In the whole contemporary history, there is hardly an event matched in scale and sweeping scope to the Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from an almost insurmountable economic burden, it laid down on the shoulders of an entire world’s economy, this event catalyzed the metamorphosis of the capital into its “intangible” form – thus, laying down the solid foundation of what is now commonly referred to as the ‘intangible capitalism’. For the global economy, the implication of this shift is unambiguous: from now on, the value-weighted upon the physical factors of production is going to consistently erode - and instead, digitization will overtake as the primary value-driver in lieu of the habitual physical store. Together with a solid upwards trend in digital transformation as observed during the health crisis, which alone is responsible for the leap of innovation accounting for 3-4 years of undisrupted digital progress, this paves a road towards a new consumer reality with the internet as a centerpiece. In the face of Web 3.0 awakening, this trend could be taken even further to mark the start of a new shopping era: Metaverse, the bleeding-edge technological discovery, has the power to redefine the entire shopping experience by placing it on the virtual playground in which the borderline between shopping and gaming is almost indiscernible.
For top brands in the apparel industry incurring giant losses from Covid-19, this opportunity could be a lifeline for recouping from downward pressure on the companies’ balance sheets. Previously featured only in sci-fi movies, the reality of taking on the newest brand label without leaving home increasingly gets picked up by the forerunners in the industry. Among such, ALTAVA Group gets spotlighted as an innovative startup assisting brands in extending their presence in the virtual realm of Metaverse. Maintaining focus on the luxury apparel brands, it aims at establishing itself as a high-end solution provider for the industry titans on the wave of transformation that has already embraced the luxury market. ALTAVA Group’s expertise in digital innovation helps to bridge the gap between virtual and real worlds by the work of virtual platforms and devoted teams behind them. Being selected among 23 start-ups nominated by La Maison des Startups LVMH accelerator, this excellent achievement speaks for itself: the solution by ALTAVA Group is ought to become increasingly relevant in the coming years by becoming a perfect stepping stone into the realm of Metaverse. Facilitated by the history of past successful collaborations with top-notch luxury brands, Prada and Balmain, ALTAVA Group has firmly established itself as a niche provider in the rapidly expanding world of virtual fashion, promising the renaissance of luxury brands in the midst of a post-Covid economic revival.
To find out more about the disruptive proposition brought forth by ALTAVA Group, I reached out to Andy Ku, CEO and Founder of the project, for an interview.
Could you introduce yourself and tell me a few words about your professional background?
- 20 years of game experience - developing, publishing games - from online and mobile to blockchain-based
- working with top global IP holders - representing their world-famous IPs into the game worlds: SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer from Nickelodeon Viacom, Toonix from Cartoon Network, Creator of Grand Theft Auto, Simon Fuller (American Idol)
- now onto the Luxury brands, again - as brand management companies, this time into the metaverse
I’m aware that your past project, the online gaming platform Club Mstar, was sold to one of Korea’s largest gaming companies with over 8 billion USD in market cap called Netmarble. What are the consequences of this deal?
I learned how to win in a race and be the first to cross the finish line. Most entrepreneurs know how to start, but those that can make a successful exit make up an extremely small percentage. I would say, that’s one of my biggest takeaways from that experience: how to create a company that can reach the end line.
If I were to ask you about ALTAVA Group’s key strategic priorities, how would you break them down?
We have created ALTAVA WORLDS OF YOU, a gamified social commerce platform for luxury fashion, to enable multiple expressions of self in the metaverse - to discover, curate and play. ALTAVA MARKET is an extension of ALTAVA Worlds of You, where consumers can shop, curate and collect Worlds of Expressions (personalities) in the form of NFTs for use in the metaverse. ALTAVA WOY serves as a utility to all NFTs we provide within ALTAVA MARKET. They are also built on the tokenized economy with our own token called, TAVA.
We have built the most advanced graphics and the worlds resembling reality so closely that it made us believe we are the only metaverse project out there that can represent a brand's product without either sacrificing or compromising their shapes, color, texture, or even the way it looks on a model. We will be the go-to metaverse platform for all product companies going forward. We are at the same time focusing only on luxury brands. This is the new world where anyone can come and experience luxury anytime, anywhere.
