Fashionable Virtonautics -XR Couture

-> If you are really interested in digital fashion, one place where you find a diverse palette of garments at an affordable price is XR Couture 
-> If you are not interested in digital fashion, you might be, after visiting XR Couture
-> And if you would like to find out the intriguing story behind XR Couture, then this is the place you can read it …

We talked with the Co-Founder of XR Couture, Subham Jain – an architect that entered the fashion world- about his adventure to set up XR Couture, fashion in the Metaverse, but also about his first digital costume 🙂
Subham Jain grew up as a gaming enthusiast, also creating gaming communities, monetizing games; the gaming world was the main place where he would interact with friends. He graduated as an architect, and practiced a few years in Singapore, before moving back to his hometown from India where he set up his own architectural practice. And, after a while, he started to get into fashion….

Subham Jain
Founder at XR Couture 

TVA: You are an architect, but you’ve started a fashion platform, can you tell us a little bit about how was this path/process?

Subham Jain: My family’s been in the fashion industry for over two decades – manufacturers – and we’ve been supplying clothing to brands across the world, especially US.
I’ve always been a tech enthusiast and somebody with a very minimal lifestyle, it’s sustainable as such. And I looked into the process of how the garments have been manufactured, and I found them to be very outdated.
The first thing you need to do is get a sample approved – the sample approval process will take over three months.
The main reason is that it’s a physical sample, which you need to ship to your buyer that can be in Europe or America. To ship it from India takes time. Afterward, you have to make some corrections. They send the sample back to you, and so on.
For me, especially coming from architecture, I saw this process to be really outdated – in architecture, we construct buildings by just getting approval for a 3D model – be it a renovation, a room, or the construction of a skyscraper.
The first thing we do is to create a 3D model, and only once it’s approved, we will make it in real life. But in fashion, they will constantly make physical samples shipping them across.
The entire process was so cumbersome, it would involve so much wastage. But if I can construct a building by just getting approval for a 3D model, why not a piece of garment?

TVA: So, this is how you started it…. Such a wonderful story! But, did it work? What happened when you presented the first 3D model to your parent’s customer?

Subham Jain: First, I had to convince my parents that the 3D sample will look as good as a physical sample. So I had to make one and convince them. And they realized that actually, it is very close to reality, you can turn it around, zoom in and out, see the finer details, see what trims have been used.
This was about two years ago when there were not many fashion brands using 3D tools on a regular basis. As for buyers, it took them a while – we made the samples and sent it to them, just see it for once, at least.
The buyers still needed a physical sample, but that three-month process went down to a month’s time, where there was no physical sample included in the first three iterations.
So when they looked at the 3D design and were happy, we sent them the physical sample, and it was approved at the very first call. So that was all the physical sample, and then slowly moving on, there were no more physical samples – and the only physical asset that was being created was during the manufacturing process.
So that’s how people started adapting to 3D tools. And since that day, I’ve been exploring 3D and fashion and that’s how I started.

TVA: The story is so interesting because with all the critics toward the fashion industry related to waste and raising issues of sustainability, and exactly the problems that you mentioned.
But after this stage, you shifted because now you are a very original marketplace…

Subham Jain: Indeed, that’s the bottom line. That was the first use of 3D and fashion for me, but I wanted to explore what are the other ways that 3D can be used in fashion. So I did a lot of research.
I found out that, for example, Fortnite in 2021, made 2 billion by just selling digital skins – which is basically clothing.
The kind of skins that they sell are ‘chicken costumes’ or an Ironman suit, I mean, doesn’t have a branded logo on it, doesn’t have any high street fashion or any big label on it. () And fashion brands such as Dolce and Gabbana, so luxury fashion brands, in 2021, made 1 billion, which is half of what Fortnite made; And Fortnite did not do any fashion shows, didn’t hire famous designers to create unique designs.
All they did was follow the culture and give it to the right audience. That intrigued me a lot. And even I was contributing to that big economy of gaming skins. I used to buy a lot of these digital fashion items as a kid, I used to beg for my dad’s credit card, just to spend that $5 on a game; to my realization, millions did that, so Fortnite could make 2 billion.
And then I asked myself: if I’ve been buying skins, why not sell them? And why not get fashion brands to make skins for games and sell them because chicken costumes are one thing, but why not do something that makes sense in terms of fashionable products? Also get the culture along, mix them together, sell it to the right audience. That is when fashion was also getting into the gaming culture and that would be the right time.
So, that is where I started getting used to fashion designers creating fashionable 3D designs, and I created a marketplace where people could buy them and put it on themselves. And of course with the vision of selling it on games and virtual worlds someday.
We are creating these 3D designs that we can wear, not just on a photograph but also inside of metaverses platforms.

digital dress in making by @light0green

TVA: And I wanted to ask you a little bit about your target audience – I understand that gamers, but who else? Because, in the beginning, everybody said that digital fashion, it’s just another marketing tool that will fade away, but now I feel that not only gamers buying skins, but also other, non-gamers, are interested in these fashion items.

