The Fabricant - Flow Ecosystem Vol. 9
The first decentralized digital-only fashion house
This is the story of how a team of visionaries developed the idea of the first digital-only fashion house powered by blockchain technology. Co-founders Kerry Murphy, Amber Slooten, and Adriana Hoppenbrouwer connected through a shared belief in the need to radically disrupt the fashion industry’s toxic practices through the use of 3D technology. They used their time and resources to bootstrap R&D and launch their crypto fashion platform The Fabricant Studio in the middle of the global pandemic. It was a long and winding road that led them there, with their first introduction to the NFT-world coming in a phone call from the Dapper Labs team. Impressed by their craftsmanship and passion, Dapper invited them to NYC and worked with them to put the first ever digital fashion garment on blockchain in 2019, and subsequently brought them into the Flow blockchain ecosystem. The rest is history. The Fabricant just closed a $14M Series A round based on their platform’s premise to co-create digital fashion collections that can be worn and traded in blockchain-based environments.
The Beginnings of The Fabricant:
It was 2016 and Finnish-native Kerry Murphy was living in Amsterdam in The Netherlands where he was working in the advertising industry and running his own visual effects company. Through his knowledge of film production and its surrounding tech, he recognized that the fashion industry was long overdue a radical transformation as it was the last creative industry to embrace digitization. It provoked him to embark on a 2-year process to find the right business model to build an industry based on digital-only garments made in 3D.
Murphy knew that to be taken seriously the digital garments had to be highly crafted and designed with a fashion sensibility, so he began a search for potential collaborators. He found the right person in Amber Slooten, a gamer and tech enthusiast studying classic fashion design at an Amsterdam fashion school. Slooten had a passion for fashion’s creative process but didn’t want to participate in its numerous unethical and unsustainable practices, so had begun experimenting with creating designs in 3D as a way to overcome the industry’s negative impacts.
The shared mindset between Murphy and Slooten on the urgent need for a completely new fashion industry cemented their resolve to create the world’s first digital-only fashion house. Slooten finished her studies and became the first person ever to graduate with a purely digital collection (a position she fought hard for) and in 2018 she joined Murphy to co-found The Fabricant. They instantly put wheels in motion to introduce their radical idea to the world: a digital-only fashion house making purely non-physical garments.
Disrupting the Fashion Industry:
The concept arrived to a fashion world that was unready to accept the notion that clothing did not have to be physical to exist. They were told it was both stupid and going nowhere, with few willing to take them seriously. Murphy and Slooten knew they were doing something too innovative to be easily accepted by the gatekeepers of traditional fashion, so they kept pushing despite the negativity. They uploaded some of their 3D pieces to Instagram and the same day Nike called them curious to hear what they were doing. It didn’t result in a collaboration, but with one of the biggest brands on the planet calling them up to learn more, they knew they were on the right track.
It was a slow and arduous process finding clients willing to see the future of fashion that they had imagined, but they caught the eye of I.T Hong Kong, a luxury retailer who thought that what they were doing was creatively exciting. I.T commissioned them to recreate a collection in 3D and design a retail experience to showcase the pieces. It was the work on this project that gained the attention of the Dapper team, who understood that 3D fashion could become a new sector of crypto collectibles, in the same spirit as their famed CryptoKitties. Dapper had done their due diligence on The Fabricant and extended an invitation to come join them at NYC for a blockchain event, and everything rolled from there.
The final pillar of The Fabricant’s founding team came when they were joined in 2019 by Adriana Hoppenbrouwer, who had previously crossed paths with Murphy on a leadership course where they’d bonded though a shared focus on driving innovation. As a former Head of Marketing for global brands, Hoppenbrouwer brought her considerable business experience to the table, helping to steer The Fabricant’s work towards commercial success.
Building the Wardrobe of the Metaverse:
Even though the team was able to attract projects from major brands such as Puma, Under Armour and Off-White, who were keen to utilize The Fabricant’s 3D expertise, the company’s roadmap was way more ambitious than being a service company to the physical fashion world. With the insight given to them by Dapper into the world of blockchain, the team took a deep dive into the NFT and crypto worlds, understanding that the future of their work laid in pivoting to becoming a metaverse-ready company, with a blockchain-powered digital fashion platform of their own.
The plan began to unfold and the team’s capacity was shored up by the recruitment of Marco Marchesi, a unicorn engineer as Chief Tech Officer; and Eoin Whelan, a crypto-native Chief Financial Officer savvy in the world of Web3, and they set about building the platform on Dapper’s Flow ecosystem.
A Digital-Only Fashion Economy:
Their platform The Fabricant Studio, which allows anyone to collaborate and co-create digital fashion NFTs, debuted to a select test audience in September 2021. Its official first Season arrived in February 2022, with a scaled up capacity and new tools. Season 2 is well underway, with its latest collaboration with World of Women (WoW) landing in June. It’s a spectacular 27-piece collection designed by The Fabricant’s digital fashion team, inspired by the characters in the WoW project. The future of the fashion industry has arrived with an NFT creation platform built to enable user-generated content that allows its community to create the wardrobe of the metaverse. It ensures artists, brands and users benefit from their creative participation with an equal split of revenue in secondary sales, and gives utility to wear and trade their pieces in blockchain-based spaces.
