Cover Adriana Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira

Digital fashion was the hot topic of the day at the seventh episode of Tatler TV: Meta Versed, a weekly online talk show that 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

Fashion lovers will have noticed that in addition to the usual Paris, Milan, London and New York fashion weeks, there has been increasing noise about Crypto Fashion Week. The world of digital fashion is exploding, but even for people within the fashion industry, there can be more questions than answers.

What exactly constitutes digital fashion and how does it work? What does it mean for existing luxury brands in the physical world? Are digital-only luxury items worth the investment?

Tatler Hong Kong’s editor-in-chief and editorial director, Jacqueline Tsang, interviewed Adriana Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira, co-founder of The Fabricant, on May 19 for 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.

Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira, the woman behind one of the most exciting digital fashion houses in Web3, broke down what digital fashion really is, what it all means for brands and consumers—and why she hates the term “consumers”—and what it was like working with digital avatar Ruby 9100M for Crypto Fashion Week’s MetaGala.

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

“Ruby is a great example of a new humanity that is evolving in the metaverse,” Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira said. “She’s developing her own iconic presence as a kind of cyber woman avatar, [for which] she builds these beautiful creations.”

She pointed out how the increasing popularity of the metaverse is putting several commercial industries on the spot, with fashion being just one of them. “This world isn’t constrained by physicality, everyone can participate—this democratises access in a big way,” she explained. “It also takes creativity to the next level, as there are no boundaries to what you can do in the digital space. It’s a way to express your individuality, to express yourself; and in Web3, you can do this in a very different way where you can be whoever you want to be.”

Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira founded The Fabricant along with two other business partners, Kerry Murphy and Amber Slooten, in 2018, when the term Web3 was barely heard of outside tech circles.

“[My co-founders and I] were very excited to disrupt the industry. We were living digital lives; why shouldn’t fashion be a part of that?” she said.

She added that in 2018, most people hadn’t fully embraced the concept yet, so The Fabricant focused on working with physical luxury brands to create immersive experiences for their clients, leading the way to “truly immersive worlds and truly immersive digital collections”.

They hit their first milestone in 2019, when they used blockchain technology in a project with Dapper Labs, for which they produced and sold their first digital dress for 45 ETH, which was “groundbreaking”. “For the first time, someone was willing to pay a significant amount of money for a digital dress,” Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira said.

Things picked up quickly from there, and The Fabricant soon found themselves collaborating with Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T. on an ambitious global project.

“I think Hong Kong is so brave: I.T. was our first client. They wanted to create something to celebrate their 30th anniversary in an innovative way,” she remembered. The company had originally planned pop-up shops in six cities across the globe, in which the designer clothes would only be sold on digital screens.

“They had to stop after the third pop-up because they were sold out,” she said. “It was the first case that really showed the power of how to connect to people through imagery and storytelling. We buy fashion because of storytelling—we don’t really pay that much money for luxury items for the physicality of it, we buy what they represent with regards to our personality and the story they tell the world.”

This is not a new concept in the luxury world, where the big players know full well the power of emotion, rich heritage and evocative storytelling; the technology, however, is something that is still unfamiliar to many brands, although Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira says that’s changing quickly.

“The fashion industry itself is moving fast,” she said. “Kudos to all the fashion leaders: the industry learned a lot and is adopting a lot more digital technology in their supply chain and the way they work, but also experimenting with digital-only projects and drops. There are a few leading brands experimenting in this area.”

Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira says that a shift in mindset is crucial to success when a business expands its presence to Web3, and this extends even to industry terminology.

“I have a serious problem with the word ‘consumer’. When you refer to people as consumers, it means that you’re extracting value from them. They are consuming what you put out, and you grow by having them consume more, which means they’re transferring value to you but getting nothing back. Web3 is the post-consumer phase,” she said. “Everyone who creates in Web3 understands that you’re creating as much value as whoever is enabling you.”

She explained that in Web3, which is emerging as a more democratised platform for creators and businesses due to the decentralised nature of blockchain technology, there is more value given to the community that supports a brand, creator or business. “You get art, events and experiences gifted to you, for example. There is a much more equal relationship between value being given and taken, and that is a paradigm shift to the way the luxury industry operates right now,” she said.

“Most brands that have participated in the metaverse have done it as a one-off [Web3 activation], and what they need to realise is that they have to continue with this, they have to continue adding value,” she emphasised. “That is the relationship people expect from you, to come back and continue with your storytelling, and grow that story so they can also [enjoy] the wealth that you have created. People buying your NFT are shareholders of your story.”

The luxury industry is taking note, and virtual worlds Decentraland and The Sandbox are starting to see a larger presence of luxury brands join their ranks. The Fabricant will also be working with The Sandbox on an upcoming luxury wearables collection that will be digital-only. Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira said that one of the key elements she enjoyed most about the partnership was seeing how The Sandbox’s deliberately pixelated aesthetic would marry with her company’s high-quality look and feel.

The Fabricant is also collaborating with the hugely popular World of Women (WoW), known primarily for their colourful PFPs (profile pics) that celebrate and empower women.

“How can a company that started as a PFP now have the authority to create a digital fashion label? This is what the digital fashion space in the metaverse will allow. We will see a lot of micro labels emerging,” Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira predicted. “Launching a digital fashion capsule collection is much easier than launching a physical one … and these labels also have strong communities online.”

She added that the collaboration with WoW was also a matter of personal passion and interest. “It’s very close to my heart: it’s about the diversity and financial empowerment of women. The metaverse is still a very white-male-dominated space, and I have been very active in the space to try to change this,” she said. “This campaign will allow more women to enter Web3, and we are collaborating with several Web3 communities where their members will be able to experience and co-create collections through The Fabricant Studio.”

Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira extended the invitation to participate in the WoW project to 50 of the attendees of the show, who would later be chosen by Tatler’s editorial team. While The Fabricant Studio is normally by invitation only, the chosen attendees will be whitelisted for the collaboration, allowing them to co-create new fashion NFTs from this WoW collection.

“You’ll be able to customise the items, mint your own NFT and later wear it in the metaverse,” Hoppenbrouwer-Pereira said.

You can watch the full episode here.

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