Currently serving as an international lecturer on Web3 fashion marketing, branding and retail innovation, Paula Marie Kilgarriff has become a formidable leader in the burgeoning space. Leveraging her expertise in luxury fashion, digital technology, business development, branding, digital retail and more, you can find her in all sorts of corners right now.
As part of our ongoing series, we recently sat down with Paula to discuss the future potential of various Web3 technologies, the role of fashion as an important metaverse entry point and why Web3 is truly benefiting from the power of female leadership traits.
With 20 years of experience working in e-commerce, Paula’s first venture involved lecturing on both e-commerce and fashion. She spent a decade in China, working with various different technologies (including VR, AR and QR codes) before moving into the e-payment sphere. This included serving as the founder and CEO of The Style Workshop, where she assisted with the development and training of various luxury brands and served as a keynote speaker at a long list of panel discussions.
Paula worked with several brands working on their technology — particularly in terms of how their marketing and sales strategies would serve the field of e-commerce. Citing China as pioneers of app technology and gaming, she also explains how it was “only natural that retail would become part of entertainment and gamification.”
Paula eventually returned to her home country of Ireland, noting this time as her official entry point into the Web3 space. Citing academia, computer science and fashion industries as the three main components of her background, she notes how Web3 protocols are “a kind of natural progression of her career and academic work”.
“I like the vibes of Web3,” she says. “I think it’s very youth culture-orientated. It’s got a lot of diversity and inclusion and we’re challenging and revisiting existing narratives.”
She continued: “We’re, you know, looking for new models and monetisation and IP models for creatives, which is also linked back to the fashion industry. And I also like real-time supply chains that have DAO mechanisms for consensus-building on what types of collections are coming through — plus the co-creation opportunity for people who are not in fashion in terms of the art and design part, but who still have an opportunity to build new fashion products and services.”
Teaching future creatives and builders
Paula also works as a guest lecturer for Master’s programmes at both the London College of Fashion and Nottingham Trent University, offering unique instruction on how she believes Web3 will change fashion and which types of protocols are most conducive to improving the industry. At the moment, she breaks down how the metaverse is now serving as a distribution sales platform for brands who are trying to dip their foot into the Web3 space through 3D modelling.
“We say NFTs are actually a natural extension of the integrated marketing communications plan. So you don’t always have your marketing team. They don’t have your metaverse activation. So it’s natural — my gang would have to have an understanding of online technology and an in-store environment. So the seamless integration between the two — whether it’s an omniverse you’re shopping in, an app, or an IRL activation — is all integrated.”
How are the advents of Web3 being received by her youngest students? “They’re very curious,” she says. “And if I use a lot of Web3 mechanisms to explain the future of education, they’re really down. They love the idea of attention tokens or attendance tokens being paid to go to college — they like to think that they can use them to influence the curriculum and the delivery format of the exams.”
In fact, Paula’s first-year students seem to be the most eager of the bunch. “They’ve got the finance cards and whatnot. The Master’s [students] are coming back from work, so they’re more interested in the metaverse as our 3D distribution and sales platforms. And there’s a great opportunity for us to service our customers in real-time, so they’ll accept it from that point of view. But my first years will be more about NFTs and all that kind of crazy stuff — because they’re coming from a gaming background.”
We also bring up the plethora of scepticism that’s surrounded the growing space, particularly within academic circles. “You’re always going to have this kind of hype stuff initially, but at the end of the day, the technology is phenomenal and very disruptive.”
“What I’ve noticed about that generation — you know, people say their attention span is a little bit limited, but it’s not really — I just think they want to understand the applied part of it. And I understand that — because if you’re coming from centralised systems and older education systems, we do condition you in a certain way based on the culture or for some reason.”
She continues: “The great thing about Web3 is the fact that you can pick and choose their stakeholders, right? So you have real-time people in those areas and those disciplines telling you about history. And so it’s such a great opportunity to learn more intensively and more specifically if that makes sense.”
Making fashion more digitally accessible
In 2022, we’ve clearly seen a newfound combination of both physical and digital assets develop within the fashion world. Top brands have begun selling their pieces as NFTs, while others have increased their visibility within popular games and metaverse-based events.