Subham Jain: Definitely like a year ago, it was mostly gamers. Of course, gamers have a natural instinct towards virtual products. They’ve been buying everything that works.The virtual assets are more valuable than my digital assets. If you tell me that you would delete my Instagram or Fortnite account, I’d be more worried than you know, if you tell me that you take away my T-shirt.

But, this is changing – with all the news that’s been spreading around, and with people being more educated in terms of products that hold high value because of blockchain technology. Slowly people are starting to realize the value of it and investing in it. And, of course, it’s no more the gamers (the main target), I would say it’s a 50-50 market right now, where 50% are still the gamers and 50% are others.

TVA: How the collaboration with designers started? I saw your webpage and Instagram and you have diverse designers, but not only garments, also digital makeup…

Subham Jain: So it’s been run by Creators, I would say. When I started, I started looking for 3D fashion designers and to my surprise there weren’t many. And the people whom I connected to, were actually just recent graduates or in their last year of fashion school. And these were the ones who were actually exploring 3D tools, and only they knew how to create 3D fashion.
I started collaborating with them and understanding what they do. The fashion designers I connected with come from all across the globe. They come with their own culture, design, aesthetics, concepts and different ideas.
Each designer has a completely different style, even the software that they use is different. That’s how we have these many different unique products on our website.

Let me give you an example. We have a design called Ninetale Hanfu, which is a traditional Chinese dress

The designer, (Yifan Pu) was originally based in China, she’s today living in Berlin and that’s where she’s exploring fashion.
The Hanfu that she used, the material, probably doesn’t exist in the real world because it dates back centuries old.
And getting a material like that today in the real world could be super expensive because it’s ancient and it’s probably preserved.

The knowledge that the designers had about this material, she could recreate it in 3D, and make a complete 3D dress, and offer it to everybody to use it.
She made it for our platform, and people could come in and try it. In real life, it would cost millions, but for less than 100$ you can have it digital.
So, we try to get creators so that they can help others express their own creativity very freely and openly.

TVA: And related to your business models, that also evolved, can you share about these shifts?

Subham Jain: Two years ago, we started as a web2 digital fashion marketplace – back then there was no blockchain, there was no NFTs. There were products that you can buy from our website, like a regular e-commerce site where you can browse through the designs and buy a digital product.
Users could upload a photograph, choose a garment, and within a couple of hours we send back the photograph wearing that garment. This was very popular with fashion bloggers. Because fashion bloggers need new outfits every day.
They don’t want to be seen in the same outfit more than once online and heavily rely on fast fashion brands.
They can take garments for $50 or $60 and take a photograph through the garment. But, that is piling up to a lot of ecological issues and it was not at all sustainable and that’s why fast fast fashion has been a very big problem today.

So to solve that, we offered our products which are much more interesting than what you would buy at a fast-fashion or even a high retail brand. These products are creative.

Many influencers get more likes, engagements, shares, because their followers have not seen a design like ours before, because they don’t exist in the real world – we can create anything, a mermaid costume or a dress made of ice. And it’s been very helpful for influencers also during the pandemic where they couldn’t go out to shop for new clothes, so all the same and they get to save the planet as well. So this concept was widely popularized and that was us in Web2. And then when web3 exploded, also when Mark Zuckerberg came out and told Okay, Facebook is Meta, everybody was amazed, “Wow, meta was that’s so nice. I would like to go inside, I would create my own avatar and play games and meet my friends”. So everybody caught into it.

TVA: So, this is when you transitioned to web3, I guess…
Subham Jain: As people started buying and investing in NFTs, scanning the Metaverse and seeing what’s happening, that’s when Decentraland also announced the Metaverse Fashion Week – it happened in March.
We were part of it, and that’s where we launched our first NFT collection and came out with our web3 products and started to sell digital items as NFT. You can wear them as photographs, but also inside of games, Metaverse platforms

TVA: I wanted to ask you a little bit, because I saw that you also have garments for the VR but also like filters for augmented reality.
How do you see the future of digital or virtual fashion like, how will evolve in the future?

Subham Jain: We’re gonna try and make them as interoperable as possible – people should be able to use garments across various digital platforms, just like how you can do with your physical wardrobe.
So let’s say you own a piece of physical garment, you can carry it, travel wherever you like, right?
But in the virtual world, it’s not the same issue. If you have to buy a garment, let’s say from a game like Fortnite, and you’d like to have the same inside of Decentraland, it’s not possible. And that’s because Decentraland and Fortnite are not partnered with each other, the technology does not allow you there is no compatibility, the gaming engine is different, the size of the file required varies.
We are bridging that gap, we are making our 3D assets as interoperable assets, so that people can wear it as AR, or inside multiple games and Metaverse platforms.

copy from Instagram page

Subham Jain: I would say open Metaverse platforms. We have partnered with Decentraland and we did a drop with Decentraland, we are offering our wearables so that people can get in there. And today’s use case is you can wear it in Decentraland, you can wear it as an AR filter and also on a photograph. But, as we progress ahead, we want to partner with games and Metaverse platforms so that people can wear them on these platforms as well.

