Digital fashion house DressX has raised $15 million to continue to expand its offerings of virtual and augmented reality wearables, the company announced Tuesday.
The Series A funding round, led by European crypto investment firm Greenfield Capital, also featured participation from Slow Ventures, Warner Music, The Artemis Fund, and Red DAO, the digital fashion collective.
Despite launching less than three years ago, DressX counts itself among the oldest and most established players in the rapidly evolving, metaverse-oriented economy of digital wearables. DressX designs virtual fashion items to be worn by virtual avatars both on-chain, as NFTs, and off-chain, as skins in non-blockchain-based gaming ecosystems. The company also creates augmented reality (AR) outfits that real-life users can wear as filters on social media platforms.
DressX has, from its inception in August 2020, straddled both sides of Web3 discourse, prioritizing mass adoption over strict adherence to decentralized principles.
The company ruffled some feathers among the tightly-knit digital fashion ecosystem when it partnered with tech colossus Meta last July to bring digital outfits to the corporation’s off-chain Horizon World metaverse. Detractors argued the company was allying with the greatest opponent of—and obstacle to—an open, decentralized metaverse. DressX’s founders told Decrypt at the time that they were trying to bring digital fashion to the largest audience possible.
The red-hot blockchain-backed metaverse enthusiasm has undeniably cooled in the face of technological hurdles and the grueling bear market, so DressX’s bet may have been a smart one. Just yesterday, Meta announced plans to wind down support of NFTs on its platforms, axing a Web3-supportive initiative launched less than a year ago; DressX’s Horizon World offerings, which don’t live on the blockchain, were unaffected by the announcement.
“We are building content for the here and now,” DressX co-founder Daria Shapovalova told Decrypt. “You can wear DressX on social media. Is that part of the metaverse? Is it not part of the metaverse?” Shapovalova appeared unconcerned with such distinctions. “We started DressX before metaverse was even a word people used.”
The same goes for NFTs.
“The community's kind of moving away from even using the word NFT,” DressX’s other co-founder, Natalia Modenova, told Decrypt. “NFT [adoption] has never been a goal for us. It's just one way to distribute digital fashion.”
DressX will continue to offer digital outfits compatible with the blockchain; they just might stop calling those items NFTs. And many of the company’s top sellers have nothing to do with crypto.
DressX’s primary use case, so far, is social media: users wearing AR digital dresses in Instagram photos or virtual hats in front-facing videos. Such applications don’t require blockchain compatibility, and given Meta’s announcement yesterday, they sometimes preclude it.
“We use a bunch of different technologies in our stack, and blockchain is one of them,” Modenova said. “Different trends are changing our notion of digital fashion, and we are utilizing different technologies to bring that vision to life.”
Another such technology is artificial intelligence. Next month, DressX plans to roll out a beta version of a program that, aided by AI, will allow users to quickly throw digital outfits onto large quantities of photos or video in a manner that significantly speeds up the process of adjusting AR fashion pieces to different real-world physical environments.
DressX’s founders say their $15 million raise will allow the company to begin scaling, particularly on the technical side.
In an industry deeply intertwined with the pulse of the ever-volatile crypto market, DressX may have found a path forward to insulate itself not just from the connotations currently tainting the perception of NFTs and the metaverse but also from market forces.
In December, Warner Music, one of Tuesday’s funding round’s investors, tapped DressX to begin designing digital outfits for the label’s artists and those artists’ fans. That partnership, another with a major Web2 brand, featured no discernible tokenized characteristics.