If virtual fashion’s inroads to the established fashion world could be mapped by the moves of rising platforms like Alice Delahunt’s luxury-oriented Syky, then it appears that “phygital” fashion has truly arrived. After a landmark year that brought a British Fashion Council partnership and the launch of her platform at London Fashion Week, the former Ralph Lauren and Burberry executive revealed exclusively to WWD that Nicola Formichetti has been appointed Syky’s first artistic director.
Formichetti, a fashion visionary who was early to harness the powers of social media and experiment in the digital realm, was formerly artistic director at Diesel and Mugler, and has had collaborations with Uniqlo, MAC, Alexander McQueen and many more. But he may be best known for his work as the art director at the Haus of Gaga, where he masterminded the famous “meat dress” worn by Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, and her arrival in a Hussein Chalayan “egg” at the 2011 Grammys.
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Delahunt, however, is firmly focused on what his vision will bring next to advance fashion in its digital and physical forms.
“I believe that a new creative class will emerge who are going to build the fashion houses of the future, and the established ones are going to have to evolve to meet this reality and build products and experiences [for it],” she told WWD. “What’s so amazing about Nicola is that he doesn’t just loosely agree with this — he deeply believes in it, and has a really tangible history of pioneering some of the most innovative and creative work with brands and technology.”
This is a space that Delahunt has been living and breathing as the principal of Syky, which opened in January 2023 amid a $10.5 million series A round led by Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six. Like many Web 3.0-oriented companies, it introduced NFTs, but that was just for starters. The business went on to debut an incubator program called Syky Collective in April, which drew submissions across five continents and 29 countries, then took honors as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Technology Pioneers” for 2023 in June of that year.
According to Formichetti, “it was like a match made in heaven.”
He described his occupation — or rather preoccupation — with the digital world as an obsession. “Throughout my career, I’ve always pushed boundaries, being always in the cutting-edge fashion. And so when I started getting into Web 3.0 a couple of years ago, like everybody, I started to sniff around and discover that this is something that I was really interested in. But I wanted to learn more.
“Last year, I came across Syky, and initially it just really felt like my kind of world.”
What impressed him and spoke to him personally, he explained, was Delahunt’s incredible attention to detail. “We share the same vision of the future, where everything should be a mixture of physical and digital, and augmented and everything,” he said.
The concept of futuristic fashion is already firmly in Formichetti’s wheelhouse, especially aesthetically, but he’s particularly excited about the spirit of experimentation that he has been noticing in the last couple of years and the community that has sprung up around it. As part of his duties, the new artistic director will not only guide Syky’s creative vision, but he’ll have a hand in the platform’s incubator program. In that way, he will directly help shape the future of fashion.
Naturally, there are business implications for digital fashion, and those are still evolving. But Delahunt seems well aware of those aspects: “I know I use this quite a lot, but Fortnite’s revenue from just its apparel is more than the revenue of many of the major fashion houses that exist today. When you look at the CryptoPunks x Tiffany collabs, that was another bridge of that digital culture into the established brand space,” she said, referring to the jewelry brand’s NFT initiative. The 2022 collaboration generated some $13 million within minutes.
Extending that potential and caché to the phygital space, which inhabits virtual and physical planes, amplifies the need for creative thinking. It could be especially challenging for the upper echelons of fashion, a world rooted in craftsmanship and all the tangible details that luxury demands.
But, for platforms like Syky and artists like Formichetti, interpreting that and pushing those boundaries is an exciting challenge. “I think we are discovering together what that could be. But I and others always thought from Day One that we want to give a luxurious feeling to a digital world,” he said.
“It’s a mixture of what real luxury does, plus this new thing that we will be building.”
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