Technology

Inside Jill Martin’s Immersive Shoppable TV Platform

Inside Jill Martin’s Immersive Shoppable TV Platform

Jill Martin has been incredibly busy. After introducing a new business to the world, another entrepreneur might take a break to unwind from all the stress and preparations. Instead, the “Today” star got married.
Just over a week since she unveiled her immersive new TV shopping platform, Shop the Scenes, this month, Martin tied the knot with banker Erik Brooks at the New York Public Library. The “Steals & Deals” host let WWD in on a little-known detail about the event: French haute couture designer Pierre Cadault was a key figure at her wedding — which is fascinating, because he doesn’t actually exist outside of Darren Star’s Netflix series, “Emily in Paris.”

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The character, played by actor Jean-Christophe Bouvet, appeared in luggage form, his face emblazoned on an army of rolling bags for guests, Martin told WWD in an exclusive interview. They were dead ringers for the customized Rimowa trunk from season two, a popular item that sent fans blanketing the Internet to secure their own. They weren’t available to purchase then, but they will be via Shop the Scenes.

Pierre Cadault luggage from “Emily in Paris” stands at attention at Jill Martin’s September wedding in New York. Photo exclusively for WWD.

Turns out, those bags weren’t just wedding swag. They were a preview of a signature STS offering: The business is actually manufacturing fictional “in-show brands” like the Cadault bags, manifesting invented products from beloved TV series into actual ones available for sale. Other items from real-world brands will be sourced directly from the shows, and cast as 3D graphics that fans can shop inside virtual WebVR environments, each designed to reflect a given show.

Think of it as a multifaceted approach to bring immersiveness to shoppable TV.

As for Martin, she’s been absorbed in the shows since she cofounded the business with her partner, entertainment company 101 Studios. She has been living and breathing “Yellowstone” and “Emily in Paris,” even decorating her home with the series’ merchandise. She somehow balances that, while still focusing on her broadcast work, including showcasing her own brands on QVC.

And, of course, she also had a wedding to plan. So perhaps some overlap was inevitable.

“I’m so grateful for all the opportunity and what we’re building in all of these arenas,” she said. “The thread that keeps it all together, all of it, is just passion and love for what I do…it’s part of my life, and so the shows [were] incorporated into my wedding.”

Guests even sipped Champere, the abysmal champagne from “Emily” now transformed into a delicious sparkling wine. The bubbly will join a broad but highly curated selection of merchandise ranging from $10 to $10,000 across clothes, beauty products, furniture, jewelry, home goods and more, as seen on beloved TV shows.

Jill Martin at the New York Public library

Courtesy photo/Ben Finch

Shop the Scenes appeared at Martin’s wedding via merchandise.

Courtesy photo/Ben Finch

Jill Martin and Erik Brooks’ pop a very special bottle of bubbly.

Courtesy photo/Erika Dame

Champere, the terrible champagne from “Emily in Paris,” is now a delicious sparkling wine, said Martin.

Courtesy photo/Erika Finch

Wedding guests were among the first to sip the transformed wine.

Courtesy photo/Erika Dame

A celebration of Champere

Courtesy photo/Erika Dame

In a retail market bursting with e-commerce platforms, shoppable TV efforts, virtual worlds and initiatives targeting fan communities, it’s natural to wonder if there’s room for yet another, or how this one can distinguish itself from the pack.

But what those businesses don’t have is Martin herself.

A former sportscaster and a New York Times bestselling author, the Emmy-winning media personality has built a career as a fashion and lifestyle authority and e-commerce expert with a knack for igniting sales. Her bio credits her as the first to pioneer the concept of bringing shopping into unscripted television. One media report claims she drove as much as $60 million in revenue for “Today” in 2018 alone.

In other words, she has an innate understanding of what consumers want. Her partner, entertainment company 101 Studios, knows what the studios want. This blend, she said, is Shop the Scenes’ secret sauce.

“[Longtime friend and 101 cofounder David Glasser] understands, from a showrunner perspective, why it’s so important for products to be organic and available to the consumer,” she explained. “And I come at it from a viewer perspective and a consumer perspective of how we make that environment seamless and enjoyable. And so with the merging of 101 Studios and David and myself…we have all the areas covered.”

Together, they aimed to flip the old model — retail’s use of storytelling as a tool to drive sales — to show storytellers how the shopping platform can expand the worlds they’ve created to the real world, in real time.

“Rather than ad placements, we’re coming at it by working with the showrunners, working with the costume and set designers, and that is where the difference is, where it’s never been done before,” she continued. “There are so many times that you’ve watched something and you love it, and you’re scouring the Internet, and [wondering,] ‘Where do I get it?’ Now the behavior will just be there, to know that you could go to Shop the Scenes and just get it with one click. It’s an authentic and organic way to shop your favorite show.”

As if to punctuate the point, she held up her hand. She was wearing Rip’s ring from “Yellowstone.”

It’s an ambitious play to redefine what an immersive fan experience can be, and according to Martin, creators like Darren Star find it rather compelling: “I flew to Paris to meet with Darren and Stephen [Joel Brown, producer], and they gave me insight into the brands that will be pitched in this coming season,” she added. “And so when Emily pitches that brand, you will be able to buy that particular item, as in real time.”

That’s notable, since TV productions are usually locked down to prevent leaks. But it speaks to the platform’s appeal.

“We are so excited to be partnering with Shop the Scenes and to bring the world of ‘Emily in Paris’ directly to fans of the show,” said Brown, Star’s producing partner on “Emily In Paris,” in a statement provided to WWD.

“Our partnership will, for the first time, make the brands and products exclusively created for the show immediately shoppable. Fans will be able to buy everything from Champere to Pierre Cadault luggage to Chez Lavaux kitchenware,” he added. “Bringing the show to life in the real world has always been a goal of ours and our partnership with Shop the Scenes makes this a reality.” Martin and Star are even working on an undisclosed beauty product.

From the fans’ point of view, the experience should feel seamless. By scanning a QR code that will air onscreen, visitors can step inside richly detailed virtual locations that match the show — like rooms at Dutton Ranch from “Yellowstone” — and, as the platform’s name suggests, shop those scenes. In the future, the environments may include digital collectibles or NFTs, Martin said. But for now, the experience is decidedly crypto-free.

Shop the Scenes’ QR code

Shoppable virtual Dutton Ranch environments will be available via WebVR at Shop the Scenes.

Courtesy image

Other retail and shoppable TV initiatives have been using QR codes for years, from NBCUniversal — Martin’s stomping grounds — to a recent Coinbase Super Bowl commercial. In essence, they’ve trained consumers to view the codes as commerce gateways. For Shop the Scenes, they’re also a branding opportunity. Its QR code, which resembles a bag or a production clapboard, was designed to be an icon that viewers will immediately recognize as a doorway to Shop the Scenes’ shopping environment, exclusive content, contests and curated product selection.

Martin is particularly proud to support small brands, in addition to established labels. She even partnered with a tech firm to digitally scan and render products in 3D, removing an obstacle for small operators.

“The item is then placed, and it will look real on the virtual set, so you get a better sense of what it looks like up close,” she explained. “Then the product page will tell you about the small business owner that might have made it.

“We’re able we have hundreds of small businesses, which is so exciting to me. With a lot of women-owned businesses, where if somebody has to hand-make them or make 10 of them, they’re not able to go into retail,” she elaborated. “But because we have a centralized warehouse [in Texas] and distribution, we’re able to help those small businesses, so I’m really jazzed about being able to do that.”

Shop the Scenes will open for business on Nov. 12, timed with Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone” season four marathon, followed by the season five premiere on Nov. 13. Fans will be able to explore select virtual environments at Dutton Ranch styled with products from or inspired by previous seasons. The company is planning to offer watch party kits, gifts, contests, VIP memberships and exclusive content. For the season five premiere, key items from the show will be available for purchase.

The buzz has already begun. Paramount Network aired a Labor Day Marathon with past seasons of “Yellowstone,” with several spots introducing Shop the Scenes to viewers. According to the company, the response was overwhelming. The flood of sign-ups looked like a proof of concept, prompting the business to continue innovating. In addition to virtual shopping via WebVR, the e-commerce site will offer shoppable video and “stills,” and it is exploring partnerships to shop via remote.