Paula recently helped with handling metaverse event sponsorships for the successful Metaverse Fashion Week, which was recently held within the popular metaverse platform Decentraland. Working alongside Admix, she assisted brands with selling billboards and 3D wearables at the virtual event and helped them distinguish which ones were able to provide pre-universal content. “I was basically trying to qualify, or validate who would be suitable to have — or whether we’d need to create premium diversity content or not.”
“You see, the great thing about 3D modelling and the metaverse moment is that it’s a piece of cake to make products right — particularly for coming from e-commerce platforms. But when you’re getting into like, virtual experiences and you know, the intangible nature of immersive experiences — that’s much more complex and difficult to communicate through technology.”
Paula is vocal about where improvements could have been made to the first inaugural fashion week in the metaverse (such as pointing out the pitfalls of ‘digitally twinning’ products in both the physical and digital worlds), she also stresses that it was a “great first step” for Decentraland. “I thought the brands were very, very brave, actually — and curious. I think they basically wanted to figure out: ‘Okay, let’s dip our toes into the waters.’ It was a great kind of opportunity for brands to just get familiar and comfortable with the space in terms of what we know which ad makes will have hyper-personalisation and real-time and 3D wearables.”
The future scope of metaverse fashion
From Metaverse Fashion Week to record-setting fashion NFTs, there’s no questioning that we’ve seen the idea of digital assets effectively enter mainstream consciousness within the last year. But will this concept bring more people into Web3?
“In terms of adoption? Absolutely,” says Paula. “I think people should have the choice in the future where they’ll want to have a physical or digital item, so I definitely think so.” Moreover, she explains how she believes that digital items are “the key to a smart contract that we own if it’s a luxury good, in addition to being a key to co-create.”
To enhance the digital fashion world, we also discussed further possibilities that we may see down the road. “The metaverse is going to be a great opportunity for everybody — but particularly customers and what kind of products and services are made. And I think if you have this ‘IRL’ online activation, you have to mirror the physical and you have to merge them together. It has to be seamless. Whether they’re in a metaverse or in a store, it has to be the same.”
In regards to how we can best mirror the ideal customer experience inside a metaverse platform, Paula discusses the idea of creating a digital alternative signal into a metaverse — or building capabilities for users to redeem points within the metaverse that could also be redeemable in physical stores. “That’s what the brands want to hear,” Paula asserts. “They’re not interested in all this part — they want it all integrated inside the customer supply chain.”
The upsides of female leadership
Given her position as a female who teaches leadership to young learners, Paula isn’t afraid to underline the upsides of female leadership traits and how she believes they are beneficial to the space. “We’re pro-life, or pro-community. It’s our job to nurture, lead and discipline men. Because female leadership traits are pro-life and they’re pro-progression.”
“With centralised systems, we’re born into cultural and social norms that no longer serve us,” she proclaims. “The thing about Web3 is that it’s not coming from a historical narrative. It’s brand new, where everybody’s invited. Everybody has a right. Black, white, green, yellow, pink. It hasn’t been defined yet. And that’s what’s beautiful about it.”
“What do I want to say to women?” she poses. “Rock on. Do what you want. Say what you want. I do think women have this — they’re strong and without them, you can’t build strong communities.”
Achieving balance in a future metaverse
What does an ideal future metaverse look like to Paula? “I think there should be a healthy balance of centralised and decentralised metaverses,” she says. Also highlighting the value of receiving information from non-centralised sources, she mentions how “history is written by the victors, and sometimes those narratives are inaccurate.”
“With these decentralised organisations, we get first-hand knowledge about what’s going on the ground — and then they get the opportunity to tell us. It’s not coming from this privileged, centralised monarchy that no longer serves the community. So that’s what I’m most excited about [with Web3] — it gives us the chance to build correctly by the people, for the people.”
However, we also stress the importance of staying on the business curve. “We don’t [just] want to be happy about it — we also want to make money from it, we want to be clever. I just want to be a bit more clever about what information we put out there, what kind of businesses we create. That’s why women are so important. If you’re replicating certain types of technologies, it’d better be replicating human conditions. But be damn sure that there’s children, women, everybody’s representative — because you’ve got this piece of technology that’s replicating something that hasn’t been created in its true form.”
Ultimately, will Web3 technology become more ubiquitous one day? “I don’t even think we’ll talk about NFTs in the future,” Paula says plainly. “I think they’re just gonna come with the deal.”
To learn more about what Paula’s working on next, follow her on her Twitter and Instagram pages for more updates.