And that is where the world is moving towards where it will all be more open. Because today if you want to publish a design on these on Fortnite, you need to partner with them, there is no other way of doing it. But it’s easy on Decentraland – it’s an open Metaverse, any creative can go on that list the design for sale and you know start selling their products over there but it’s not the same with closed gaming and Metaverse platforms.
copy from Instagram page

TVA: Do you think in the future, physical and digital fashion will try to mix or it will be in competition?
Subham Jain: Phygital is happening today, I would say. Brands are opening physical stores outlets where they are selling their physical outfits as NFTs.
Some are even opening virtual outlets, inside of Metaverse and selling physical outfits. Instead of going on the E-commerce platform and ordering it, you go into the Metaverse store, buy it as an NFT and get the physical product shipped to you. And in some cases, for example Dolce and Gabbana sold NFT which is also a physical and digital product.
So you get the same physical and digital product that you can wear in the physical world and also a digital product of it which you can wear inside the Metaverse.

Shot question:

TVA: What was your first digital fashion asset that you bought for yourself?
Subham Jain: Of course I’ve bought a lot for in-game credits. But I think my first real money spent was a joker costume inside of a game because I liked the movie The Dark Knight a lot and I loved the character of Joker. And I just wanted to dress up as Joker on Halloween.
I couldn’t do that in real life because it takes a lot, you really need to go out somewhere and purchase the right costume, get the makeup and hair done. And neither was Halloween celebrated in my city.
So I really wanted to do that and go out on Halloween wearing Joker costume. So that was my first piece, inside the game called Mini Planet when I was probably 13 or 14, and there was a Halloween event where I could actually wear that costume and actually celebrate with people around me.

TVA: If I may ask, do your parents wear digital fashion? 😀
Subham Jain: They still don’t see the value yet in buying products, but I’m sure one day they will. I mean definitely after you know they see me grow, they will want to. I will convince them 🙂

TVA: In the traditional fashion industry, you always had a kind of “gray-zone” , people copying like the original Versace and selling it for 20 euros. What do you think would be the risk for scams in digital fashion?

Subham Jain: So, yeah, I mean, definitely it’s a problem in the physical world. Counterfeits have always been one of the biggest problems that fashion has faced. In digital fashion with the help of blockchain, we can authenticate these products. But, then of course there are fakes even today. There are copyright issues.
I’m sure you’ve come across the MetaBirkins topic (ed note: MetaBirkins – a successful NFT project, but it wasn’t done by Hermès. Hermès sued MetaBirkins – read more here )
So although there is still a problem, people can authenticate, and can identify if that product is real or fake. Simply because it is linked to the blockchain and blockchain is accessible to everybody to open and check if this is an authenticated virtual good that is sold.
So this problem can be solved with the help of blockchain, but of course, it does not stop anybody from just a “right-click-save-as” and saying that I own this. You can say that but you don’t really own it, and people know it.

TVA: Which is your favorite fashion designer, physical and digital?

Subham Jain: I’ve been a very minimalistic person. I like to wear a black T-shirt and a pair of jeans – this is enough for me. I don’t really spend a lot on my physical outfits.
But on the other hand, in the 3D world, I like to explore my style, I like to explore my creativity. I don’t mind being someone I’m not in the real world and I’m actually also comfortable expressing it.
Probably if you see my virtual avatars, they’re wearing something really fancy with a lot of lights and different outfits, with so many colors. So, I am not really having a favorite designer in the physical world, but in the 3D world, definitely the designers from my platform, the creators that we’ve onboarded, they’ve been my favorites because I’ve been wearing their designs.

TVA: It’s really interesting because for me digital fashion it’s more about fantasy, not just copying things that you could anyhow wear in the physical world; the intriguing part of digital fashion is that you can be somebody else or you can wear something that cannot exist physically.

Subham Jain: Exactly. I don’t actually think too much before dressing up and probably just pick whatever is on the top of my shelf. And I’m out in two minutes. But dressing up in the virtual world, I actually take time, I probably take around 10-15 minutes to dress up my avatar, thinking what goes well with it, so that I look different when I walk around in virtual words when people notice me, so they think “Okay, that’s probably somebody or he is wearing something really nice”.
That’s been a concept within games as well, I would say- you can always buy really good outfits, but it won’t level you up – you’re not going to go from level one to 10 by buying nice outfits. But it’s going to make you look good and make you feel like you’re a good player in the game.