Dates for “Emily in Paris,” plus a “Today” holiday pop-up shop on the platform, will be announced at a later time.

But it won’t end there. So far, STS has secured NBC, Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios for its initial wave of shows, but talks are underway with other potential partners. In the coming months, the company plans to announce 25 more shows for next year.

Some could include programs with a younger demographic, so Martin formed a junior advisory board over the summer. The 10 members, ranging in age from 10 to 25, weigh in on topics like gamification or how to appeal to parents.

When STS launches, it will arrive with some 1,000 stock keeping units, Martin estimated — including “Yellowstone” items such as John Dutton’s cowboy hat, from heritage brand Burns Cowboy; the horse saddle that appeared in season four; Beth’s faux fur coat from Geneva-based brand Faz Not Fur, and a very limited collection for Rip’s wedding ring, with only 300 produced.

The “Emily” line of merchandise will feature a limited edited of the Pierre Cadault suitcase and the de Lalisse Champere, in addition to other home goods, beauty, fashion, accessories, travel items and kitchenware.

Sounds like Martin, whose home is already decked out with Pierre Cardeau pillows, blankets and more, may need to get a bigger place.

Beauty’s Bet on Longevity

Beauty’s Bet on Longevity

PARIS — The beauty industry’s lexicon — and focus — keep expanding. Health, then well-being, were buzzwords in the recent past. Now, with their convergence and scientific advances, longevity is becoming a key talking point and industry shape-shifter.Its influence is expected to be widespread, on everything from product creation to services, as people’s lifespan and mind-set keep stretching.
“Our life expectancy has been considerably extended, thanks to recent advances in the medical field,” said Virginie Couturaud, scientific communications director at Parfums Christian Dior. “Today, enabling the human body to remain in good health as long as possible is a major research challenge.

“In this quest for good health, aging, defined by the scientific community as a continuous process of alteration of the different functions of the body, seems to be a hindrance,” she continued. “Recent discoveries have shown that this process is not inevitable, and that it is possible to slow it down and even partially reverse it. This awareness has led to the development of a new research area, whose objective is to explore the different ways to reverse the aging process, offering new perspectives for human health.

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“In the long term, this work will make it possible to significantly extend the human health span rather than the life span, so that people can get older in a healthier way,” Couturaud said.

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Industry experts describe the growing emphasis on longevity as more of an evolution than a revolution.
“The wellness trend is not new,” said Charles Rosier, chief executive officer of Augustinus Bader. “But that wellness trend is evolving with the fact that we have more information and research being made on the topic of longevity and how to measure longevity.
“A few years ago, the main pillar was the length of the telomere,” he continued, referring to the natural end of a eukaryotic chromosome. “Now, other criteria have come into play and other discoveries on the topic.”
A confluence of phenomena contributes to this growing focus on managing aging.
“You’ve got the consumerism of health care being powered by artificial intelligence, technology and stem cell research — so people taking more proactive approaches to their health care, and seeing that in holistic inside and outside ways,” said Lucie Greene, founder and CEO of trend forecasting consultancy Light Years.
Also, as the oldest Millennials turn 40 or 41, age-related concepts and services are starting to skew toward them design- and discourse-wise.
Greene spotlighted concepts such as Millennial med-spa Ever/Body, for instance, which was launched by former Clinique executive Kate Twist as an alternative to traditional cosmetic dermatology offices. The chain, which raised $38 million in Series B funding last year, offers laser facials, Botox, HydraFacial, fillers and laser hair removal.
The VSpot medi spa, another example, is for vaginal rejuvenation and has on its menu treatments such as non-surgical breast lift, intimate lightning and hormone replacement therapy.

Inside VSpot.

Courtesy of VSPOT

Modern Age, a “wellness clinic” officially opened a New York City location in April. Its tag line: “Feel good. Age well.”
The clinic takes a holistic approach to “take control of your aging journey,” combining things like IV drips for skin and hair health, energy and stress; micro-needling and hormone therapies.
Modern Age delves into client’s subjective age — how old one feels — and claims lowering that can lead to a longer, healthier life.
Female biohackers Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps teamed to open Instagram-friendly infrared outposts, called HigherDose, also in New York. It has a location at the 11 Howard hotel and another in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The brand became famous for users’ “sweaty, sexy sauna selfies.”
Eventually, the duo decided to build out a product line for infrared enthusiasts to take home. There is the Infrared Sauna Blanket for $599, the Infrared PEMF Mat for $1,095 and the Red Light Face Mask for $299. The technologies are meant to be “stacked” and build on one another for additional wellness benefits.

HigherDose Red Light Face Mask.

Courtesy of HigherDose

The sauna blanket provides an at-home sauna experience, while the PEMF mat is said to have electromagnetic frequency that is “similar to the earth’s core,” for “calming, grounding [and] relaxing,” Berlingeri said during WWD’s Beauty CEO Summit in May.
The red light technology featured in the face mask is well-known for skin benefits, but the founders also purport that red light “feeds the mitochondria of every single cell to produce something called ATP, which is energy, which means that every single one of your cells in your body is functioning better.”
The tech is said to be a mood booster, too.
During a separate interview, Berlingeri called the face mask her and Kaps’ Trojan Horse into the beauty space.

“What we’re focused on is longevity and vitality,” Berlingeri said. “It just so happens that red light is an amazing antiaging beauty tool, as well. But here we are trying to educate people [that] it’s beyond decreasing wrinkles.
“It’s been exciting to be in this beauty space as two female biohackers,” she continued. “[In addition to] wanting to feel our best, looking our best is something that is top of mind for us, too. But we’ve always felt [that] when you focus on wellness, then beauty comes effortlessly. It’s from the inside out.
“We do feel like there’s so much untapped upside around this whole idea of longevity, vitality and optimization, [with] men still dominating that space more than women are,” Berlingeri said. “Which is kind of an interesting concept, because we feel like women are the original biohackers.”
She and Kapps believe there’s no brand in the wellness space owning longevity.
“We really plan to do that,” Berlingeri said. “Biohacking is the ultimate way to achieve vitality, longevity and just looking and feeling your best.”
The pair seeks to revolutionize topicals and ingestibles that can help people achieve beauty.  HigherDose recently launched High-Dration Powder, based on the whole fruit of watermelon and coconut, mixed with electrolyte and Himalayan salt.
Clinique La Prairie, of Montreux, Switzerland, offers among its treatments a protocol using people’s own stem cells that are clinically harvested and reinjected in order to revitalize skin using the body’s natural resources for regeneration, according to Simone Gibertoni, the clinic’s CEO and cofounder of Holistic Health.
The race is on for beauty companies to tap into longevity.
Dior Science and its parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton have for decades worked with external scientific specialists, and the brand has been pioneering in skin antiaging discoveries.
In early July, Dior said it had entered into a research collaboration with Vadim N. Gladyshev, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, with the aim of reversing cellular aging.
“With this three-year partnership, our ambition is to decipher the biomolecular mechanism of skin aging in order to remodel the skin in a more youthful state,” Couturaud explained.
She added part of the tie-in will include the development of active ingredients to help with age reverse.

“Age reverse discoveries are part of a holistic approach to beauty, which involves healthy skin above all,” Couturaud said.
For Augustinus Bader, the focus has always been on the convergence of beauty, health and longevity. The doctor’s discovery is a communication mechanism to awaken dormant stem cells that can then trigger self-healing in skin.
Rosier described Augustinus Bader’s creams as “epigenetic,” which involves changes of gene functioning but not alterations in DNA sequencing.
“Our cream is all about empowering, nourishing the skin cell environments, so [they] work at their best,” he said. “On the biotech as well as the consumer goods side, we are working on topics about epigenetics and longevity. It could be topicals, ingestibles ­— different things.”
The audience for such products treatments is expected to expand.
“In terms of luxury buying, some people are switching from objects to experience,” Rosier said. “Therefore, in that field of premium experience, all the topics favoring longevity or doing something that has a net-positive epigenetic impact, is a focus that we grow, because the demand for that will grow, as well. Once you have everything, what is the thing that you want? You want to age gracefully and be in as good health for as long as possible.”
However, not all beauty brands will have the capability to tap into longevity, since that requires vast scientific backing.
“We could try to see what discoveries in the field of longevity can be scaled into a consumer goods product,” Rosier said.
Silicon Valley has been funding a lot of research in the field of longevity.
Start-ups such as Altos Labs, a biotech company focused on cellular rejuvenation programming to restore cell health and resilience, and Calico, a research and technology company delving into the biology that controls aging and life span, are helping pave the way in this nascent sector.
“The segment is growing on that tech side, and this is a bleed over into beauty,” Greene said.

