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Stefano Rosso’s Fashion Rulebook on Web3 Includes ‘Phygital’ Approach

·6 min read

MILAN — Stefano Rosso has clearly found his sweet spot in Web3.

The son of OTB Group and Diesel founder Renzo Rosso and a member of the OTB board, Stefano was among the early adopters of the technology and sensed its potential when blockchain-based metaverses — think The Sandbox and Decentraland — were still in their beta testing phase.

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“We believed in it since the beginning, me in particular. D-Cave was born as a stand-alone project unrelated to OTB which I nurtured during the weekends and at night while in the U.S. and we had already sensed that gaming would become the new entertainment ecosystem,” Rosso told WWD, speaking from Manhattan where NFT.NYC, an event dedicated to Web3, wrapped up last week.

He ventured into the gaming lifestyle arena in 2020 by cofounding D-Cave, which he now describes as a highly curated marketplace for all things Web3, and late last year his enthusiasm trickled down to the family company as he spearheaded the creation of Brave Virtual Xperience, a unit within the OTB Group dedicated to Web3 projects for the group’s fashion brands.

Committed full-time to these business gigs, he has a clear vision of how brands should tackle the metaverses. As cryptocurrencies plunge and NFT prices flatten, fashion doesn’t seem to be stepping back and for good reasons, Rosso contended.

“This is a great opportunity for the market to retool and weed out some confusion we have seen. It’s a great opportunity to tap into this arena, because [brands] will no longer feel urged to launch projects to make extra dollars [profits] but to really approach the space and establish a dialogue with those communities, which will be very important to brands,” he offered.

Are those communities already so relevant for luxury?

Although recent surveys indicate that the metaverses could soon become a lucrative opportunity for retail companies, generating between $8 trillion to $13 trillion, according to a March study from Citi GPS, and a $50 billion affaire for luxury goods firms according to KPMG, Rosso has a more pragmatic vision and sees Web3 communities as still a niche, “with a very focused and precise way of thinking and acting, and self-recognized as a united and cohesive community,” he said.

“Today it’s still a small world, but it is growing like wildfire,” he said, predicting that in the not-so-distant future these communities will overlap with the masses, drawing late adopters of the space, a good reason to keep an eye on the alternate world and Web3 project already.

There’s more, though.

“What’s interesting is that [the community] is made of people who made money and are potentially new luxury and premium consumers. There’s a new chance for brands to cater to these new consumers. For brands it’s pivotal to engage in a conversation [with them] today, because if you make it to the list of the most desirable brands today, you gain loyal customers who may spend money on you for the years to come,” he offered.

It partly explains why BVX was established.

Asked about the evolution of the unit after a few months since its launch, he noted how Diesel has already stepped on the gas with Web3 initiatives by establishing D:Verse, a platform dedicated to Diesel and NFT enthusiasts, offering limited-run NFT editions of fashion pieces to be purchased alongside actual goods and serving as a community-driven space allowing owners of Diesel NFTs to mingle and engage with one another via a dedicated channel on Discord.

“At the same time, we started laying down action plans for other brands in the portfolio. Some are more advanced than others, and although we haven’t launched any project yet [other than Diesel’s], a couple of brands are almost ready and hopefully something will occur in the third or fourth quarter of the year,” he said hinting at an upcoming Web3 initiative for Maison Margiela.

Although brands are rushing when it comes to NFTs, embracing the metaverses and more, Rosso contends that the packed landscape still has room for experimentation.

“Fashion needs a youthful approach and be willing to play and experiment, trying to think out of the box, because these spaces are unspoiled and there are no written rules, you can always find new ways to interpret the brand’s creativity,” he offered.

“Brands not understanding that to attract a Web3 consumer they need to have a Web3 approach risk losing credibility and missing big opportunities,” he noted.

As the Web3 environment settles and adjusts after skyrocketing exposure and growth in recent months, Rosso believes that connecting the dots between the digital and physical spaces is key for fashion and luxury brands.

“We are social animals by nature, humans don’t really feel well, alone in virtual spaces without physically sharing their experiences,” Rosso said.

“Everybody is moving from virtual-only spaces and NFT-only projects to mixed activities or that at least have a physical component,” he said, citing long lines at NFT.NYC for merchandise being sold at some of the 20 to 30 events a day. “There’s a need to create a true sense of community, gathering people together, selling merchandise,” he said.

What’s more, the metaverses are offering experiences that may look a tad too wonky and gimmicky to compete with the physical luxury experience and Rosso contends that AR-enabling wearables will mark the tipping point.

“That’s fair, it already happened at the dawn of the internet era, [Web3] is still in its early stages but I think it’s important to start experimenting today,” Rosso countered.

“Also, I have to say that the aesthetic taste we apply to the physical world cannot always be compared to that of people accustomed to living inside the metaverses. Something looking gimmicky and banal to us, maybe for a young guy spending lots of hours inside Decentraland is the epitome of good aesthetics… You always need to interpret [the metaverse] with different eyes, because you can’t take for granted that users consider the experience as poor,” he said.

Despite this, one of D-Cave’s main goals is to offer customers and brands an elevated experience, creativity and graphics.

“It’s hard to find entities in the Web3 space which can value brands via upscale graphics and creativity, which understand how pivotal visual identity is for brands and which know how to best leverage that,” Rosso said. “We are the space to launch unique and interesting projects, we are kind of a bridge between the two worlds,” he added.

Case in point: D-Cave’s most recent projects included physical goods. The marketplace tied up with Bulova on the brand’s signature Computron LED watch reinterpreted for D-Cave, evolving its original design by adding visual concepts inspired by the gaming world and unveiled in a dedicated space in Decentraland. Last week the platform dropped a Meta Lica collection of NFTs and physical sunglasses, the result of a tie-up with eyewear specialist Retrosuperfuture and experiential digital marketplace The Dematerialised.

Although Rosso’s original ambition for D-Cave entailed the opening of a permanent brick-and-mortar unit in New York, the pandemic has altered his vision.

“Today we market ourselves as a digital and metaverse space which could eventually interact with physical spaces,” he said, hinting at the opening of pop-ups timed with certain projects rather than permanent addresses.