Recently, I found out that your Co-Founder, Elizabeth, is profoundly involved with the fashion world - while one of your advisors, Natalia Vodiana is a daughter-in-law of the chairman of LVMH. What helped you to assemble a team of such altitude at ALTAVA Group?
I consider myself lucky that people like Elizabeth, Natalia, Young Bae Sok (Creator Director for Tod’s), and the rest of our investors and advisors are excited by the vision I drew up for Altava. They shared my initial vision of the merging of fashion into the digital virtual world.
The idea of the metaverse being a more eco-friendly and sustainable business is also very appealing to them. The environment is one of the key pain points and concerns for a lot of fashion houses. They also like our access to the Chinese market.
Not long in existence, ALTAVA Group already managed to establish a number of successful collaborations, with Prada and Balmain among others. What helped you out in securing the approval of high-echelon brands?
Our technology and know-how come from 10+ years of experience in operating fashion genre games. We were the first to recognize the virtual world or the metaverse would be the next big thing for luxury and fashion. We demonstrated the best technology and spoke the right language that comes with Elizabeth and our fashion team. Starting from 2018, we were persistent in our effort. The best of gaming and the best in fashion became a true team that no one else had. It was the trust and faith we built over a long period of time. They trust Elizabeth with her fashion understanding, and they trust me with the technology.
Of course, Pandemic already helped the entire industry to shift their focus on to the metaverse.
From your perspective, why is Metaverse an essential trend for luxury brands to be engaged early on?
It’s the next big thing after the Internet. We all saw what happened when the Internet came out. All advertising opportunities move on to the internet with commerce following shortly after. We expect the same thing to happen in fashion. At the present moment, there are over 3 billion people regularly playing games and spending time in the metaverse. It’s only going to steadily go up. As all brands are keen to engage with Gen-Z, this is the platform - or a channel - they must get into in the first place. Now, the metaverse is a valuable addition that serves as a final touch for a complete omnichannel experience today: from Offline to Online - and ultimately, to the Metaverse.
The realization they were late to jump on the train of e-commerce should prompt brands to engage with Metaverse. These brands were among the last movers; on the contrary, this time we see many brands transforming into the first-movers and gaining a solid advantage.
I’m also curious to learn more about the digital fashion collections as worked on by ALTAVA Group. Which of the most recent ones you could bring to our attention?
- Collaboration with Balmain is one of the first major partnerships we did with luxury brands as well as showcase the tremendous potential of NFT as related to fashion.
- Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing gave us a sketch with flames coming out of the dress - we called it a “Flame Dress”, which was later converted to a 3D digital fashion and wearable by an avatar and sold as an NFT. The future of luxury fashion can only exist in the virtual space without ever producing real goods. D2A(direct to avatar) is potentially as big as D2C going forward.
What lies ahead of ALTAVA Group?
- We recently announced a partnership with The Sandbox, so that’s a pretty big deal. Our partnership with The Sandbox effectively highlights one of our core values as a company, creating interoperability between platforms. In this case, the NFT you bought from Altava that allows you to customize your PFP and an avatar can also be used on The Sandbox. So that’s really exciting and brings added value to users who bought those NFTs from us.
- The other partnership we literally just announced yesterday: collaboration with Elite Apes also highlights the other utility focus around our NFT, bridging it with the real world and the one of the metaverse. Elite Apes is the collective out of Hong Kong which controls 400 BAYC NFT - that’s valued at 30,000 ETH, or around $100 million USD to be certain. We will work with Elite Apes to create a high-end fashion line around their BAYC NFT. Some of these NFTs will have a real-world merchandise equivalent, so it’s similar to what we did with Balmain.
- We are of course looking to finish and launch our metaverse later this year.
- We will also introduce a design tool where users can design their own 3D fashion starting with sneakers and bags and submit their creation through a digital voting process, where the top design will be minted and re-produced on the real-life stage.
We noticed that SM Entertainment is one of your investors. They are the biggest K-pop company in the world. Is there any plan to work with them?
While we won’t go into detail yet, I can say that we are lucky to have our investors as they all have synergy with us beyond just providing capital.
With SM Entertainment, you’re right. They are the biggest K-pop company in the world. While I cannot divulge the exact details, I can say that it’ll likely be leveraged by each company’s core competency. For us, that means deep tech, high fidelity digital experience, interoperability and bridging the real world and metaverse.