DressX, the digital fashion brand started by three Ukrainian women and a partner to Farfetch, Pacsun and Jason Wu, is partnering with Warner Music Group (WMG) to dress up the company’s recording artists in metaverse fashions.
Which artists those are won’t be released until May, but with the likes of Madonna, Cardi B and the Smashing Pumpkins just a few of the hundreds on the WMG roster, the drop is bound to be a star-studded breakthrough for the design team that traces its origins to the Kyiv fashion scene of the early 2010s.
“We are obviously super-happy to start working with Warner Music,” said DressX co-founder Daria Shapovalova. “Digital merch and swag from musicians will definitely be a part of the digital wardrobes of fans. The mission of our company is to build a digital wardrobe for every person in the world.”
The line will allow consumers to purchase digital clothing of and by the artists themselves, who will work with DressX to create the styles. These 3D and AR pieces can be worn on metaverse platform partners, including Snapchat and Instagram, and according to a Warner Music Group press release will “enable artists to unlock new revenue streams, while creating additional outlets for fans to showcase their fandom across multiple digital worlds.”
“The representation of our future digital selves will be as important and, if you’re measuring by sheer volume of interactions, maybe more important than how we represent ourselves physically,” said Oana Ruxandra, chief digital officer & EVP, business development, WMG. “With its leadership in wearables and sustainability, DressX is exactly the type of partner we need sprinting alongside us as we build for the future.”
Shapovalova, a TV journalist and host of her own show about local fashion at age 19, became the organizer and creative designer of the Mercedes Benz Kiev Fashion Days before pulling up stakes and emigrating to San Francisco to pursue her MBA and a career in technology. This was back in 2016, long before the concept of designing clothes for a metaverse avatar was on anyone’s radar.
“When we started the company, there was no word ‘metaverse’—it was just technology and it still is just tech; meta is just a buzzword,” she said. “The main disruptions are happening on the verge of different industries with tech, and the way AI is used, and this is exactly the way fashion can be disrupted.”
Not far behind Shapovalova came longtime friend Natalia Modenova, who shared the dream of “putting Ukranian fashion on the map” back in Kyiv, and joined Shapovalova in California around the same time in 2016. There, they met up with tech and marketing specialist Julie Krasnienko, who by the time all the brainstorming was done, would become the head of product for DressX when it launched officially with three co-founders in August 2020.
“We built this international distribution system for Ukrainian designers and we’re still kind of actively developing that further,” said Modenova, who added that the Ukranian city of Kharkiv, which was shelled repeatedly by Russian forces early in the 2022 invasion, was, and still is, a hotbed for technological minds. “There’s a lot of talented 3D designers coming from there and all these people keep working because it’s important to kind of create value for the world and they do it with their work.”
Kyiv Fashion Days came to a halt when Shapovalova left in 2016, but she still does what she can to promote Ukranian fashion, wearing a real-world cardigan during a video interview on Tuesday, along with dangling earrings sporting the blue and yellow of the Ukranian flag, earrings that exist only as augmented reality.
“Actually, the Ukraine fashion scene is very vibrant,” Shapovalova said as she hit a key stroke that turned her earrings into likenesses of the Australian flag. “I had so many friends who were designers who were so extremely interesting and successful, and it was always my goal to put Ukraine on the world fashion map.”
When the company started in 2020 it had 30 pieces of digital clothing; today it has more than 3,000 and included among that number is Support Ukraine Collection, the proceeds from which DressX sends to fashion designers still working within Ukraine.
Shapovalova said the company rushed to get that digital line to market the moment Russia invaded on Feb. 21, 2022.
“Digital fashion can be a tool for not only how creative you are, but to promote the positions you believe in,” Shapovalova said. “Fashion is the language; we just translate it into digital reality.”
The DressX website instructs users on how to take photos of themselves for trying on clothes in augmented reality, which, Modenova says, not only creates a better virtual fitting room experience for the user, but also establishes some needed rules for how to dress in the metaverse.
“A person goes to an event, and their hair, makeup, dress—everything is matching,” Modenova said. “In the digital world, matching is kind of relevant as well. You can’t wear a T-shirt on top of a jacket in the physical world, but in digital, people get very creative and unrealistic. Can you wear a T-shirt on top of a jacket? Well, yes, but it’s not the best outfit.”
Modenova doesn’t see digital fashion as a threat to fashion design in the real world, even if it is a cheaper way to look good and a more sustainable model.
“It’s just a new tool, a new possibility for creatives to create, for businesspeople to make new business, and for the average everyday consumer to have more tools to curate a vision of themselves—it’s a win-win situation,” she said. “It’s not a threat to fashion because we don’t say, ‘shop less’, we say ‘shop digital fashion.’ There is no threat; there are just new ways to be excited, inspired and beautiful.”