Welcome to the third episode of PlatformE Podcast.
In this third episode, we are going to talk to Lui Iarocheski, lead architect at VALACLAVA, about how the brand is redefining the meaning of ownership and community by connecting NFT tags to physical clothing. VALACLAVA is a cyber physical stockless game wear brand, bringing the narratives of the gaming world to real life via premium limited clothing.
James: Hello, welcome to the third episode of the PlatformE Podcast. I'm James from PlatformE, and today I'm going to be speaking to Lui Iarocheski from VALACLAVA. Lui is the lead architect at VALACLAVA. So before I start with my list of questions I want to put together for you Lui, can you give me a little insight or a little overview into yourself? Introduction to professional background?
Lui: Great. James. It's an honour to be here.Pretty much at home here in Porto.Nice to be visiting PlatformE`s headquarters. Actually my background is in fashion design. I went to fashion design school when I've been working in the fashion industry across multiple roles, from designing all the way to owning my own fashion brand for over ten years. I had a very successful fashion label back in Brazil, was sold as one of the top five male wear labels in Brazil. In 2017. I did fashion shows in Vienna, Vancouver, San Paolo, showcasing collections in Sweden and Tokyo. But around 2017 / 2018 I started to fashion a lot of the things that were wrong in the fashion industry. From bad sustainability practices all the way to the lack of innovation. And I started experimenting new technologies, 3D fashion design and I dove myself deeply into this 3D digital technologies and I completely switched my mindset from a traditional fashion designer fashion entrepreneur to a fully digital 3D fashion enthusiast.This is where I am right now, working as an advocate of not only sustainability fashion, but for innovations in the intersection of technology with the fashion industry to try to solve these big problems that the industry has. So we'll pick up I want to talk a lot about the 3D and obviously sustainability and how these connects and the connection points, but just generally what inspired the creation of VALACLAVA. First, I believe we were gathered as a group around things that we love, which is obviously fashion and fashion design. So VALACLAVA is a team of fashion laboratory. We truly believe that we are not only the best in the world when it comes to 3D fashion design, but also in fashion design. We have people who had their own brands for many years or worked for big brands within fashion design departments. Our passion for gaming, gaming has been a great part of my life since the early 90s from the fourth generation of video games, super Nintendo, the Saga Saturn or Mega Drive all the way to this big e-sports event and obviously technology. We are all passionate about these new hot topics around blockchain crypto, NFTs and this group of people, this community tried to tie together all of these passions that we have and we decide to create a business around the intersection of the three major topics, which is fashion, 3D digital fashion, gaming and technology like web3, metaverse, blockchain,generator…
James: That's the core DNA of the brand itself. Would you say those three elements?
Lui: Yeah, exactly. Our goal, our big mission is to actually create a future proof fashion brand that is ready for this next iteration of Internet, which is Web3.That will be mostly driven by the metaverse,such a trendy topic right now that we're still trying to get a grisp around it decentralized finance and tokenization of things like with NFTs and the digitalization also of things in general because we are moving towards more like living our digital life and digital space in this metaverse and I believe that fashion will take a bigger role when dressing our digital avatars, let's say. And we also don't want to lose the physical element of it.So we create a brand that aligns the intersection of phygital we call cyber physical, a brand that sells garments that live both in real life in the physical world, but it's also ready for the metaverse.
James: In layman's terms, let's say, how does the NFT directly connect with the physical ? What's the offering like to the end client, let's say.
Lui: Yeah, we look at the NFT as its main value proposition,which is to give proof of ownership of digital assets. And when linking this to a physical garment, we can basically grant the ownership of a physical garment using blockchain technology to verify that you who purchase that garment on our ecommerce or a brand that has the same strategy on the ecommerce actually owns that garment. And then the benefits go beyond that because once you give proof of ownership using blockchain technologies. You create a relationship that we call it like the CRM 3.0. Where you don't actually connect with the clients on more like email level. But actually it's a relationship wallet to wallet because you have your client's wallet address. Then you can reward him or she with benefits, new garments,early access to other collections. You can create gated communities where these clients that you have belongs to your company as well, and they can engage with other people within the community to help you co-create the brands, engaging on subjects that your brand revolves around. And also we foster the secondary market because we have seen this almost like gamification aspect of it where people buy the physical garment and obviously they get the ownership of the digital twin version of the garment. And once they sell the digital asset only, let's say if they sell this digital asset to celebrity, like Paris Hilton or Rihanna the value of the physical garment that they still physically own increases because once they scan the tag that we have on our garments that shows the product as part of the garment, it will state that Paris Hilton or Celebrity X owns that garment. So increases in value because someone that is famous owns it. Basically, for us, it works like this. The NFT, the digital part of passive part that keeps record of who owns the garment, gives proof of ownership, proof of authenticity. Because as our brand sits on a more premium category, we are already preparing ourselves for a future where we need to prove that our garments are authentic. And beyond that, also the whole blockchain technology offers transparency when it comes to the traceability of our supply chain. So you can keep track of the provenance, where the garment was made, which facility, which factory, all the stakeholders involved in the process.So it's really ID for the best part that comes tight with the physical garment.