The Fabricant’s story isn’t just about the ambition to build an innovative company, it’s about the commitment to creating the infrastructure for a sustainable and equitable digital-only fashion economy that will thrive for the long term. In doing so, they just made the metaverse a whole lot more stylish.
Below is a Q&A with Marchi Marchesi, CTO of the Fabricant, and Phill, its blockchain tech lead, about how the team leveraged the technology, community, and relationships in the Flow ecosystem to successfully build their co-creation platform The Fabricant Studio.
What was your experience developing on Flow?
One of Flow's many strengths is its developer experience. A huge amount of thought has gone into the design of the language, as well as the tools that developers use to build applications on Flow.
Cadence, the programming language of the Flow blockchain, is an ergonomic, resource-oriented language, which boasts strengths such as strong-typing and a semantic, declarative style. This enables developers to create a mental model of digital assets described by traits and behaviors based on tangible, real-world assets. The nature of this significantly reduces any conceptual barriers that the developer might encounter in other smart contract languages, as they are guided by rules and actions that are already familiar to them.
A great example of this is the direct-ownership model of asset ownership used by Flow. Unlike other smart contract languages, a central ledger of "who owns what" is not stored within the smart contract. Instead, the asset is located within an accounts storage on the blockchain - this is much closer to asset ownership in the real world and therefore makes reasoning about logic far simpler.
Another huge benefit of this model is that it is significantly more secure than the traditional approach found in other smart contract languages such as Solidity on Ethereum.
Development tools on Flow are focused around productivity, and also aim to mirror production environments as closely as possible. The Flow playground, a browser-based dev environment, is brilliant for putting together some quick ideas without the need to set-up a more comprehensive local environment.
You can also easily share a link to your playground, which allows developers to quickly and easily discuss ideas. The Flow Emulator is a blockchain emulator that you can run on your local machine. The development process usually begins here, as the emulator permits a fast iterative cycle, since the block resolution time is near instant. Once the contract has been defined and tested using the emulator, the next step for the developer is to deploy the contract to Testnet. Testnet closely resembles the production blockchain environment, and so developers can gain insights that would only be revealed by a more realistic environment, therefore informing them of any necessary adjustments that might be needed.
The final step is to deploy to Mainnet, and fortunately there is comprehensive documentation provided by the Flow team that can guide a developer through each one of these steps!
What is different about Flow for users and developers?
One of the defining traits of Flow, for both users and developers, is the community. It is commonplace for individual projects on Flow to have strong, dedicated communities, which is partly due to the project promotion that the Flow team commits themselves to via their official social channels. This is a huge benefit to the project creators, as they are able to capitalize on the influence that the Flow team possesses. However, the broader community, spanning projects and dev teams, is equally impressive - if not more so.
The dev community within Flow is incredibly close-knit, but also open and receptive, and you will find plenty of people willing to go out of their way to help and support others. This community-centered perspective is actually one of the first things that newcomers to Flow immediately recognize!
Why should others choose Flow as an L1 from a startup perspective?
If you have a project that is based on a strong community, a brilliant developer experience, and requires a secure-by-design framework, then using Flow blockchain is a no brainer! You will be able to benefit from support that is unparalleled, provided by both the Flow team and the community, and will be able to partake in a blockchain that is growing rapidly for all the right reasons. There's still a huge amount of growth possible for Flow, which means that there are areas that are open to contributions beyond your project. Building on Flow means not only defining the future of your own project, but also the Flow blockchain as a whole!
What initial challenges did you face when trying to choose an L1?
The challenge of choosing a L1 was not just technical, but cultural. Many of us are collectors on Ethereum or other chains and we knew how developing for one or the other would have presented to us a different audience with different values and preferences. However, we thought Flow was the perfect starting point to build an ecosystem with a focus on sustainability, security and scalability.
Kerry Murphy, Founder, CEO
Amber Jae Slooten, Co-founder and Creative Director
Adriana Hoppenbrouwer, Co-founder and Commercial Director
Marco Marchesi, Chief Technology Officer
Eoin Whelan, Chief Financial Officer
Sophie Op den Kamp, Managing Director
Minting fees and royalties from blue chip brands
Closed $14M Series A led by GreenFieldOne
Other investors included RedDAO, and Sound Ventures; Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s fund
Strategic Partnerships/Business Development:
World of Women NFT
Australian Fashion Week
Adidas and Karlie Kloss
I.T Hong Kong
The Fabricant Studio is a decentralized co-creation platform where metaverse citizens can participate in the new fashion economy. Users can connect their wallet and create, trade, and wear digital clothing.
User options include:
Choose a garment
Customize the fabric
Add colors and trims
Mint your NFT on the Flow blockchain
Utility in blockchain based games
In-house skill sets:
Digital-only fashion design
3D avatar creation
3D environment creation
3D garment visualisation and lighting
Crypto and blockchain economic models
Marketing, communications and PR
The Fabricant Studio is imagining and building the new digital fashion economy. It is creating a digital-only fashion ecosystem for everyone to participate in and building a strong community around it. This decentralized digital fashion house provides new possibilities and strategies for creators and brands to collaborate on Web3 fashion projects, rewarding their participation and creating new revenue streams. Digital fashion is here to stay and allows everyone to express themselves in the metaverse.