Some skin care brands have already put “longevity” into their product monikers. There’s Guerlain’s Le Concentré de Longevité Orchidée serum and Mary Cohr’s Longevity and Tonicity Body Care line, both launched in 2019.

Guerlain’s Le Concentré de Longevité Orchidée.

Courtesy of Guerlain

Clinique La Prairie has just introduced a range of “longevity supplements,” called Holistic Health, “that boost the natural antiaging process from the cells up,” Gibertoni said. “They feature high-diversity plant-based compounds that even the healthiest of diets can’t offer.”
The range’s core product is Age-Defy Regeneressence and Immunity supplements, which Gibertoni said contains “the next-generation longevity formulation,” including antioxidant actives and vitamins.
Shiseido’s highest-end line, named Future Solution LX, is touted as having an exclusive youth-prolonging ingredient.

Shiseido Future Solution LX.

Courtesy of Shiseido

“We were more focused at the beginning of our research into the longevity of plants,” said Nathalie Broussard, scientific communications director at Shiseido EMEA. “This was our source of inspiration.”
In 2017, the group introduced a complex of ingredients named SkinGeneCell Enmei, which helps promote skin cell longevity, into Future Solution LX products. Those are meant to boost well-balanced, global beauty, such as general radiance.
“We have deep research into genes,” continued Broussard, who explained Shiseido researchers had honed in on the surtuin 1 gene, which revitalizes cells and extends their life span. So the idea was to figure out how to improve its functioning to increase skin cells’ longevity.
The Future Solution LX line keeps evolving. Most recently, Infinite Treatment Primer SPF 30 was added to it. At yearend, the Legendary Enmei Ultimate Luminance Serum and Ultimate Renewal Cream are being updated with the Japanese herb Enmei that’s cultivated in a more sustainable way.
“We have demonstrated another scientific action of the extract on another longevity gene, called surtuin 2,” continued Broussard.
Next, the LX Beauty Longevity Set is due to be introduced in March 2023.
As longevity becomes increasingly top of consumers’ minds, addressing changing psychographics is key.

“As you look forward, if you’d like to live longer, a lot of anxiety comes into play,” said Fernando Acosta, CEO of Roc Skincare.
Some of that angst is beauty-related. According to a Roc Skincare study, with more than 600 participants from around the world, but a focus on the U.S. and France, 90 percent of women feel anxious about aging, the primary driver being appearance-related.
“In China, people who are 20 years old are anxious about getting older,” Acosta said.
The overall study showed 60 percent are concerned about how they look as they get older, versus just 43 percent being worried about amassing enough money to retire.
“Ninety-three percent of women told us that optimism can change their life and expressed the desire to learn more about how to do this effectively,” Acosta said.
Roc executives went to a team of experts, including Daisy Robinton, who holds a Ph.D. in human biology and translational medicine.
“She helped us to put together this research between mental health and physical health,” Acosta said.
Another expert was Deepika Chopra. “She makes a link between optimism and longevity,” he said, adding Michelle Henry found the relationship between optimism and skin health.
They looked at people who have radiated optimism through their careers to amplify Roc’s message, and in July, the brand announced a partnership with Sarah Jessica Parker for the #LookForwardProject that is meant to change societal attitudes on aging.

From Roc Skincare.

Courtesy of Roc Skincare

“The headline for me about this is that it’s trying to have a conversation about not covering things up, or not being apologetic about the passing of time,” Parker told WWD in July.
“So our mantra is to change the conversation from being anxious about aging into [one] about the joy of living,” said Acosta, who explained the experts help with practical insights and other advice, found on Rocskincare.com, to anchor the project.
“This is just beginning,” he said. “A great conversation started around the world.”
Such discussions and deep-dives into longevity are just starting for the beauty industry at large.
“As time goes by, the topics of health spans, epigenetics and longevity will become more and more a concern,” Rosier said.
“We don’t know everything about longevity,” added Broussard. “There are a lot of mechanisms we are still trying to decipher, so of course it will open the door to new targets in cosmetics, too.”

Inside LVMH-backed VivaTech: Blockchain, Crypto and VR Fashion Shows are the Future

Inside LVMH-backed VivaTech: Blockchain, Crypto and VR Fashion Shows are the Future

While thousands of attendees packed Paris’ Porte de Versailles convention center for VivaTech, some of the biggest names came as cartoons, and even showed up as holograms.Among them were Facebook parent company Meta’s outgoing chief operations officer Sheryl Sandberg, who appeared as an animated avatar in conversation with L’Oréal chief executive officer Nicolas Hieronimus, while Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was beamed in Star Trek-style from his bunker in Kiyv.
That’s all to say that the sixth edition of the four-day, LVMH-backed conference offered a very eclectic mix of brands and executives on hand to talk tech. Audi showed off its latest connected car, while Amazon and Huawei were there touting new services. L’Oréal brought its beauty brands Lancôme and Skinceuticals to make the case for virtual consultations and AR color matching for makeup, with lines of eager believers wrapping around the room, all while mixing with crypto bros and NFT evangelists.

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Holographic mirrors and virtual try-on were on display, while the “Low Carbon Human Park,” where people were encouraged to chat, play chess and interact IRL, was sponsored by TikTok.
Louis Vuitton and Dior’s parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton took the term fashion house seriously, constructing a grand apartment with various rooms dedicated to each brand and showcasing its technology.
Speaking on stage at the Innovation Awards, LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault reminded the audience that his company started as a small busines, and that ethos still runs throughout the group. He said that luxury and technology share the same core values of creativity, quality and leadership.
“Creativity is the key of the success of LVMH, and it is at the center of what you do with start-ups,” he told the rapt audience. On the point of quality, he commented that there is still “enormous progress to do” in tech areas that relate to retail, citing NFTs, which he noted are “complicated to buy,” and VR goggles, which he said are “not pleasant.” Together LVMH and start-ups can work toward solutions.
“The last value is entrepreneurship. All the start-ups here are made from entrepreneurs, and we are a family of entrepreneurs,” said Arnault. “We share the same energy, the same agility, and the same will to grow.”
Group managing director Tony Belloni said LVMH was previously reluctant to embrace e-commerce because it was associated with “value and convenience, which are not drivers of a luxurious experience.”
“We have over 5,000 stores and we love them deeply because they fully immerse the customer in the brand universe,” he sad. “The challenge is innovating the experience online in a way that we can create the same differentiation that we have created in the physical world.”
At Louis Vuitton, that means bringing special events such as fashion shows, private parties and other “non-reproduceable” events to VIP customers through VR. Last month’s spectacular runway at the Salk Institute in San Diego was shown as an example of an event that could be streamed in VR. Not making the invite list or not being able to attend due to personal scheduling conflicts “generates frustration” for some customers, said Louis Vuitton demand and program director Stephan Emanuely. The new tech would allow customers to virtually attend from anywhere in the world.

