand trajectory right now, it’s important that we keep that relationship strong between the physical and the digital and not enter into designing a digital collection just yet,” he explains.

Moving forward, the connection between digital and physical is clearly vital for brands in creating a consistent consumer experience. As panellist Elliott-Young said “the URL and the IRL must work together in unison.”

credit: british vogue

Reflecting on the collaboration, Gill describes Clearpay as integral to the inception and success of the project.

“They were a pioneer in this for us, because of their whole agenda of democratising fashion. I can honestly say we wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for them coming to us and making a reality,” he said.

As such, Clearpay will undoubtedly continue to be involved in any future metaverse endeavours the brand decides to pursue.

“What’s great now is that our future plans of what we’re going to do with the metaverse are very much hinged in that partnership we have with them,” Gill concludes.

With Morgan Stanley predicting that the metaverse could present a $50 billion opportunity for the luxury fashion industry over the next decade, the virtual fashion space will likely continue to grow and develop.

While the idea of purchasing a digital dress may have seemed a bizarre and far-fetched concept just a few years ago, the metaverse clearly presents a tremendous opportunity for luxury fashion – one that Roksanda has recognised and capitalised on.

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