James: So, just picking up on your earlier introduction in terms of how you see the fashion industry going and points that you've said about obviously the community,the decisions that are made around the brand itself from a sustainability point of view and all you guys are using certain on demand strategies, so you're not mass producing garments along with these digital assets. Was this something that you wanted to push? Is this something that the community is striving for? And what are the technologies in place to make sure that you stick into the mission?
Lui: Yeah, on demand operations was something that we had in the strategy since the beginning. We really believe that in the world, we don't need any more fashion products unless people want to. There's a huge problem now, the biggest challenge that the fashion industry faces as a whole is overproduction and dealing with inventory optimization. And as we want to be a future proof brand, we started by looking for solutions for technology that will help set up on demand process, meaning that we would fake it until we make it. We would create digital garments, sell this digital product and only produce the physical version of it once sale is made. So we set up this process. It was quite challenging the beginning because imagine you go with a completely different model of production to a factory that is used to mass produce garments and you tell them that you want to produce one of a kind and this garment is actually highly customizable. It's quite a shock for them because we're challenging their status quo and they have to think about a new layout plan on the factory, how to actually read the 3D assets that we deliver to them via tech pack, how to translate that into digital sample, because we actually avoid sampling because that's also a big waste in the fashion industry. When you produce and carry the 3D assets with rich data all the way to the point of sale, to the point where we actually only have the physical garments once the sale is made. We had a lot of challenges when implemented, but finally it's fully realized and it's working and now we want to reach scale, having the potential to expand the complexity of our garments. So for our next collection, we have very complex garms like outwear and jackets. This is the challenge now. We are trying to solve how to create very complex terms like outwear in an on demand model, producing maybe one of a kind or maybe small batches, but not in the mass production line. So this is a challenge.
James: We're seeing obviously with the services, that PlatformE provide, what we assist brands with and the strategy and the project that we can implement with our clients.We're seeing a lot of not exactly similar, but a lot of similar sort of strategies being put in place by brands.Do you think that this way of working is going to be majorly disruptive to the fashion industry in general? Is this going to be the future or is this going to be something that only a few can achieve?What are your thoughts on them?
Lui: I think it's going to be a big disruptor in the fashion industry as a whole because sometimes we think this is a bit too far ahead because we think too much on the main to measure or producing one of our kind garments. But if you think that like producing small batch production or doing pre orders sales, it's actually a model of on demand production that a lot of the big fashion houses or even fast fashion companies, they work on it and it's a way to change from mass production that is not a big disruption, but it's something towards on demand. So I think we'll get there. And other industries, they already do. If you look to automotive industries, they work on the on demand model and we do not see cars with huge stocks of cars that are not sold. And end up on a field this is mostly happening in fashion.
James: Touching or going back to VALACLAVA. I want to talk a little bit about current projects. What's coming in the future is that obviously I don't want all the inside secrets of the minute. You can tell me that when we're not recording. But what's the plan for the future of the brand? What projects that you're working on at the moment? I know obviously you were talking about more complex builds and more complex garments, but what's going on now? What can we do now? What can we see now?
Lui: Yeah, two months ago we launched our offer collection. It's the Infinity collection, the collection that you currently see on the website. And this collection, we call it a beta collection because it is our stable collection that we want to use as a way to test not only our business model, but also get feedback from our community on the people around the VALACLAVA clan, the VALACLAVA community that we call and also do the set up at the factory level. So everything is work well for now, which is our second step. Go very successfully in a smoothie way. And this will be our big launch with the Call of Duty franchise.We just partnered up with one of the activations main IP, which is Call of Duty, probably one of the most played games in the world.And the team has designed a collection inspired by the Call of Duty road. It's a first person shooter that is military inspired, but we are taking these elements and bringing to the stylish fashion forward. So we are creating a super stylish collection of ultra linked aparell that will carry a lot of Call of Duty elements, a lot of military inspirations camels outwear, very complex like track pants. It's looking super cool. I cannot wait to share with you. And this will be ultra limited. We have four designs and each design will have a run of 300 units each. So this is going to be ultra rare garments that people who buy it first will get their own hands on it, but if they miss it, they'll never find it again. Because this is one of our strategies as well, to create collectible garments that sell out fast. And once they are sold out, you cannot find any more. Only by trading on the secondary markets, or anything like that.
James: So obviously away from your guys's website and the online store itself. How would I get involved in the community? How would I know about these drops? How do I get to know that?