Vuitton is also working on interactive technology for VIPs, where they can virtually interact with a personal sales agent “or it can be the designer” for consultations, said Emanuely. 3D renderings of shoes were also on display, so a potential buyer can see down to the stitching on their screen.
LVMH also showcased the interactive shopping system currently available at Dior’s Paris flagship. It operates through Apple technology and behind-the-scenes sourcing so that any product will almost instantaneously appear in front of a customer. No flipping through racks or spending a moment alone here. That system is in the process of being rolled out globally.
Bulgari displayed its Octo Finissimo, the thinnest watch in the world, and its joint NFT which cannot be separated from the timepiece. “We knew that NFTs were going up and down and we wanted to stay completely away from the hype of devaluation,” said high jewelry director Massimo de Valentini.
There was buzz around Guerlain’s crypto bees, NFTs which are tied to a rewilding project. It runs on the Tezos blockchain, which the brand says uses less energy.
LVMH is using data to hone its production and offerings across brands, group information technology director Franck Le Moal told WWD. They run what he called a data factory, with 60 dedicated data scientists and engineers to crunch numbers.
“It’s the whole value chain we are trying to target,” he said about using information to reach the group’s sustainability goals. “The more you have data and accurate forecasts, the better your footprint will be. You will not over-plan your logistics and transportation, you will reduce what you sell and you will adjust production and distribution capability so we will not overproduce. In the end it’s a strong impact on the global supply chain.
“The major impact that we are looking for in terms of supply is to downsize and making sure that we are not having to do reverse logistics because we know that reverse logistics are having a significant value impact on our carbon footprint,” he said.
LVMH brands do not currently accept crypto, but are looking at it. “We are careful,” Le Moal added.

The crypto panel with Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, the founder of crypto-currency exchange Binance, and Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin in conversation with advertising conglomerate Publicis chair Maurice Levy, was the most anticipated event of the week. The two were treated like rock stars with whoops and cheers when they appeared on stage, or, in Buterin’s case, on screen. In one memorable moment, Levy got out of his seat to bow down to Zhao.
Both made their case for crypto despite the volatile markets that have shaken confidence in the currencies over the last few weeks. Buterin also tried to quell any environmental concerns, telling the audience Ethereum is moving from the energy-intensive “proof of work” blockchain used by Bitcoin, to the lower carbon impact “proof of stake” format. The new chain will also make the currency more scalable and accessible to the average consumer for small purchases as it will slash transaction fees.
Italian brand Pinko is one company that has jumped on the Ethereum train. Pinko executives were on hand to reveal their upcoming NFT project, which is a maze of an AR-enabled in-store installation, QR-code, online and metaverse hybrid that results in a digitally-decorated handbag.
The first limited edition drop is scheduled for October and will give buyers access to exclusive events and sales, both real and virtual. The cost is 1 Ethereum, which is roughly $1,100 at current exchange. If a customer wants to pay in local currency they’ll be turned down – it’s Ethereum only.
In more tangible currency, Mangopay, which works with retailers including La Redoute and Veepee, and customer-to-customer platforms such as Vinted, said these types of peer-to-peer marketplaces are seeing the biggest growth. “The main trend in the retail economy is the marketplace trend. For one euro spent in the e-commerce space, [the consumer] spends two in the marketplace space,” a spokesperson said.

Tech Company Stratasys Launches 3D Capsule Collection

Tech Company Stratasys Launches 3D Capsule Collection

MILAN — Israel-based Stratasys, a leader in polymer-based 3D printing solutions, has launched its first 3D fashion collection, created with the Stratasys J850TM TechStyleTM 3D printer and based on 3DFashionTM technology and in collaboration with Italian manufacturing technology industry, Dyloan.The collection, named SSY2 2Y22 Reflection Collection, is especially timely after the past two years of the pandemic, showing how technology and fashion can cooperate to create increasingly sustainable and efficient production solutions.
“We want to maximize the capacity of technology in order to revolutionize the market and make fashion and production more accessible and sustainable,” said Stratasys’ creative director Naomi Kaempfer at a presentation staged in Milan during Design Week. “In addition to collaborating with renowned fashion designers, this year we also wanted to focus on how the pandemic has impacted us, by analyzing themes such as identity, gender fluidity, race and sustainability.” Indeed, the goal of the capsule collection is to create garments and accessories that last over time and that can be worn in all seasons and will therefore reduce waste.

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Stratasys SSY2 2Y22 Reflection Collection includes collaborations with Karim Rashid, Jasna Rok Lab, Ganit Goldstein, Foræva founded by Lana Dumitru and Vlad Tenu, Assa Ashuach, Illusory Material by Jiani Zeng and Honghao Deng and fashion brand Kaimin.
Rashid created four dresses using 3D printed directly onto the fabric to reproduce a tromp l’oeil motif; Rok Lab presented four different styles of garments, each inspired by an emotion: sadness, anger, fear and happiness, reflected by the color of the garment and the positioning of the 3D print. Ashuach conceived an origami bag and shoe incorporating AI technology to collect data. The shoe is being showcased at Dubai’s Museum of the Future for the first time.

Red dress design by Jasna Rokegem and Travis Fitch.
Image courtesy

Kaempfer, who has worked with 3D printing since 2003, believes that this new way of producing clothing could be incredibly beneficial for fashion companies. “We are working with the high-end fashion market, which will be our very first real step in bringing this technology to brands.” She said the advantages “are the acceleration of the production process: thanks to this technology we are able to send the file of the garments we want to produce with the sizes and colors everywhere in the world in a matter of minutes. This way, brands will be able to completely cut shipment costs.”
Sustainability will also be one of the core values if brands will decide to adopt 3D printing as the garments will be made-to-order avoiding overstock, she concluded.

Google Shares Insights Into Browsable Search Results For Fashion Apparel

Google Shares Insights Into Browsable Search Results For Fashion Apparel

Google wants to make it easier for consumers to find the fashions they want.In a blog post Thursday, Google’s Stephanie Horton, director of commerce marketing, said to make online shopping even easier “and more fun, we recently added more browsable search results for fashion and apparel shopping queries. So when you shop for apparel or accessories on Google — like chunky loafers, a lime green dress or a raffia bag — you’ll scroll through a visual feed with various colors and styles, alongside other helpful information like local shops, style guides and videos.”
Horton also shared recent consumer research and search data relating to fashion trends this spring. Horton said some of the top trends right now are Y2K fashion looks, with “products like bucket hats, hobo bags and ankle bracelets” trending as well as the “iconic Clinique ‘Happy’ perfume, Prada crochet bags and linen pants.”

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Regarding the consumer survey, Google found that most fashion, beauty and home shoppers “spend up to two weeks researching clothes or beauty products before they buy them. Many, though, are shopping online just for fun — 65 percent say they often or sometimes shop or browse online when they’re not looking for anything in particular.”
Google’s survey also showed that 60 percent of shoppers say they often or sometimes find inspiration for purchases when they are not actively shopping. For example, 39 percent of respondents seek a specific look or outfit after spotting it on someone else or seeing it online. The poll found that 48 percent of respondents have taken a screenshot of an item they liked, and 70 percent said they searched or bought that item afterward.
The company said this is where its Google Lens app can help. “Just snap a photo or screenshot, and find exact or similar results to shop from,” Horton said.
And to help shoppers try on before they buy, Horton said Google’s AR Beauty was launched “to help users make informed decisions while shopping for cosmetic products online — so you can discover and try on thousands of products from brands like MAC, Estée Lauder and Charlotte Tilbury.”
Consumers can search, discover and try on cosmetics from “a variety of brands carried at Ulta Beauty right in Google Search,” she stated.

SXSW’s In-person Comeback

SXSW’s In-person Comeback

After the pandemic froze the live events industry, it’s fitting that SXSW’s comeback as an in-person festival got underway Friday amid an unusual cold front.Organizers haven’t disclosed attendee figures, but the crowd looks noticeably smaller this year than most. But at least attendees who physically made it to Austin, Texas, seem motivated, as neither the weather nor coronavirus fears could chill their enthusiasm.
“I’m excited to get back into it,” said graduate student Nadia Zaidi, referring to live events. Attending with Yassin Helmy, a SXSW volunteer, she said neither was concerned about COVID-19 — mainly because both just had a bout with it. Helmy, an Austin resident and aspiring founder of an Etsy-like tech co-op and marketplace, looked more concerned that “[SXSW] seems to be more corporate these days,” than about any health-related matters.

