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Daria Shapovalova, founder at DRESSX
Creating a new market space has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you don’t have much competition. On the negative side, it can take a while for prospects to understand an innovative new concept.
When DRESSX launched its digital fashion site in August 2020, not all customers and brands understood that it wasn’t selling physical clothes. A redesign of the DRESSX website enabled the company to communicate its unique selling proposition in four months.
The global apparel market is valued at $1.5 trillion in 2020, according to Statista, a provider of market and consumer data. During the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis, Rent the Runway disrupted the category by enabling women to “share” designer clothing by renting them. Women were able to save money, expand their wardrobes, and look fashionable.
Amid the economic shock caused by Covid-19, DRESSX launched in August of 2020. Its goal is to replace physical clothing purchased for social media content purposes with digital clothing.
Back in the 1960s, the Jetsons, an animated sitcom about the future, envisioned putting on masks to change your look when on video phone calls. In current times, gamers purchase skins to change the look of their avatars. DRESSX enables customers to rent digital outfits so they look stylish in social media posts and eventually any virtual meeting. The digital outfits can be designed by well-known or up-and-coming fashion brands and designers.
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Digital wear has other benefits. Apparel is one of the most polluting industries, according to Barclays. The average consumer today buys 60% more clothing and keeps them half as long as they did 15 years ago. Almost one in ten shoppers buy clothes for content creation, finds Barclaycard. People buy clothes to wear in social media posts and then return them.
DRESSX appeals to GenZ and Millennials who want variety and of-the-moment styles at an affordable price for their social media posts. GenZ and Millennials are also much more engaged than Baby Boomers and older generations around issues related to climate change. “DRESSX eliminates overproduction without eliminating the joy and fun of interacting with fashion,” said Daria Shapovalova, founder at DRESSX.
Shapovalova started her career as a fashion journalist 15 years ago when she was just 17 years old. By 18, she had her own TV show. “Most countries in the world have communities that support local designers,” she said. Ukraine, where she is from, did not. So she started a Fashion Week to highlight Ukrainian and other Eastern European fashion designers.
The Russo-Ukrainian War started in 2014. Buying fashion was no longer on the minds of Ukrainians. Instead of bringing Ukrainian fashion designer to the attention of Ukrainians, Shapovalova brought Ukrainian designers to international markets by opening a showroom in Paris that connected them to the largest stores worldwide. In 2017, Forbes acknowledged her by putting her on its 30 Under 30 – Europe list.
But, Shapovalova had more ambition than just helping a few fashion designers become successful. She wanted to change fashion consumption habits and reduce waste and pollutants.
To scale this vision, she’d need to build a technology platform. With no background in tech, she moved to San Francisco to get an MBA and learn from people who had birthed some of the most successful tech companies in the world.
The company is an international retailer selling digital only clothing. There is no physical version of the designs. When DRESSX launched, some shoppers thought they were buying physical clothing. They returned the digital clothes.
”Every problem can create a better solution,” said Shapovalova. Some customers and fashion brands did not fully understand the concept of digital fashion. The company interviewed customers to learn where the disconnect was happening.
Based on the feedback, the DRESSX team redesigned its website and user experience. The new UX considered the entire process, from initial interest to purchase to repeat purchases, and even anticipated where questions would arise. Product returns decreased dramatically. The redesign took about four months to complete. When the website first launched, much of the traffic to the website was generated by PR and marketing activities. Now word of mouth is generating traffic, commented Shapovalova.
Yesterday DRESSX announced that it raised $2 million in a Seed round led by The Artemis Fund and Alpha Edison. Other investors included Unlock Venture Partners, One Way Ventures, Signal Peak Ventures, TLF Ventures, Startup Mavericks, and strategic angel investors from fashion, tech and blockchain communities. The money will be used to launch the DRESSX mobile app, build its non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, and partner with social media, gaming, and other virtual platforms to bring digital fashion to the metaverse.
NFTs have a digital signature and exist on a blockchain, which is a distributed public ledger that records transactions. The metaverse is a collective virtual shared space created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.
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