Only 10 years ago, the roles of “Head of Metaverse” or “Chief Metaverse Officer” were inconceivable. Now, they have permeated the boardrooms of major luxury companies across the globe. As Web3 continues on its unprecedented — and somewhat still untested — trajectory, conversations once had in hushed tones are now openly on the lips of top luxury fashion and lifestyle magnates.
"How Web3 is disrupting the luxury and fashion industry is fundamental — it’s not just another channel to sell the products, such as e-commerce or Instagram,” says Eliana Kuo, co-CEO and founder of Web3 circular retail platform Spin by Lablaco. “It will radically change how products are designed, produced, sold, consumed, used, and reused, eventually formulating an ecosystem with new business models and new KPIs.”
If this is so, how can the industry utilize this fledgling digital space to its full potential, and are shoppers willing to buy in? Most importantly, how can companies position themselves as leaders in a field that’s still establishing itself?
The answer to many of these questions is simple: appoint an expert to strategize a digital roadmap and show consumers the metaverse has serious heft. Like Gucci. In September, the Italian luxury fashion house appointed Robert Triefus as its CEO of Vault and Metaverse Ventures, a newly created division committed to expanding and executing the group’s Web3 ambitions. The role includes: exploring new opportunities to expand the house’s presence in online spaces; scaling its metaversal roadmap; and overseeing the brand’s experimental online platform, Vault.
In a statement, the Kering-owned company outlined how Robert Triefus' “experience and expertise will help shape Gucci's strategy in these strategic areas, which he has helped build, having worked hand in hand with the respective teams shaping the house's approach and positioning in the gaming and Web3 sectors.”
While Gucci may not be the first in its field to confirm the metaverse's permanence, it's certainly the one that seems to have garnered the most attention across socials. Luxury houses like so were initially hesitant to dive into the digital realm, whereas creatives like Stefano Rosso were storming ahead, looking to solidify their stances as pioneers in the space before anyone else could. As a member of the OTB group, the fourth founding member of Aura Blockchain Consortium, Rosso was the brains behind the formation of Brave Virtual Xperience; the business unit dedicated to helping the brands of OTB group (such as Diesel, Marni, and Jil Sander) better understand the metaverse and equip them with the right skills to crack it. The programme — which was developed in 2021 — preceded the likes of Gucci's, Balenciaga's, and LVMH's Web3 ventures, leading many to dub Rosso as one of the leading players in the virtual space.
On the one hand, the decision to establish and prioritize roles like these makes sense. The Web3 market is estimated to reach 81.5 billion (588.5 billion RMB) by 2030, as reported by consultancy firm Emergen Research, with the luxury fashion and lifestyle sector predicted to boost industry sales by 50 billion (360 billion RMB), according to investment bank Morgan Stanley. Implementing a digital-first leader into a brand’s team reinforces to its consumers, particularly those who remain cynical about the virtual space, that the metaverse is (and will continue to be) a serious revenue generator.
“As with any marketing or commercial activity, you still need a cohesive strategy that outlines clear goals, identifies opportunities, and ties in your efforts in Web3 and the metaverse to the rest of your business. That’s where Chief Metaverse and Web3 Officers can have a huge impact,” Enara Nazarova, VP of Metaverse at Web3 agency Hype, explains.
Despite these optimistic predictions, the luxury sector has had its fair share of challenges when it comes to navigating the metaverse. Traditional marketing methods that were once the stalwarts of a brand's customer strategy are being shunned by this new generation of digital-native patrons, who prefer community-centric roadmaps and drop-model methods. Tapping this new wave of spending power is difficult: consumer mentality and behavior in the domain are still nascent, making it difficult to track trends, habits, or popular brands and individuals in the landscape.
But what does the position of Head of Metaverse actually involve? "I oversee a wide-range of products, projects and activations," Nathan Minsberg, Metaverse Lead at Brand New Vision details. "From premium digital clothings that are sold in the form of NFTs packed with benefits for the owners, to conceptualising and building various metaverse spaces on platforms with wildly different aesthetics and deploying experiences of varying levels of gamification or social-interaction, to finally bringing it all back to reality through physical events." Having someone who understands the advanced virtual world — as well as all the nuances that come with it — let alone keep tabs on it, is becoming crucial to a brand's future-proofing.
Recognizing this, luxury houses are fighting for the most forward-thinking individuals to bolster their Web3 presence. Balenciaga is reportedly creating its own metaverse division, while luxury giant LVMH welcomed Nelly Mensah into the new role of “Head of Metaverse and Crypto” to take the helm of all metaverse efforts globally and distill knowledge across the group’s clientele, which includes Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior.
On professional jobsite LinkedIn, a quick search of the role ‘“Chief Metaverse Officer” brings up a roster of international names and companies. From SMEs to start-ups, the number of individuals holding this title is a promising sign for Web3 and its impact on businesses worldwide. According to StockApps.com, interest in jobs related to the metaverse has also increased by 105 percent over the last three months. Job postings are on the rise, and more people are searching for information about the technology.
Speaking on the statistics, TradingPlatforms specialist Edith Reads said the metaverse is still “in its infancy,” but they are already seeing a demand for jobs related to technology. “With the launch of more virtual reality headsets and the rise of social media platforms, we expect this demand to continue to grow,” she added.
When it comes to China, luxury houses should proactively design plans to engage the metaverse if they want to succeed in the critical and highly digitized local market. According to domestic job site Zhilian Zhaopin, metaverse-related recruitment posts increased by 16.6 percent year on year from January to July 2022. The sector is also one of the best-paid in China, with fresh graduates earning about 55,500 to 70,000 (400,000–500,000 RMB) and senior members earning millions of yuan per year. This reflects the intensive competition among Chinese metaverse firms to acquire in-demand specialist talents.
However, companies should also fully realize by now that the Chinaverse is following its own distinct path. In this state-led model, entertainment-related functions are only of secondary importance, meaning that fashion companies are unlikely to be at the forefront. Its metaverse talents — highly concentrated at tech companies — are yet to proliferate to the fashion industry.
As such, brands should view the Chinese metaverse not in isolation but instead as an integral part of the ever-evolving social media landscape here. This was indicated by Grégory Boutté, Kering's Chief Client & Digital Officer, during an exclusive interview on the importance of Kering's metaverse initiatives. He stated that China is an important source of “digital inspiration” and attributed the corporation’s success in the mainland to it formulating a digitization strategy that engaged a plethora of homegrown social media platforms early on.
Some are understandably skeptical about employing individuals to take on these internal dedicated Web3 silos. “It is the responsibility of the entire team, including the CEO, to become part of the metaverse transition. Web3 needs a holistic approach that integrates all levels and all departments within an organization,” Daniel Langer, founder of luxury brand strategy firm Équité, recently observed during the Jing Daily x Équité webinar series.
While the idea of recruiting Web3 enthusiasts may still seem far off for some, now is the time to be considering what this further move into the metaverse might entail: whether that be diversifying their team with more digital natives, educating existing employees on the online realm, or collaborating with dedicated consultancy firms like Metav.rs and Exclusible.
Competition to crack the new age of the Internet is escalating. Taking on metaverse leads is a solid start for companies dipping into the newfound space and might just be the key to securing their place as a pioneer on the virtual road ahead.
Additional reporting by Zihao Liu