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Others might take heart in the decline of U.S. case rates, and recent figures showing Austin and its home state of Texas are on the other side of their Omicron-fueled January spike. For anyone still concerned, the festival’s hybrid approach offered online access for some, but not all, of the activities. The nudge was hard to miss: For the full experience, in-person attendance was the way to go for the complete slate of programming and events.
Full disclosure: Penske Media, owner of WWD’s parent company, Fairchild Fashion Media, is an investor with a 50 percent stake in SXSW.

SXSW 2022 brings in-person events back after a long, pandemic-driven break. Pictured: Attendees Yassin Helmy and Nadia Zaidi.
Adriana Lee

After the brutal realities of the past few years in the pandemic, or the past few weeks of world events, the event could feel like something of a salve. It makes clear that when real reality becomes too much, there are plenty of others to choose from — from tech’s metaverse to the show biz industry’s fictional multiverses.
NYU marketing professor and CNN+ host Scott Galloway focused on the former, among other areas, in a session on the first day of the festival. In one standout prediction, he set the scene for a potential blockchain evolution that would raise the stakes for luxury fashion.
“I think a luxe coin is going to emerge. I think we’re going to figure out a way to put scarcity on the blockchain,” he said. “So what would happen if Chanel said, ‘Anyone who owns our coin, and we’re only going to issue 10,000 of them, gets access to any 10 products across our fashion or jewelry line at any time’?”
If the coin comes with access to a top-of-the-line fashion consultant, exclusive invitations to aspirational fashion events around the world — “literally the perfect gift for your fourth wife,” the professor joked — “What would that coin go for?”
A lot, he said, especially if only this limited set of owners had rights to the brand’s digital representation in the virtual world.
“You can have Chanel bags or the Chanel logo as your visual metaphor in the metaverse…. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think this coin would go for $100,000, $500,000. Imagine the speculation it would attract,” he added. “So overnight, I believe Chanel or Hermès could raise $5 billion to $10 billion, trying to monetize this scarcity.”

The same framework could work in different areas, like education, health care and events, he continued, citing Coachella. The festival’s 10 NFTs, which offered lifetime access, brought in a combined total of $1.5 million, two of which alone sold for more than $250,000 each. He expects SXSW to follow suit at some point.

Scott Galloway, of NYU and CNN+, speaks at SXSW 2022.
Courtesy image

Dipping into hardware for a moment, Galloway skewered the notion of a visual metaverse device worn on the face. He favors an audio-led experience, since it feels more intimate. In movie terms, it will be less like “Ready Player One” and more like the Joaquin Phoenix-led film “Her.”
The example works well. Movies and TV shows are often the public’s first real introduction to new ideas and emerging technologies.
Greg Daniels, creator of Amazon’s streaming series “Upload,” understands this point.
The show envisions a time when people can upload themselves, post-death, into a tiered virtual realm based on pricing. Well-heeled clients have a premium experience, but customers on a budget deal are saddled with a 2 GB monthly data cap. If they are too active or think too much, the platform freezes them in place until the next cycle — which is easily imaginable, given the way digital service providers work today. For Daniels, this scenario is rather ripe for comedy.
In the SXSW session, futurist and author Amy Webb noted that the show seems to be “a few years early to the metaverse party.” She’s right. The showrunner explained that he got the idea years ago from a real-world situation: His daughter needed 99 cents to buy a digital television for her Club Penguin igloo. The idea of using real money for a virtual item struck him, and he extended the concept to other things — like the after-life.
That may seem fantastical. But then again, perhaps not really. Consider that, as it is, “people are spending millions of dollars getting real estate — right? — in the metaverse,” he said. 

Futurist and author Amy Webb speaks with Amazon’s “Upload” creator Greg Daniels.
Courtesy image

The show also deals with artificial intelligence, with AI characters that look and act human, though not perfectly so.
The premise poses an interesting scenario for the real-world tech sector: As AI bots get more sophisticated, it may beg the question of “when they need to be treated like a person,” Daniels added. Indeed, there are ethics committees and other organizations mulling over similar things.

Other panels and fireside chats ranged from climate change, remote work trends, social issues and more — including blockchain economies, how to build for the decentralized Web3 metaverse and a look at Big Tech’s impact on democracies. Other activations touted entertainment, media, blockchain and retail.

Companies like Fox Entertainment brought NFT studios to SXSW.
Adriana Lee

One of the most anticipated parts of the festival didn’t come until the evening, and it had more to do with the multiverse than the metaverse.
The premiere of A24’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once” drew crowds to the Paramount Theatre. SXSW volunteer Helmy was working the lines in front of the building, fielding numerous attendees who were waiting in the cold to gain entry. Audience members told WWD that the movie was a major reason they attended SXSW, if not the only reason.
The genre-defying film has been building buzz since its madcap trailer hit the internet in December. At press time, the video topped more than 5.7 million views.
The story invokes the “Many Worlds” theory of quantum mechanics, which posits that every choice creates a separate parallel universe. Unlike some of the tech-oriented festival sessions, the audience doesn’t have to understand how it works. Michelle Yeoh’s character, Evelyn Wang, doesn’t either. But that doesn’t stop her from traversing these alternate universes — often at the same time — in a unique journey that conjures laughs, tears, heart-quickening action and mind-bending philosophical constructs.
In this multiverse context, Evelyn sees how her life evolved in different ways, based on the choices she made. It’s an intensely personal story, a family drama, a sci-fi thriller, action movie, cultural commentary and comedy all rolled into one fast-paced flick. The audience roared with approval at several points, culminating with a standing ovation at the end as the stars came out for an audience Q&A.

The cast and directors of Everything Everywhere All At Once, which premiered at SXSW 2022

Adriana Lee

Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh, stars of Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Adriana Lee

Michelle Yeoh stops for a quick selfie.

Courtesy of Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis in an audience Q&A after the premiere of Everything Everywhere All At Once at SXSW 2022

Adriana Lee

Harry Shum Jr., from Everything Everywhere All At Once, dancing it up at the after-party in the Driskill Hotel

Adriana Lee

Jamie Lee Curtis with Christine Lemchi of Fons PR at the after-party for Everything Everywhere All At Once

Adriana Lee

The theme of different identities felt particularly resonant at this time and in this place. It’s not a reach to draw a line between the movie and the festival, where experts, brands and tech executives hash out a metaverse where people can be anything they want.

Daniel Scheinert, one of the two “Daniels” who directed the film, called it “fitting” that his movie would debut at SXSW. Stars Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan joined him and directing partner Daniel Kwan to watch the screening, answer questions and surprise fans by popping in at the after-party.
The “Everything” premiere is just one of the movies, music, virtual reality showcases and other experiences at SXSW this year. The overall size of the lineup doesn’t match the event’s pre-COVID-19 editions, though. According to a festival worker who asked not to be named, far fewer venues were booked this year, and multiple Austin residents noted that attendance was “tiny” compared to previous years.
But that’s not bad news for everyone. “I like it,” an attendee named Mary commented while waiting in line for coffee at the Austin Convention Center. “It’s nice. It feels more intimate, and I don’t miss the traffic.”

Study Shows Small Businesses are More Optimistic Than Ever Entering 2022

Study Shows Small Businesses are More Optimistic Than Ever Entering 2022

According to the 2022 SMB Outlook from the Visa Global Back to Business Study, 90 percent of small business owners are optimistic about the future of their businesses — the highest levels of optimism found in Visa’s studies to date.Visa’s study surveyed 2,250 small business owners (with 1,000 or fewer employees) and 1,500 consumers across nine markets — including Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the U.S. — in December 2021. The report marks the sixth consecutive edition of Visa’s Global Back to Business study.
Along with a surge in optimism a standout change was seen in this year’s study, Jeni Mundy, global head of sales and acquiring at Visa, told WWD was increased use of digital payment methods. In fact, 82 percent of SMBs surveyed said they will accept digital options in 2022 and 46 percent of consumers surveyed expect to use digital options more often in 2022.

