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From catwalk to console: Swiss start-up Nak3d's digital fashion revolution

By Esmee Blaazer


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Business |Interview

Air Jordan 1 by Nike as worn in Miles Morales Spiderman Across the Spiderverse 2023. Credits: Nak3d

Nak3d is a Swiss startup that brings together the worlds of fashion, video games and artificial intelligence (AI). The company specialises in turning the latest fashion trends, brands and styles into digital assets that can be used in video games.

This is referred to by Nak3d as 'g-commerce' – or game commerce. It allows video game players to wear virtual clothing and accessories based on real-life fashion trends and brands, providing them with the tools to personalise their in-game characters and follow the latest fashion within the gaming world.

Nak3d brings fashion trends to the virtual world of gaming

“I've been working in the video games industry for 30 years,” NAk3d co-founder CEO and CTO, Kelly Vero, told FashionUnited. “I found that there was something missing: the ability for characters to look really good in 2D. Not just in big games like Call of Duty, Fortnite or Overwatch or the smaller games like Kim Kardashian's Hollywood (the latter of which is to shutter after almost 10 years, ed.).”

Vero continued: “Nak3d solves the need for new content in digital stores in virtual worlds and video games. While you could find sponsored guns and ammunition in games, there was nothing related to fashion.”

At the same time, the company also helps fashion and retail brands to have a digital presence in virtual gaming worlds like Decentraland and Roblox. “We know that 85 percent of Gen Z has an avatar,” Vero noted, “and the fashion industry isn't servicing them at all. But we are, because we make sure that those avatars have got something to wear.”

So, how does it work?

“Brands select specific assets for digitisation and choose their desired virtual environments. Our AI engine then simultaneously transforms these assets into digital formats suitable for each chosen environment,” explained Vero. The Swiss company then utilises design and technical information of fashion items, including data from the so-called PLM, which stands for product lifecycle management.

Alexander McQueen SS23 Men’s Photographed by Jet Swan. Credits: Rendered by NAK3D.

“The first R&D object that we produced was for the SS23 collection of Alexander McQueen,” Vero shared. “It gave us all of the information that we needed to figure out whether this was a feasible business opportunity and filled the gap that I talked about before, which needs to be addressed by digital objects and video games. We pulled that together, Alexander McQueen really liked it, and then we were off. We started to build Nak3d with a view to look at how we could use digital objects to understand the buying choices of Generation Z and Gen Alpha.”

USP: Insights for fashion and retail brands about Gen Z

“There are a lot of insights companies get at the moment that are starting to explode on the scene,” stated Vero. The co-founder highlighted Louis Vuitton as an example of a brand the company has collaborated with. A surprising piece of information for the luxury brand, for example, was that its products were being worn alongside brands like American Apparel and Tommy Hilfiger, not other high-end brands or alternate pieces from its own range.

According to Vero, information feedback is the USP of the company, something that sets them apart from similar companies that are active. “Nak3d is actually the only one that uses the digital object to focus on that particular insight,” commented the CEO/CTO.

Of course, there are restrictions on the data that Nak3d can provide, Vero added. “We cannot get data about young people under the age of 13. However, in-house, we can use data that we receive to explore purchasing that has happened inside the video game. That's where the 85 percent avatar percentage comes from, for example.”

As such, now that the company has collected two years of data, it is now preparing to release a report before the end of the year.

Marketing and e-commerce opportunities

Vero noted that Nak3d can also provide a number of features when it comes to marketing, a feature the company has learned and developed from the implementation of pilot projects with the likes of London fashion brand Lulu Guinness and renowned luxury webshop Net-a-Porter.

“Nak3d uses innovative AI tools to generate digital images, with which we can bring very clear photo shoots and images to life.” According to Vero, companies can save a lot of money when it comes to marketing by using 'digital objects'. “Customers no longer need a photo studio or model, so can save up to 80 percent of their marketing budget.”

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Lulu Guinness classic lips clutch showing mesh comb in 4k. Credits: Nak3d

What is next for Nak3d?

“Now we'll be working towards enhancing e-commerce using our metadata focused objects,” Vero continued, “on not just games, but also e-commerce, social platforms and a variety of other opportunities for the end user. What's great about what we do is that we don't need to have a campaign-by-campaign methodology, which a lot of our competitors do. When we create an object it can go everywhere in four seconds.”

In addition, Nak3d's phone has been ringing off the hook since it was announced last week that the large American retail chain Walmart has entered into a partnership with Unity, stated Vero. This collaboration will make it possible to buy physical products from Walmart without players having to leave a video game or app. It's a new way for companies to make money and for people to buy things while having fun playing their favourite games.

“That gave us a lot of validity in what it is that we're making at Naked because this is the direction of travel, I think, for a lot of organisations now. So in these last weeks that we've been back from the new year, our phone hasn't stopped ringing.”

“I can't give away any names,” concluded the driven and cheerful entrepreneur on the call, “but what I can say is that we will be very busy in 2024.”

Alexander McQueen S/S ‘23 Mens Photographed by Jet Swan. Credits: Rendered by Nak3d.
Key info/facts:
  • Founded two years ago by Kelly Vero (CEO and CTO) and Chris Wittmer (COO)
  • Based in Zurich, Switzerland
  • Nak3d works with 30 fashion brands and large omnichannel retailers
  • The company makes fashion items for 10 to 20 video games such as the popular Runway Z and virtual worlds such as Roblox, Decentraland and Sandbox
  • Nak3d currently has five employees
Netflix Wednesday look: SHEIN Frenchy Contrast Collar Pearls Beaded Dress, 8 by YOOX & 100% leather lace-ups with lug sole. Credits: Nak3d
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