Luxury digital and physical fashion startup Syky has had a busy 2023, racking up $10.5 million in series A funding at the top of the year, as well as partnerships, business initiatives and other programs, including work with the British Fashion Council and a roster of emerging digital designers through its very own Syky Collective incubator. It has all led up to this: On Friday, the company finally plans to throw open its digital doors with a platform launch alongside London Fashion Week.
Syky will mark the occasion on Friday with a live event and digital fashion showcase cohosted by the British Fashion Council. According to the company, the premiere looks on offer will be a small capsule collection from Sunw, a London-based label from Chinese designer and incubator participant Fanrui Sun. Two digital fashion items will be available, each with allocations of 20, plus a custom physical bag that will come with a digital twin. The latter will be sold via auction on Friday beginning at 8 a.m. ET, with starting bids of 0.65 ETH. (At press time, that was the equivalent of roughly $1,605.) The brand GlitchofMind, another from the Collective cohort, will follow Sunw.
“Today is a monumental day for Syky as we launch the first version of our platform for consumers to collect, curate and trade digital fashion,” founder Alice Delahunt told WWD. Previously Ralph Lauren’s chief digital and content officer and digital and marketing director at Burberry, Delahunt, now chief executive officer of Syky, is surprised by how fast her company has evolved this year.
Indeed, even pre-launch, the business has hit a series of milestones. The list spans January’s funding round, led by Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six; the arrival of its Keystone NFT collection and members-only community — a 987-strong group of fashion early adopters with first access to limited Syky collections, events, insights and other perks; its introduction of digital designers during New York Fashion Week earlier this year; several digital-fashion partnerships with major brands; the establishment of its incubator program and related partnership with the BFC, and other deals. The World Economic Forum even named the company one of its “Technology Pioneers” of 2023 in June, and it hadn’t even launched yet.
“A year ago, when I embarked on the journey to build a digital luxury fashion platform and support the next generation of designers, my vision remained unwavering — to bridge the gap between physical and digital fashion, creating a space for industry icons and emerging designers alike,” she said. “With the launch of the Syky platform and the exciting debut of Sunw by Fanrui Sun on syky.com, it becomes abundantly clear that two worlds are colliding and that both physical and digital fashion can harmoniously coexist, ushering in a new era of fashion.”
Functionally, Syky will offer a high-end marketplace for luxury fashion NFTs along with features that support community, social connection and digital identities, i.e., people’s psyches, as echoed by the company’s name. Think user-created profiles and hand-picked collections or display as forms of self-expression. Everyone from individuals to fashion houses will be able to express themselves through their own crypto wallet-based lookbooks of digital collectibles.
Syky plans to offer exclusive luxury drops by new and established designers, from digital-only apparel, footwear and accessories to physical “one-of-ones” and augmented reality luxury fashion. Another distinguishing characteristic, according to the company, is a secondary marketplace specializing in “the fashion industry’s most esteemed on-chain drops,” where owners can buy, sell and trade premium fare.
The proposition may sound more exclusive than inclusive, but being a gatekeeper isn’t the company’s goal. On the contrary, from its point of view, the next generation is already writing the future of luxury digital fashion, so it’s crucial to nurture emerging talent. This is the sensibility that connects and animates groups like the British Fashion Council, which entered into a course-sharing agreement between its NewGen curriculum and Syky’s incubator program prior to stepping up as cohost of the platform’s London Fashion Week event.
“Celebrating emerging designers is in our DNA,” explained Clara Mercer, communications director at the British Fashion Council. “The BFC launched NewGen in 1993, 30 years ago, and since then we have supported over 300 designers. From this trailblazing program emerged icons such as Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Charles Jeffrey, Kim Jones and so many others, who have left an indelible mark on the fashion landscape.
“Today, as we prepare businesses for relentless innovation and responsible growth we are excited to explore the opportunity in digital fashion,” she added. “Technology needs creatives to realize ideas.”
Sunw’s debut is a good example.
Fanrui Sun, a student working toward her master’s degree in fashion at the Royal College of Art in London, was already an accomplished digital designer before, having worked with companies like Mercedes Benz, Adidas and Nick Knight’s Ikon-1, and contributing as a member of Xtended Identity, a leading digital fashion brand. But her premiere on the Syky platform represents her first capsule collection under her own label.
“I’m particularly excited about a handbag she’s designed — a 3D-printed, resin-and-electroplated collectible with a digital twin — that perfectly encapsulates her fluid understanding of our hybrid world,” Delahunt said in a statement.
For Sun, the work is a departure from her “previous ethereal and colorful creations.” The designer blended soft, organic forms with a futuristic chrome palette, mechanical elements and “the solidity of architectural materiality, resulting in a compelling tension that resonates throughout each meticulously crafted piece,” she explained in exclusive comments to WWD.
In this, the Mettals handbag, the artist shows her aim to bridge the physical and digital worlds — and the manner of its launch, in a new destination dedicated to same thing, means it does both thematically and literally.