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“These high levels of optimism go hand-in-hand with how much better equipped small businesses have become,” said Mundy. “The digital capabilities that so many small businesses built up during the pandemic — from contactless payments to e-commerce — helped them pivot and survive. [In our study] four-in-five (80 percent) small businesses agreed that, with the right tools in place, their business can compete against any competitor. That level of response reflects both confidence and optimism — a welcome outcome after managing through two years of uncertainty.”
Getting online has been crucial for small businesses during the pandemic and for 90 percent of those surveyed increased efforts to sell via e-commerce was the reason they said they survived during this time. On average, the businesses reported that more than half of their overall revenue came from online sales in the last three months.
Notably, this came in tandem with rising consumer demand for more digital payment options. In the consumer portion of its survey, Visa found 41 percent of global consumers have abandoned a purchase in a physical store because digital payments were not accepted. This percentage rises to 59 percent for Gen Z and to 55 percent for Millennials. A third of global consumers also said they would not shop at a store that only offers payment methods that require contact with a cashier or a shared device.
“The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital payments and redefined the boundaries between online and in-store experiences,” said Mundy. “More than ever, people are engaging across multiple channels — shopping online, in-store, and through mobile apps. We’ve seen that SMBs who have embraced digital commerce and made changes to the way they operate not only have weathered the pandemic better but are also setting themselves up to thrive in the future.”
At the same time, almost 90 percent of consumers also said they see benefits to a digital-first payments society, reporting it would be easier for online shopping, less risk of robbery, health reasons and more security.
“I think the most important thing for small business owners to consider is that if they do not invest in digital payments, they risk turning away potential customers,” said Mundy. “The pandemic has accelerated a shift toward digital commerce that was already well underway in most parts of the world and accepting new forms of payments can be a fundamental part of their business’ growth strategy.”

Moreover, Mundy said, while in the past small and micro-businesses worldwide have struggled with traditional payment acceptance there are now solutions to enable.
“We’ve introduced a number of innovations to help reduce this burden,” said Mundy. “For example, Visa Tap to Phone makes it easier for sellers to use the smartphones they already own to accept contactless payments — simply by downloading an app. Customers win, too, as they can make safe, contactless payments with just a tap of their contactless card, phone, or watch to the seller’s NFC-enabled smartphone. Solutions such as this one open up the notion of accepting payments anywhere — even at curbside — for even the smallest businesses.”
As more businesses look for ways to grow amidst continued uncertainty and ongoing disruptions, Mundy told WWD it has been interesting to see how accessible international markets are becoming to small businesses thanks to the digital adoption and evolving technology. Selling online will help these businesses grow through the opportunity to bring products and services to customers around the globe. In Visa’s research, 50 percent of small businesses said they plan to increase cross-border sales in 2022.
“Helping to open that kind of opportunity is one of the reasons Visa remains committed to supporting small businesses, globally,” said Mundy. “While 2020 and 2021 were about embracing cashless and getting businesses online, 2022 will be about building on that foundation and prioritizing the customer experience. Payments aren’t just about completing a sale, after all. The checkout experience is a reflection of your brand. It’s also the last opportunity for small business owners to make a great impression on customers as they walk out the door.”
FOR MORE WWD BUSINESS NEWS: 
Kabbage’s Take on the Current State of Small Businesses
Salesforce Embraces the Future of Commerce With Innovative Products and Partnerships
Survey Reveals Consumers Feel Overextended as BNPL Surges

Aisle 3 Launches to Revolutionize E-commerce, Product Search Experience

Aisle 3 Launches to Revolutionize E-commerce, Product Search Experience

“Shopping is broken,” according to U.K-based e-commerce start-up Aisle 3 — and the company’s panacea is a streamlined solution that takes aim at condensing and refining perusal into a dramatically upgraded consumer experience.E-commerce entrepreneur Thomas J. Vosper, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aisle 3, spent 15 years in e-commerce roles at Amazon, Tesco and Lastminute.com. After studying the ins and outs of e-commerce — and its many snags and stumbling blocks — Vosper and his co-founder said they refused to accept this “broken shopping experience.”
“We started the business as first-time founders at age 40, during the very onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.K.,” Vosper told WWD. “I took out a personal loan to bootstrap the company and try and prove an innovative approach that was solely focused on making shopping cheaper, quicker, easier and more joyful.”

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Beginning with footwear, Aisle 3 is tackling the woes of product search through its proprietary technology that involves machine learning and AI to weed out the products consumers don’t want and help accurately populate desired products with ease.
Here, Vosper talks to WWD about the back-end technology behind its solution and plans for partnerships, expansion and development in the tech start-up space.
WWD: What was the genesis of Aisle 3, and how does it simplify the online shopping experience?
Thomas J. Vosper: Shoppers seem to have become numb to the fact that what you see is what search engines want to show you and marketplaces are now populated with promoted listings and own-brand products. At Aisle 3 we are passionate about removing the need to open another tab or app to shop. We can’t remember the last time a start-up went out with something this powerful to contribute.
It is simple to book flights, reserve hotel rooms and order complex services such as insurance or energy, but I became increasingly frustrated that online shopping leaves us all having to open a myriad of tabs across a bunch of retailers just to find a pair of sneakers in the right size. Many of us now spend so much more time in front of our screens and it’s simply exhausting just how time-consuming it is to wade through ads and broken links to shop online — and that’s before we think about how hard it is for exciting new brands and retailers to get found online.
In less than 18 months we built a business entirely remotely, across the planet, established a business in India and pulled together an expert team backed by investors involved in some of the biggest names such as Snap, Amazon, Money Supermarket and Catch. It was a journey that I was privileged to share at a TEDx event at Oxford University in the summer of 2020.
WWD: Walk us through Aisle 3’s unique back-end technology that streamlines product search. Why is this solution differentiated in the market?
T.J.V.: Many prices comparison sites and discovery platforms have tried and failed to create a destination that shows shoppers the best deals, stock availability, delivery availability, etc. However, the common source of failure is not the platforms trying, but the relatively low standard of data, which results in poor quality aggregation. This data is generally only obtainable from poorly maintained product feeds or by crawling retailers whose web page structures are frequently changing and is not standardized.

This results in data sets with no common IDs or product codes, so even the most powerful and sophisticated ML models are at the mercy of “garbage in garbage out” — meaning that what is displayed to shoppers is often inaccurate or incomplete and insufficient to instill trust to purchase. It’s the reason we all end up opening that extra tab to check one more site.
Our biggest challenge was to automatically identify the same product across retailers and unstructured data sets without the need to match offers using product IDs or barcode numbers.
We focused the business on the technical solution before going to market as we knew the very biggest businesses had not come close to solving this problem and, whilst we were comfortable backing ourselves with our own cash, we didn’t want to engage with investors until we knew we had the technology that even the big tech businesses hadn’t created (it’s a reason we’ve been approached about acquisitions six times already).
Initially, we built a set of unsupervised deep-learning models to identify and assign each product a unique “Aisle 3 code,” which creates a single view across multiple retailers and sources. The outcome is creating a time machine that reduces hours of shopper research into a single, simple 30-second product search.
Now is a superexciting time as we can access huge training datasets; open-source software developed by the very largest corporations and shrinking processing costs that would have required millions of dollars of investment and data centers as high as skyscrapers just a few years ago.
We employ about 15 people across the globe and have a subsidiary business based in Ahmedabad, India. The team includes Ph.Ds with expertise in AI, ML and Mathematics. Alongside more than 1 million euros of private investment, we’ve been lucky to have received funding from the U.K. government to continue our research and take on the big tech businesses from our humble U.K. beginnings.

Thomas J. Vosper, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aisle 3.

WWD: Why is footwear the first retail category for Aisle 3? Are there plans for expansion?
T.J.V.: Tackling footwear presented a huge technical challenge and it’s a hugely exciting category. As shoppers we are all familiar with the frustration of having to traipse across the internet, wading through endless ads or broken text links taking you to poor search results on random websites. Whilst price is important for many shoppers, the volume of products and variations outside of size, brand, collection and color makes it very hard to simply discover and be inspired by a new brand or simply the latest trends in running shoes.

