Karinna is a well-humored, Scottish fashionista with a keen understanding about where the metaverse is heading. Her experience with phygital fashion ranges from an experimental start-up, called Hot Second, to the high-emotions of NFT markets with DMAT. She has a charming way of explaining the digital landscape and we were happy to get her take on why mass-adoption of digital fashion is on the horizon.
Karinna’s journey into the world of pixels and polygons started in London when she was Chief Futurist at the Holition Agency.
“This was when the Carlings did their first digital fashion collection. The reaction of the mainstream press was like ‘this is crazy, why would anybody pay money for clothes that don’t exist?’ It was the extremity of that reaction which made me realize the genius of it.”
“Also around that time was the auction of the Iridescence Dress by The Fabricant. These were really iconic moments for digital fashion, but the blockchain element hadn’t registered with me until later when I met Marjorie and Fabian. I knew I wanted to create something digitally and asked them what would happen if I put digital assets on the blockchain… the rest is history.”
Not being one to shy away from asking tough questions, Nakamura asks what is it that makes a digital handbag worth $100, or more? And how do you onboard people to that idea?
“When you look at something like The Fabricant, they design these ethereal cyber-type dresses that would either be too expensive or physically impossible to make in real life. I think that aesthetic appeals to a certain segment.”
“And people will always want to collect things, especially from brands and creators that they admire. It’s kind of a culture of knowing what’s happening at the moment, or because it communicates an identity, or it gives you entry to a group or community. Not to mention the economic aspect, as well.”
“But utility is the number one thing that people are like ‘what can I actually do with this?’ So, what we’re doing at The Dematerialised is offering the file types that safeguard our drops for future utility. Whilst at the moment there isn’t a standard file type for 3D, we hope that will change… and then we can add more utility to the NFTs that we’ve already created.”
“We’re also experimenting with the possibilities of augmented reality and direct-to-avatar standards and we’re looking forward to the day when the technology catches up with some of the ideas we’d like to explore.”
Our co-host, Icculus, asks if big tech companies are needed to get things moving in the digital fashion space?
“A little bit. When we talk to brands we can’t really point to a metaverse environment that has hit critical mass yet.”
“Until you remove the barriers, such as having AR glasses doing the work for you, NFTs will be more about display investment and tradeability. You could also have a kind of machine learning or AI-focused way of using your digital assets.”
Icculus follows up with a question about whether Karinna has felt hesitation from brands?
“Yeah, definitely, at times. Because a lot of them are more traditional in terms of wanting to see a direct return on investment. Also, the environments where some of these luxury brands would be presented are not built out in a rich kind of way. And the Unreal Engine type environments that are very seductive and realistic, want a percentage that is too high.”
“It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.”
“Phygitals are really critical to adoption. A lot of people still perceive physical as being more valuable than digital. But, if you’ve heard Benoit [of RTFKT] talking, you know that certain communities have already shifted to the perception of digitals being MORE valuable.”
“We always approach brands with the idea that phygitals can be a long-term source of income, versus just a one-off marketing experiment. The thing I first fell in love with, about digital goods as NFTs, is it’s a win-win for every single person within the supply chain and demand chain.”
“There is also the classic argument of moving away from centralization, which is an inevitability, but not everyone in traditional positions of power want to see that change.”
“But I think it’s great that we’re seeing people like Nick Knight in the space. Nick has always had a strong understanding for the potential of digital. And there’s a certain number of creative directors who understand that this has to be a part of their strategy.”
“We’ve done a lot of work recently within the Vogue ecosystem and they’re really wanting to commit to web3 stories and experiences.”
As any new technology gains adoption it finds its own path. The current way that digital fashion is viewed is either through the lens of the gaming community or the crypto community. These are important steps on the way to mass-adoption, but we were curious what Karinna’s thoughts were about whether digital fashion gets lumped in too much with the craziness of crypto.
“Yeah, it’s really frustrating.”
“I mean, the great thing is we’re seeing brands like Nike and Adidas doing things which are community focused, but also aesthetically pleasing… and they onboard the innovators and the industry gatekeepers. That then has a ripple effect in the fashion sector.”