Lui: Yeah, in Web3, community is a big element of brands and projects that are born within the Web3 context. And for VALACLAVA, it's not different. Maybe the thing that differentiates us is that we don't revolve around the hype, which most of the NFTs do. They create this project, they create community. They built a lot of hype around this NFT collection, digital collectibles only to drop this, and then they create a community around what has been sold. And the people who are buying for Fleet, who have all these terms around the NFT communities, but for VALACLAVA, it's a bit different because we don't have a white list. We don't do mincing. Actually. When you buy a garment, you get your NFT. So people in the community are not there just because of the hype or for speculation. They are there because they really like fashion technology 3D fashion and most of all gaming. They like to sit around and discuss around these topics and get involved with the brand. And this is one thing that we do quite well, is to engage with the community to get feedback on the design. Because the idea for us as well, like our moto as a fashion designers working at VALACLAVA, is to debunk the myth of a brand that is born with a superstar designer. We don't believe that the future relies on one creative director creating a brand and dictating what people should wear, but actually people having the right to decide what they want to wear and actually being part of the creative process. So we not only bring these people within our community to co-create with us, but we also offer the element of customization in our point of sale in our ecommerce, where actually when you go buy our garments, you can make it your own. You can change your prints, change design elements. Like we have the base there, we have the hoodie, we have the jack, we have the pants, but the pink, the prints, the colors, if it has pockets, no pockets. If it's shorter, it's longer, it's up for you to choose. And this creates an extra level of uniqueness. You make a garment that's already scars, rare, even more unique, you make it your own.
James: Obviously, the current partnerships that you're forming and the current businesses that you're looking to work with, are you going to be focusing on not from just an audience point of view, just gaming and teasing and things like that. Are you open to working with other brands? Are you open to obviously assisting with his strategy with other brands and building other projects, maybe outside of gaming within different sectors or different industries? Is that too much of a broad question or plan?
Lui: I think I got you, there are two ways to look at this. One is we're actually having an approach a lot by brands, especially other NFT projects, who also want to offer the physical element as a utility to their NFT communities. If they come to us. Because we're already developed this. We already have the launchpad done for VALACLAVA. But they want to pretty much recreate what we havedone from the 3D digital fashion design all the way to linking the digital twin the NFT with the physical garment using the tags that we create in partnership with the startup here in Portugal called Uniqueness. All the way to the on demand operation. Because this is the hardest for these brands. They know the suppliers, but the suppliers always request MOQ, a minimum order quantity to produce the garments. So they actually have to produce large patches of garments. And for them, because the NFT owners of these brands, they want to trigger or claim the physical garments whenever they want, the factory needs to be ready to receive an order whenever the client wants that physical garment. So we have that set up. So we have these brands and projects approaching us for us to either consult or develop the process and products for them. For now, we are saying no to this project because we are really in build mode for VALACLAVA and we are now getting a lot of traction. So we are super excited with VALACLAVA. Once you keep focus, focus is always important. But the other angle that we have on these partnerships and projects that we are not only looking out for it, but also being approached and we are saying yes to our metaverse activations. For example, we are now developing something with Snapchat in partnership with Skinvaders where we are recreating. They already done 3D garments of VALACLAVA and exporting this as AR filters. So people will have access to the VALACLAVA garments on Snapchat as filters. So you can actually wear these on a digital environment via AR or other projects like Block Wars, project Kepler, both are metaverse experiences. One is more Asia focused. They're based in Japan at Block Works and they created a social metaverse platform that revolves a lot around fashion. People can buy and sell fashion within this Metaverse and we are being the first brand to activate with them in this metaverse. And then Project Kepler is a more hyper realistic metaverse experience that we also announced an official partnership with them where we have VALACLAVA within the experience. So people who buy the physical garments, they have the same digital assets and they can, via their wallets, take this digital garment and use this metaverse that I mentioned but also filters in Snapchat. And our goal is to amplify that because we don't see one big metaverse being made anytime soon. But we will actually have an infinite number of little metaverses that are all connected and interoperability. Here is key. People need to be able to use their assets in multiple experiences and we are trying to solve that by partner up with different metaverses of that move or go towards is cyber physical experience where people experience physical but also digital as an extension.
James: So a lot of work is going on. In terms of Product Passport. How do you link the Product Passport to the physical garment itself?