We knew that it wasn’t just important to tackle the aggregation of offers for deal-hungry shoppers, so we’ve been focusing on presenting all the information so shoppers can make an informed decision — such as delivery speed, proximity for local collection or retailer preference. This is incredibly challenging, as it involves recognizing and standardizing rich product information from multiple sources.
Sneakers are visually stimulating, and brands are usually at the front line of innovation, such as Nike’s dive into the metaverse. We are really excited to be able to turn the mishmash of data across the internet into a rich, exciting, shopper-focused view that best represents the products that brands and retailers care deeply about.
Over time we look forward to expanding into the U.S. with the right commercial and investment partners and exploring categories with different technical data challenges (such as electronics) where we all share frustrations trying to find the best specification and price for a TV or laptop.
WWD: How has the pandemic changed the way consumers shop? What trends/behaviors have emerged in retail?
T.J.V.: We’re spending an increasing amount of time in front of our screens; meetings are virtual with hours of Zoom calls; content is consumed digitally with the likes of TikTok exceeding even Google’s usage, and online shopping has catapulted 10 years into the future.
We genuinely believe that we tap into the consumer zeitgeist matching what’s on people’s minds and helping to shape a new shopping future. Despite the online boom, much of this is concentrated on the very largest marketplaces across the planet and the commercial opportunity sits with big tech-listed businesses that generate most of their revenue via advertising models.
Amazon’s ads business is now bigger than Snap, Twitter and Pinterest combined and promoted listings or own-brand products now litter search results, creating suboptimal shopper experiences, obfuscating the products you are looking for. We’ve seen the shift over recent years (heightened due to the acceleration of e-commerce during COVID-19) where the incumbents focus on convenience/logistics; payment transactions, and advertising budgets. At Aisle 3, we care about the shopper before the “buy button.”

WWD: What’s next for Aisle 3?
T.J.V.: It was exciting to be in New York City for the NRF “Big Show” and to unveil Aisle 3 to investors and independent retailers. If I wasn’t from London, I’d say it’s the best city in the world!
Although we’ve recently closed over $1.3 million of funding, we’re keen to find the right commercial and investment partners to help turbocharge the business. Our site is in its final development and will be launching with the U.K.’s largest aggregated selection of sneakers in a few weeks. With the right partners, we’re confident of scaling the business and launching in the U.S. in the next couple of months.
From a technical perspective, we’re looking to extend our product-matching technology where products are nearly indistinguishable (iPhone 11 versus iPhone 12) based on the image and the metadata, which is a huge technical challenge itself.
Of course, there’s a lot of buzz around Web 3.0 and NFTs and we are already taking advantage of the latest capabilities to develop smart contracts, tied to purchases, that provided authenticated proof of ownership.
We’ve just closed our latest investment backed by angels from the likes of Snap, Money Supermarket and Catch we’re exploring the right partner to turbocharge the opportunity to eliminate shopper frustrations and create a shopping destination that words in line with brands and retailers to reduce friction and instill confidence for shoppers just like you and me.
FOR MORE NEWS FROM WWD:
Citizens of Humanity Talks Holiday Dressing, Denim Market Dynamics
Seven For All Mankind Debuts Fully Traceable Capsule Collection
Twitter Talks Beauty Consumers, Community and Growth

WWDownload: Hermès Brings NFT Lawsuit

WWDownload: Hermès Brings NFT Lawsuit

There’s nowhere Hermès won’t go to defend its signature Birkin bag — including the virtual world.The French luxury brand filed suit in a New York federal court on Friday against Mason Rothschild, creator of MetaBirkins NFTs, to allege trademark infringement and dilution. The digital collection featured 100 virtual bags resembling furry versions of Hermès’ signature bag.
The complaint, submitted to New York’s Southern District Court, described Rothschild as “a digital speculator” with a get-rich-quick scheme to “rip off Hermès’ famous Birkin trademark by adding the generic prefix ‘meta.’”
Hermès is not the first to sue over NFTs. A May 2021 lawsuit against Dapper Labs alleged that sales on its NBA Top Shot platform violated securities laws. Miramax accused Quentin Tarantino of breaking copyright in November 2021, in a legal tussle over “Pulp Fiction” NFTs that the filmmaker ultimately ignored on Monday, when he released the first of several chapters.

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But as the first major luxury fashion house to tie NFTs to trademark infringement, the maison could deliver a landmark case for the industry.
The MetaBirkins creator responded to the lawsuit via Instagram on Monday, arguing that his collection amounts to art. “I am not creating or selling fake Birkin bags,” he wrote. “I’ve made art works that depict imaginary, fur-covered Birkin bags.
“My lawyers at Lex Lumina PLLC put it well when they said that the First Amendment gives me the right to make and sell art that depicts Birkin bags, just as it gave Andy Warhol the right to make and sell art depicting Campbell’s soup cans.”
New York-based Lex Lumina does not yet have a track record to speak of, since it just launched last fall as a boutique firm specializing in intellectual property. Cofounder Chris Sprigman, a New York University professor, author and attorney, has deep experience in intellectual property law, antitrust and comparative constitutional law and has appeared in the media to discuss issues like fashion law or technology and creative commerce.
It’s not clear when Rothschild hired the firm, but the need looked apparent when the fashion house issued a cease-and-desist letter on Dec. 16. At the time, Hermès also notified OpenSea, the NFT platform that offered the collection.
Earlier reports indicated that the marketplace pulled the items, although WWD spotted listings under the MetaBirkins name briefly on Monday. They were taken down later that afternoon. According to the filing, Rothschild ironically complained about “counterfeit” MetaBirkins, so the listings could have been posted by someone else.
In the real world, genuine Birkin bags can run anywhere from $9,000 to $500,000, and resellers like The RealReal saw interest grow during the pandemic, particularly among Millennials.
The demand apparently translates to virtual goods — or, if Rothschild’s argument has any merit, digital art. In December, he sold his first MetaBirkin for 10 Ethereum, the equivalent of more than $40,000, and moved some 600,000 NFTs in five days. This followed a previous Baby Birkin NFT sale in May, which sold for 5.5 Ethereum, roughly more than $23,000. Then it resold to a collector for $42,000.

The current collection may be stymied, but not blocked. According to Metabirkin.com, sales remain active on alternate sites Rarible, Zora and LooksRare.

WWD spotted MetaBirkins listed on OpenSea on Monday, but the listings were pulled down before the seller could be verified.
Screen capture/WWD

For a brief time, it seemed that negotiation might be possible, at least according to Rothschild. “We told them that we believed that the dispute could be resolved through an informal conversation between me and an Hermès representative. Hermès chose instead to break off negotiations and sue me,” he added on Instagram.
But the company could be less worried about what he’s already done than what he does next.
In the filing, Hermès wrote, “He encourages others to create ‘MetaBirkins’ with his ‘Build-a-MetaBirkin’ contest, which further damages and dilutes the Birkin Mark. He has announced to his followers his plans to develop his own ‘decentralized NF exchange’ under the MetaBirkins brand.”
Essentially, it believes he’s trying to build a whole marketplace, exchange and community. It also doesn’t buy his “artistic license” rationale. The complaint distinguishes between exercising artistic creativity and using a trademark “in a manner calculated to mislead consumers.…He is stealing the goodwill in Hermès’ famous intellectual property to create and sell his own line of products.”
Debates over artistic license and trademarks have raged for years, both online and offline. Now it’s heading to the virtual world via exclusive digital fashion, which is untested territory.
The value in these types of NFTs lies in their ability to prove their own authenticity and ownership. Interest exploded last year across art, fashion and other categories, drawing millions for high-profile transactions. But the law hasn’t kept pace — even though ongoing demand for NFTs, intensifying hype and a rush of corporate and independent efforts look poised to drive a wave of lawsuits.
The gold rush around digital fashion may be underway, but this iteration is still in its infancy. From here, signs point to NFTs maturing in the metaverse. After all, if everyone will spend time in that new form of immersive internet, it’s not a stretch to believe they’ll want to dress their avatars or show off their virtual trophies. This is one way NFTs are expected to fuel metaversal commerce. At least eventually.

