House of Blueberry teams up with Natori
Burberry and Minecraft, Ralph Lauren and Fortnite, and even digital closet leader DressX, who has partnered with Balenciaga and Yoox, among others, announced an update on their app, improving the functionality and introducing a subscription model.
The House of Blueberry has also launched a new collaboration with upscale lingerie brand Natori. What makes the House of Blueberry different from Lauren and Burberry is that it's a digital-first clothing company versus a physical brand veering into the Web3 space. FashionNetwork.com spoke to founder and CEO Mishi McDuff and COO Katherine Manuel about the fast-growing 2.0-focused digital variables company.
"We are focused on creating accessible related digital wearables versus scarcity-focused wearables like NFT. House of Blueberry would be like Zara without the environmental impact," she said in a Zoom interview.
To that end, notes COO Katherine Manuel, the partnership with Natori expands the customer base. "House of Blueberry X Natori offers a more accessible price point compared to the luxury product of Natori. This is a super fun way to draw in the brand to Gen-Z and Alpha-gen customers because they are launching a kid's line in the spring," she said on the same Zoom call.
The collection will consist of five clothing silhouettes, three accessories, and six hairstyles and be available to Roblox users' avatars. The Natori showroom is reinvented on Roblox in 'Blueberry World'.
Josie Natori, who founded the business with her husband ken in 1977, expressing enthusiasm for their first metaverse venture, said, "Getting in front of new customers and pushing the brand forward have been major initiatives for us, and this partnership has helped us do both."
She added, "The House of Blueberry did a great job translating our iconic prints and designs into a collection geared towards the Roblox consumer while staying true to our Natori DNA."
McDuff, who calls herself a serial entrepreneur with a computer engineering and business background, became obsessed with coding in high school. At 15, she started a social network called Xuqa when Facebook only had 6 million users. It was eventually sold to Microsoft. Another start-up she created won awards and was also sold.
As an early adopter of metaverse-precursor games, McDuff attended a Skye Galaxy concert streamed on the early-stage virtual platform Second Life.
"I attended in my newbie avatar and felt out of place seeing the rest of the other avatars. There were fairies, superheroes, and warriors. Mine was simple compared to theirs. I downloaded photoshop and created a polka dot dress."
McDuff met her now husband on the platform as avatars. "I wore the dress to another concert, and everyone asked if they could buy it."
She saw a huge market of people willing to spend money to express themselves online. The digital wearable dress debuted in 2012, and sales grew steadily from $60K the first, the following year $400K, $700K, then a million, with a team of three. This is how House of Blueberry was founded."
Fast forward as the company marks ten years, the company has raised its first round of venture capital in 2021 with an undisclosed partner and amount and moved beyond just Second Life to team up with Robblox.
"We launched on Roblox with a collaboration with the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, which raised $10,000 in charity funds for the Child Mind Institute."
A February 2022 collaboration with designer Jonathan Simkhai was their first foray into a formal fashion week showing. "He was really involved in the process and launching shoes, so it was exceptional," remarked McDuff of the partnership.
The Raleigh, North Carolina-based firm has ten full-time employees plus a slew of contractors. While a traditional fashion designer isn't on staff, House of Blueberry has a chief creative director, TK Ashley Hopkins, who works with the team creating the wearables. The company boasts working with cSapphire, a buzzy Gen-Z wearable designer who recently won Britain's Fashion Award for metaverse design and has partnered with Gucci.
McDuff's acumen guides what is made. "We have ten years of data knowing what sells in the metaverse. We can spot trends early online. We saw the 90s and Y2K trend with avatars wearing crop tops and low-rise jeans."
Manuel concurs. "We are a fashion brand at House of Blueberry, but we also have a history of understanding how commerce works in these spaces and monetizing it," she said. They also simply understand the concept of gaming and possibilities for fashion which is rushing to catch up to the gaming world.
For instance, digital wearables are not NFTs which are exclusive and scarce. Wearables are made to be available to a broad audience; something McDuff insists the market is looking for.
"They want relatable, accessible, and consistent content."
Another key aspect is that wearables don't transfer from one platform to the next, so, in theory, if you want to wear the same thing on different platforms, such as Roblox, Second Life, and more, you have to buy it for each. Prices are attainable, averaging around $2 on Second Life and $1 to $1.50 on Roblox per item.
"There is a real interest in fashion and beauty to figure out what is happening in these digital spaces and how to work with it, "Manuel added.
For instance, Roblox has a dedicated team doing this, and Nars cosmetics has a chief metaverse officer. The COO became interested in this world during the pandemic.
"My daughters' ages 10 and 14, are Alpha generation. I saw they find community on these platforms, so there is a huge market opportunity here."
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