“In a true web3D world it will be bottom-up adoption, but you still need that waterfall effect of the big brands.”
Speaking of big brands, Mark Zuckerberg made a large bet on the metaverse… as Icculus and Karinna finish some reminiscent banter about The Fabricant, I ask what she thinks of Zuck’s version of the metaverse.
“Hmm, haha yeah… the positive is that more people are aware of the word than ever before. The negative is that it looks shit and, again, the fashion industry gatekeepers don’t want to take part in that. It puts them off. Like, that [Meta] avatar doesn’t represent who I am… it’s just not seductive enough.”
“But it has gotten the attention of CEOs at fashion brands to say ‘OK, we need a metaverse strategy.’ And for that alone, thank you Mark.”
There is some discussion about what all can be considered as the “metaverse” and we become really curious how Karinna defines the term… almost with the expectation that she’ll put the debate to rest for us.
“Something that Doug Stevens once said was ‘we won’t be on the internet, we’ll be in it.'”
“I really love the notion of a persistent environment that blends physical and digital.”
“As an academic I did a lot of research into a concept called ‘third space.’ Your first space is your home. Your second space is your work or study. And the third space is where you spend your leisure time. And increasingly digital is becoming our third space.”
“There will be many different ways to interact in the metaverse, with the economic layer being the most complex. But the part I’m most excited about is an environment where my avatar looks pretty… I’m a bit old-school in that way. I know a lot of the young crowd is into ugly or shocking avatars, but I want a younger, thinner version of myself and an environment where I can bump into people whose opinions and avatars are pleasing to interact with.”
Very interesting… so it seems that you’re sitting more in the middle when it comes to what it means to be in the metaverse.
“Definitely! I think the metaverse is also extended or blended reality, different layers of augmented environments, things you can tap in and out of.”
“Right now VR is quite gamified. It’s very overstimulating. So I like the idea of blended reality, similar to back when Google Glass was around. I often joked about things like if you had an AR version of a dating app where you could look around a place and see who was single. That could make life easier or more complicated, haha!”
Karinna is a very easy person to talk with and many times the conversation goes off the rails… but Nakamura is the every-present host and gets us back on track with a question about whether The Dematerialised has been in contact with any gaming projects.
“Yeah, we talked with a lot of game providers right at the beginning. What we found, at that point, is what you see now reported in the media, which is game publisher’s reticence of opening the gates to NFTs. We know they love the notion of digital assets and if you look at skins in a game like Fortnite, you can build amazing kinds of wardrobes. But, you see in gaming the same thing as traditional fashion. There’s quite a difficult sell there, because if they’re already successful, they don’t have an incentive to open the gates for NFTs.
“Where it gets interesting is when blockchain-based games begin to get better and become more mainstream.”
Our conversation with Karinna has been a lot of fun, but we only have time for one more question and Nakamura really wants to know how Karinna came to find, and get involved with, LUKSO.
“My first interaction was at the Circularity Conference in Paris. Fabian was on a panel and I spoke to him afterward. He and Marjorie were both there and I thought they were visionary in what they were, and are, building.”
“I wasn’t super knowledgeable about the philosophy of web3, at the time. LUKSO was my first interaction and it was all super positive. Like, I’ve joked in other interviews that I couldn’t sleep for like two nights afterwards because the potential really blew my mind. Marjorie and I stayed in touch and talked more. Initially I was going to do an iteration of Hot Second in Berlin. But the more we talked, the more we realized there’s something bigger here, and we bonded over the concept of decentralization amongst other things.”
“We started working more closely and figuring out how to integrate LUKSO and Dematerialised, it was all just a very positive experience.”
“And I’m sure you’re familiar with Hugo… he was fundamental to building Dematerialised and had such a vision and understanding of the process. And he really made a lot of things possible during our beta testing when we released the first HexJerzos in December 2020.”
“When I surveyed people afterward, most of them hadn’t ever minted an NFT before and couldn’t believe how easy it was to create a Universal Profile, and how fun it was.”
“So yeah, I’m very excited about what LUKSO is building!”