Cover Nicole Yap, founder of 8Sian (Photo: courtesy of 8Sian)

8Sian founder Nicole Yap overcame naysayers and trolls to champion representation, cultural preservation and creativity in Web3

Uniqlo, Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger are just three of the major brands to have shown their support for 8Sian, a Malaysian NFT project launched in 2021 with 8,888 artworks depicting Asian women. Weaving in “intricate details steeped in historical significance”, the collection, which is owned between more than 4,000 buyers, celebrates the diversity of women from across the continent. Founder Nicole Yap appeared on the fourth episode of Tatler TV: Meta Versed Season 2 in August to explain where the project came from and where it is headed.

If you missed the episode, you can now watch it here.

For selected viewers of the episode, hosted by associate features editor Zabrina Lo, the 8Sian team offered an exclusive hoodie NFT with both Tatler and 8Sian’s logos.

In March, 8Sian participated in virtual platform Decentraland’s biggest Metaverse Fashion Week, where the team forged collaborations with international labels. Four months later, 8Sian announced its collaboration with billion-dollar online apparel shopping platform Cider.

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Yap, who is Malaysian Chinese, said that 8Sian fills a gap in the digital era by preserving and promoting the multivarious Asian cultures. She said that when she started in Web3, there wasn’t a lot of representation of Asian cultures in the space. Her team were aware of ignorance within the online community, where users would say they couldn’t tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese people, or assumed that “Malaysian” meant only the Malay people. Yap also received discouraging comments about how Asian NFTs weren’t needed in the market, and faced discrimination on Discord, where users reacted to her gender and nationality and said that she should be kicked out because “this is not a girls’ place; this is for boys only”.

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This inspired her to launch her project, which is made up of NFTs of women drawn with different Asian cultural elements, such as Cambodian headpieces, Taiwanese bubble tea, Chinese qipao dresses and peacock feathers (representing the national bird of India). “We aren’t just yellow-skinned; we have [different] tans and are all beautiful in our own ways,” Yap said. 8Sian was created to educate: “I want our kids and grandkids to see representation in the metaverse one day.”

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Yap discussed the growing number of connections across industries as well, citing the NFT project Boss Beauties and its collaboration with Marvel; Tiffany and Co.’s custom jewellery for NFT project Crypto Punks; and all the ways 8Sian has worked with different brands. She stressed that large fashion houses need to stay on top of current trends and technologies to leverage the opportunities afforded by Web3.

8Sian’s collaboration with Cider consists of a virtual interactive museum, in which 30 8Sian avatars wear purchasable outfits and visitors’ avatars can walk around the space. The team is also developing their own 3D model which Yap said she hopes will become an NFT influencer. She predicted that the fashion industry was on the brink of major change, as meta humans in the metaverse replace human models on runways.

However, with so many opportunities yet little regulation in the metaverse, Yap warned viewers to be aware of scams, which deter some embracing Web3. But she said she believes that technology is here to stay, and the key is not to focus on how crypto could be used to launder money but how to leverage more trades.

Gatekeepers and trolls may have tried to deter Yap in the beginning, but she isn’t intimidated by the idea that the Web3 scene is already a male-dominated space: she revealed that the team is thinking of working on a new collection centred on men. “We need to be fluid,” she said. “If [male NFTs are] what the community wants, we will definitely answer their prayers.”

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