Richard Hobbs from Brand New Vision talked about the potential and limitations of digital fashion in the metaverse, as well as the new virtual world he plans to build with his company on the third episode of Tatler TV: Meta Versed Season 2. The weekly online talk show invites visionaries and leaders in their respective fields to share their thoughts on NFTs, virtual worlds and cryptocurrency, and how they are reshaping our world

Luxury brands are flocking to the metaverse, but what are they actually doing there? What are some of the current limitations and where are the areas of untapped potential? Richard Hobbs, the man behind Animoca-invested company Brand New Vision (BNV), took us backstage so we could get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes of these virtual fashion shows and runways. 

Hong Kong-based BNV has become a gateway for luxury brands and fashion designers looking to enter the metaverse, by working with them to create digital wearable collections that will be interoperable across the open metaverse. This includes Decentraland and The Sandbox, but also BNV’s own upcoming metaverse that is currently in creation.

It’s in this new virtual world that BNV is going to explore a different kind of metaverse experience: fash-to-earn, which operates by monetising engagement.

So how exactly does this work? Who would be able to benefit from this? How does it affect us exactly? Will it change the way we experience fashion or the metaverse?

Hobbs addressed these questions and also teased upcoming projects on the July 28 episode of Meta Versed, the live-streaming series that has previously featured Yat Siu from Animoca Brands, NFT art collector Whale Shark, Sébastien Borget from The Sandbox, and Web3 entrepreneur and influencer Irene Zhao.

If you missed any of the episodes, you can now watch them here.

Tatler Hong Kong’s editor-in-chief and editorial director, Jacqueline Tsang, asked Hobbs what niche he’d hoped to fill in the Web3 space and luxury industry with BNV. 

“It’s actually relatively easy for people to enter this space, but there’s a lot more to it now, it’s not just about creating or selling an NFT, it’s about the whole metaverse and Web3 experience,” Hobb explained. He pointed out that while brands are keen to enter the metaverse and get involved, to offer better customer service levels and obtain additional engagement with their fans, audience and community, one danger is that what they see in the space so far “may not live up to their standards and expectations”. 

“We understand all the elements that go into creating and building a fashion brand: the DNA, the history, the passion, which are not always synonymous with technology, which is often about speed, scalability and other elements that are almost the opposite to fashion. We see ourselves as the middleman to make it an easy process for brands and designers to come into the metaverse … we’d like to be that safe pair of hands to help them,” he said. “Brands can do it in-house, and I absolutely encourage them to do that. I encourage everyone in the space to get in the water and start paddling. You don’t win a surfing contest by sitting on the beach.” 

At the moment, Decentraland and The Sandbox are two of the biggest and most popular virtual worlds in Web3, and Hobbs said that the former is the best fit for fashion-related activations. He emphasised that there’s still a lot to be done with technology in order for the metaverse experiences to match up with real-life expectations, but it’s getting there. 

“Metaverse catwalk shows will not work for the time being—there’s still a lot of technology, bandwidth and streaming that need to be worked out in the meantime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t present fashion in the metaverse in really compelling, interesting and exciting ways,” he said. 

He also weighed in on the pros and cons of fashion events in The Sandbox, in which BNV has a plot of land. 

“The Sandbox is built around the concept of play-to-earn, gaming and earning rewards; what we’re trying to do is bring in this fashion element where we’re showing different ways that fashion can be represented in it,” he said. “[While it’s not] the best place to show wearables, it’s more about giving people the metaverse experience where they can walk around, engage and interact with people, see things that they wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else—and we’re trying to make that work in a fashion-friendly format.”

Given the popularity of Decentraland and The Sandbox, which vary greatly in aesthetics and user experience, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest buzzwords in the metaverse is interoperability—the ability for digital assets to be operational across the different virtual worlds. At the moment, however, it’s not yet possible.

“But we believe it will be!” Hobbs said. “If you’re going to someone’s metaverse space, you’re bringing value to them because you’re engaging in their space; it should be self-fulfilling without having to do micropayments or sign up to a subscription or registration process to be able to get in. That’s what an interoperable metaverse should be.”

It is precisely this sort of online engagement and interaction that got Hobbs and his team thinking: with all the play-to-learn or play-to-earn models that currently exist in the biggest virtual worlds, why isn’t there a fash-to-earn system? As BNV starts building its own metaverse, BNV World, this concept of monetising engagement is going to play a central role in its operation. 

“We’re working on it,” Hobbs promised. “We spent a long time thinking about how to take the real-world elements of the fashion industry and translate that into Web3.” He explained that in the physical world, for example, if you wear a new outfit to an event and people ask about it, you’re essentially promoting the product and advertising the brand, but with no monetary gain. In Web3, this could be very different.

“If people interact with you [in the metaverse], they could be clicking on you and finding out where you got your wearable—they can see it’s from this designer, that there are only a hundred of [this wearable in existence], what it’s currently trading for and where to buy it. You’re actually giving a lot of information and you’re promoting for that particular brand, and you could be rewarded for that,” he said. “Our ‘fash coin’ and the economy we’ll create to support it enables that to happen. We’ve spent a lot of time working on the mechanics of this economy so that it’s not just spending money out but also bringing money in.”

When a player sells NFTs, for example, a percentage of that will go into a treasury that enables the reward structure; so the more people who buy and trade digital wearables as NFTs, the more cash there is in the system to be able to reward promoters, be they stylists, publications or KOLs.

The best part? No wear and tear. Hobbs uses the recent scandal involving Kim Kardashian and the Marilyn Monroe dress as an example. 

“If you borrow something in real life, it might come back damaged or it may need to be dry cleaned. But with a digital asset, it comes back in exactly the same condition as it went out,” he said. This advantage over real-life goods, coupled with the fash-to-earn business model BNV is working on, opens up a world of possibilities for the savvy influencer or whale. 

“I could be a whale with the most exquisite wearable collection, but if I don’t have time to go running around the metaverse, I’m quite happy to let other people come and rent my stuff,” Hobbs explained. “So if you want to go to a party and want to rent digital sneakers from me, I could give you a price list for 24 hours or 72 hours, you could pay me in Fash, and if you’re getting engagements in terms of clicks, likes and reactions, we share that profit.”

Down the line, this process could even potentially increase the value of the wearable, good news for those who also see NFT wearables as investments.  

Hobbs also talked about the opportunities afforded to BNV as an Animoca-invested company, as well as the issue of sustainability—comparing waste generated by the physical fashion industry to the carbon dioxide emissions from producing digital wearables. 

You can watch the full episode here.

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