It’s worth noting that the sprawling metaverse envisioned by companies like Facebook’s Meta doesn’t exist yet. Someday, a massive, hyper-connected virtual 3D environment may come, but it’s likely 10 years away, if it arrives at all. Until then, the landscape remains a disjointed patchwork of separate platforms.
Fashion has been adapting to or even embracing the chaos. Brands have been striking partnerships with platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, Zepeto and others, while making long-term plans. Nike filed trademarks for “use online and in virtual worlds” in November, and others are weighing similar moves. Some companies have even launched entire metaverse-focused divisions, like Balenciaga and Diesel owner OTB Group, and many more have launched NFTs or will soon.
Hermès sees Rothschild’s effort as driven by metaverse ambitions, starting principally with the name and its widespread use on social media and e-commerce. The company believes he’s trying to replicate the Birkin bag’s real-world success and using the “MetaBirkins to brand all of his ‘metaverse’ business activities.”
Its confidence in filing the lawsuit is understandable. For years, the company has put up a ferocious and often successful defense of its products. In 2008, a judge sided with the luxury fashion company over eBay, finding that the site didn’t do enough to block sales of fakes on its platform. Last year, a Paris court convicted 23 counterfeiters with prison time and damages worth 10.4 million euros, or nearly $12 million.
In between, a 2012 ruling handed Hermès a major victory against 34 websites for peddling phony Birkins, Kelly bags and other items and granted $100 million in damages. But the company doesn’t always win. The same year, it also fought and lost a trademark battle in China.
Hermès now argues that its existing rights should cover the virtual world, or metaverse, as well. It remains to be seen if a judge will agree. There’s some legal debate over the issue, especially if the brand doesn’t actually do business there. But if the company prevails, it stands to collect damages, including all MetaBirkins profit, and end Rothschild’s use of the Birkin name or likeness as part of any products or services without express authorization.

But whether it wins or loses, the case may help define fashion’s claim in the digital future.

What Does the Metaverse Mean for E-commerce?

What Does the Metaverse Mean for E-commerce?

As brands and retailers look to the future, a new frontier, called the Metaverse, holds opportunities that are largely unknown. Now at a tipping point, some experts project this new reality of virtual goods, gaming and entertainment could represent more than $82 billion by 2025, with consumers already showing interest and a sure comfort to take part.According to experts at Scalefast, the global e-commerce solution, this holiday season will likely propel retailers even further into the metaverse and jumpstart the revenue potential of virtual worlds with expectations for consumers to gift virtual products and events (in part due to ongoing supply chain issues).
But as companies navigate this new world, what can they expect in the near future?

Here, Dan Wallace-Brewster, senior vice president at Scalefast, talks to WWD about understanding the Metaverse, its impact on retail, the value proposition of NFTs and how brands should be incorporating the Metaverse into strategies.

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WWD: In your own words, what is the metaverse?
Dan Wallace-Brewster: My generation can probably best relate to the metaverse through the Matrix movie franchise — removing the dystopian themes, it’s an artificial environment for humans and computers to interact without the limits or definitions of the physical world. It has been around for decades but is only now reaching a tipping point with the broader market because of widely available high-speed broadband and processors that support a realistic, bug-free experience.

Dan Wallace-Brewster, senior vice president of marketing at Scalefast.
Courtesy Image.

WWD: How could the metaverse impact retail in the near future and how are shoppers already displaying comfort with purchases in the advanced digital reality?
D.W.B.: The growing acceptance and value placed on cryptocurrencies is just one factor of consumers gaining comfort with the entire concept of intangible cash and goods. While gaming and entertainment has been at this for a while, retailers are at the beginning of their metaverse journey.
First, there had to be a credible market that demanded this gap be filled. Second, platforms had to enable safe transactions between buyers and sellers (or creators) of marketable products — almost like virtual malls. Roblox, for example, has started to navigate this around their own virtual currency, Robux, and brands that are eager to sell a virtual version of their existing products.
More importantly, gaming has hit a critical mass of cross-demographic players that will buy that product.
WWD: From your perspective, what are the opportunities for retail in the metaverse?
D.W.B.: Eventually, themed or branded metaverses could exist side-by-side, bridged by retail platforms that provide portability of virtual goods and currencies from one world to another. After a period of mass corporatization, entrepreneurs and creators will have access to millions of users from which they can build virtual products, creating something unique that the public has never seen before. Without manufacturing and distribution, creators will be closer to their customers than ever. Selling through third parties will become the exception, not the rule, and business models will change to better suit the new marketplace.

WWD: How should brands be incorporating the metaverse into their strategy for the future?
D.W.B.: As with any shopping experience, the focus must always begin with the customer. Brands and retailers need to assure consumers of an excellent experience from start to finish — an old concept that will face new challenges in the metaverse. Avatars in virtual reality don’t have the same physical attributes that define their real-world style or preferences. Without limitations set on them by society, geographical location or genetics, consumers will be able to create and operate as beings outside of their physical reality. As they spend more time socializing, learning, shopping and experiencing life within the metaverse, individual avatars will develop their own needs, interests and styles.
There is no question that the metaverse will present a lot of opportunities for abuse. It’s logical to think that if online anonymity and the power of social media has accelerated society’s ills, a metaverse that makes it all the more real and pervasive could only make it worse. But many people say the biggest societal problems we have are rooted in a lack of empathy. A metaverse is a path for someone to virtually walk in someone else’s shoes with incredible realism, hopefully leading to more understanding and acceptance. The opportunities in entertainment, job training and education alone are astounding and it will be here before you know it.
WWD: What about NFTs? What makes an NFT valuable for a brand?
D.W.B.: NFTs are cryptographically unique tokens that are linked to digital (and sometimes physical) content, providing proof of ownership. It’s this information that makes each NFT unique, and as such, they cannot be directly replaced by another token. Each NFT is unique and valuable because they are one of a kind (meaning you can’t trade one NFT for another identical one) and blockchain tracks authenticity and ownership, which with scarcity are key components for appreciation on the secondary market.
By establishing or offering a product as an NFT, brands increase the value of a physical product because it can be authenticated and traced all the way back to the place, time and date the item was manufactured, purchased and registered to a new owner. The result is an air of exclusivity that increases value, whether financial or sentimental and therefore contributes to its social currency in social networks and communities, both digital and offline.

WWD: How are NFTs tied to physical items versus being purely virtual?
D.W.B.: The secondary market can be greatly enhanced by digital assets and their classifications including NFTs that can build and authenticate a life cycle or history of a good. For example, a piece of art can be more or less valuable based on its history. It may be a sequence of collectors or museums that the art has been featured in that adds value to the piece, which influences the market value and the same can be said for everyday common goods.
A handbag, for example, can and will increase in market value based on its experiences. Almost like a game-worn jersey of the MVP in a championship game, who wore it and where becomes an instantly and singularly unique attribute for that item. A purse held on the red carpet by a celebrity is inherently more valuable than the same bag, bought by a suburban housewife and kept in the closet for years.
NFTs provide an opportunity to create and authenticate a history of the unique events in the lifespan of a product. If the perceived value goes up based on that history, the brand benefits across their entire product line for seasons to come.
A stand-alone NFTs is decentralized, meaning that it is not exclusive to any one platform or system and can be listed and traded on the open market, free from traditional market constraints like supply chain or distribution problems, the potential for counterfeits or even theft. In these cases, a physical asset without it’s matching NFT would depreciate in value — discouraging fraudsters from entering the market. The bottom line is that brands don’t need to abandon what they know and start from scratch. Instead, they can use this opportunity to make the products they already sell better, with more retained value.
WWD: Do you expect to see an increase of gifting and receiving virtual products and events during the holiday season and in the new year?
D.W.B.: We will certainly see an increase of gifting and receiving virtual products over the holidays this year, as both a consequence of their growing popularity and of the supply chain challenges retailers and brands have been facing.
One thing that doesn’t exist in a metaverse is supply chains and port bottlenecks, and virtual products allow for consumers to skip the unnecessary headache. Virtual concerts that don’t require travel, parking or waiting in line has appeal, especially to someone on another continent. Virtual luxury handbags or sneakers that carry the same real-world exclusivity and possibly an element of your own creativity will have a market, too. The metaverse is the escape from real-life with an augmentation to their physical world and companies that are afraid to embrace it, risk falling behind their customers and ceding market share to forward-thinking competitors.

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