On Friday, as London Fashion Week kicks into gear, luxury fashion startup SYKY will launch its digital platform, the company confirmed to SCENE.
The startup (pronounced “psy-che”) was founded last year by Alice Delahunt, who worked previously as Ralph Lauren’s Chief Digital Officer and prior to that as Burberry’s Global Director of Digital and Social. In January, SYKY announced it had completed a $10.5 million Series A fundraise, led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s investment firm Seven Seven Six.
On SYKY, users will be able to buy digital and physical fashion items designed by both emerging creators and established luxury brands. These items will be principally released in curated drops; the first SYKY collection—a highly limited run of 40 digital fashion items, plus a one-of-one physical handbag accompanied by a digital twin from Chinese digital artist Fanrui Sun—will drop Friday.
To Delahunt, who serves as SYKY’s CEO, building a blockchain-native home for leading creators in both digital and physical fashion is just the latest step in a career that has long embraced the cutting edge of technology.
At Burberry, Delahunt encouraged tech experiments then-unheard of in the fashion industry, including livestreaming runway shows and debuting exclusive peeks at new collections on social media. At Ralph Lauren, she pushed to bring the company’s designs into the virtual realm in collaborations with Bitmoji, Snapchat, and the South Korean proto-metaverse Zepeto.
An immersive, on-chain fashion ecosystem seemed like the next obvious step in that trajectory—and Delahunt believes that now is the perfect moment to bring that still-nascent technology to the mainstream.
“It’s like catching a wave: not too early, not too late,” Delahunt told SCENE. “You have to get it at the right time.”
SYKY users will be able to trade on-chain digital fashion collectibles of all sorts on a secondary marketplace hosted on the site. They will also be encouraged to show off their virtual fashion wardrobes by connecting digital wallets to an in-platform social media function. Despite the fact that many of these features cater to tech-savvy blockchain enthusiasts, Delahunt believes SYKY’s distinct value proposition lies in its connectivity not just to the tightly-knit digital fashion ecosystem, but also to the broader luxury fashion world.
“We are extending beyond just digital fashion enthusiasts,” she said. “We’re also speaking to fashion industry collectors and VIPs, who have a long history of collecting pieces. Introducing them to the digital piece of it, which fascinates them and which they want to create a conversation around—that gets really exciting to me.”
Delahunt considers the fashion industry’s shift to a hybrid of digital and physical offerings “inevitable.” There is some evidence to support that belief: Even amid the ongoing NFT and crypto bear market, legacy fashion houses like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Gucci have continued to double down on digital offerings and blockchain integrations with new collections.
At the same time, however, the dream of many early digital fashion advocates to leverage the blockchain and the nascent metaverse to weaken luxury brands’ ultra-centralized grip on power and create a new, democratized and decentralized status quo for laborers and designers alike, seems in many respects as far away as ever.
Beyond the underestimated difficulty of unseating global, multi-billion-dollar corporations, this failure is due at least in part to dissolving enthusiasm for the metaverse—which has struggled to attract and keep mainstream users, particularly when it comes to fashion.
SYKY seeks to bridge this divide by leveraging strong relationships with established fashion brands and their loyal consumer bases, while at the same time promoting the work of emerging designers from around the world.
Following the launch of Fanrui Sun’s collection on Friday, SYKY will next host a drop from the Dominican visual artist GLITCHOFMIND in October. Both artists participated in the 2023 SYKY Collective, an incubator program designed to help grow the brands of up-and-coming, independent digital designers.
“A whole new generation of fashion houses is going to spring up that will be as influential as some of the greatest [legacy brands], and that’s why we’re launching with them,” Delahunt said.
To commemorate SYKY’s launch, the company will host a celebratory event in London on Friday evening with the British Fashion Council, as part of London Fashion Week’s official program.