Lui: Yeah, this is something that we are veryproud of to develop this technology, this link between the physical and the digital. So we work with this company here that I mentioned called The Uniqueness, and they create these tags that are super unique and they are actually design elements in our garments. So try and cannot remove this tag. And the tag contains not only an NFC chip inside carrying all the information, but also what we call the chaotic visual code that people, once they get the garment, they download our VALACLAVA apps and they use the app to scan the tags, both the NFC and with the camera, the visual code on top of it, which is completely unique. It's different from each tag and it's random. So we give like two layers of authentication and this tag. And then within our app, the Product Passport opens up showing the exact image of that physical garment. There is scarcity of the garment. So let's say that James bought the first hoodie of the collection of 300 units.It will say that you own the hoodie, number one out of 300. It will also obviously state theownership that who owns the garments.Like James Murray is the owner of these garments. The provenance, all the traceability of the garmentalso a link to the opensea NFT, the digital version, so you can keep track of the sales and the secondary market of your digital assets all the way to the access to our Discord community where the magic happens.
James: And this is where there is an open forum for changes within certain products, within the brand itself, by the majority of the community.
Lui: Exactly. That's where our community lives. That's where we engage. We play games all the way to co-creating new designs, thinking about the next job, the next partnership. And it's also where we keep our community updated with our roadmap and our future development.
James: So there are usually two questions that I ask at the end of the conversation that we have just to wind down. So the first of the questions we usually ask is there a brand out there that you're personally impressed with what they're doing? But from the conversation, it seems to me like you're working with literally everybody and anybody on a range of different areas. So is there a specific partner that you think is doing really impressive things that work really well? It's leading in them in their specific area?
Lui: Okay, I can split this answer in two. First, a friend that I impressed by and I've been following since their Genesis is obviously Artifact recently bought by Nike. And I'm impressed because they are taking this whole concept like mainstream and in a large scale. But the project that I really admire is actually the Prada Time Capsule, not only because I'm a fan of The Prada brand, but also because I see there like a real purpose and potential to actually proof that connecting fashion, digital fashion and NFTs or Blockchain can be done in a meaningful way because they are launching these monthly collections of digital NFTs. You buy physical garments and then you can claim the physical version of the garments. And they also use pretty much the same strategy that VALACLAVA is doing. Not sure if they are linking the physical with the digital, I don't think so. But they actually have behind them the Auto Consortium, which is a consortium, a group that is focusing for providing this connection between physical garments and product bestforce using blockchain technologies. So I think they use this pretty soon. But also the coolest thing is that they use stock fabrics to create these NFT drops. So each garment use fabrics that were used in collections from a decade ago. So this is super cool because every month they drop something that is quite unexpected and carries an element of heritage and also sustainability because they are using repurposing stock fabric. And also on each garment you see there's prints on the back that states the month and the number of the drop.It brings us the connection of the scarcity, the collectible side of things. So I really like this project because I think they can take this to inspire other brands just as we are aiming with VALACLAVA as well.
James: So the final question, what advice would you give to because of quite a lot to watch, what platform you're putting out in terms of material, obviously the social posts and things that we do. We have a lot of students, a lot of people starting out or maybe junior positions or interns within fashion companies. What advice would you give your younger self to maybe get to where you are or if there have been the same feelings as what you had when you were younger in terms of where the fashion industry is going and the things are being done, what advice would you give younger you?
Lui: Yeah, I think every fashion designer, especially when we are younger, we have this innocence that allows us to pretty much have this antenna to grasp what is to come, the new thing, the newness. One advise I would say not to lose is that innocent and curiosity about the new, especially when it comes to other industries. And this is something that the fashion industry is a bit old fashioned. They are very close and they don't look too much for what is happening, for example, on technology side or even finance. So my advice would be for fashion designers. Fashion design students or fashion business students. Text style designers students. Textile engineers. You should look for inspiration outside the fashion industry. Especially within engineering and technology. So we can learn new models of production to fix what is wrong with ours and also to technology to understand more what is available. What are their tools that are out there that we can use to create meaningful product that customers really want to buy and that are future proof. Because I don't think customers are really interested and neither should we as fashion designers to care too much about what is the next sprint of the season. A tiger, zebra, animal print will be high, be in or out. I don't think we should care about that. And we need to try to fix these major problems that the industry has. So more practical tips to be learn 3D, learn about Web # and the possibilities there. Visit a factory, learn how factory operates, from product development all the way to shipping to understand the whole supply chain. And try to connect all of these dots, see what is wrong, what can be fixed and what you can do to fix it.
James: Thank you for all the information, all the answers, and obviously a bit more background on VALACLAVA. It was an absolute pleasure to have you, Lui. I'm sure a lot of you are receiving links and notifications and this has been recorded. We did try to go live, but we did have some technical issues. I'm sure everybody has had the similar issues within digital meetings and stuff during the pandemic. So we do apologize. You can follow PlatformE across all platforms and the website to get updates on not only this episode, but future episodes to call again.
Thank you, Lui.
Lui: Thank you again. It was an honor. And if you want to know more about VALACLAVA obviously you can join either on Discord or website. We have our full information. No disclosure, everything's. We will post some links or attach some links to all sites and everywhere that this podcast is displayed.
James: Thanks again, Lui.