Kerry Murphy is the founder and CEO of The Fabricant (link to company profile).
The Fabricant is a digital fashion house that operates at the intersection of technology and fashion.
They use technology to create seductive fashion narratives unconstrained by the boundaries of the physical realm.
They recently raised a 14 million dollar Series A round led by Greenfield one with participation from Ashton Kutcher and other strategic angels.
During this episode we discuss about the importance of fashion in our identity, the components of a story and the vision of The Fabricant in the future of the Metaverse.
Please enjoy this excellent conversation with Kerry Murphy - Founder and CEO of The Fabricant
Calin: Hi Kerry, how are you doing?
Kerry: Yeah. All good. It's Thursday today, so it's coming to the end of the week. Every day is a massive challenge in the start-up world. It's like lifting heavy weights every single day and not getting enough rest. So that's the feeling but I'm still super happy with how everything's going.
The world of digital fashion is super exciting and it just somehow keeps going even though there's a massive crypto bear market and a total depression happening in the markets, digital fashion just has a lot of excitement in it. And, that gives me a lot of energy. Honestly, I can say that I'm the happiest that I've ever been.
Calin: Wonderful to hear. You mentioned that it's a roller coaster. Every day is full of action. How do you actually rest?
Kerry: Great question. It's super important, and if you do some sports, you understand there are two mantras around sports. One is to actually do it, which is the easy part. Then the other one is nutrition, and the other one is sleep.
So as long as you got your nutrition and your sleep in order, you will be feeling fine because I always say that running a startup is a top sport. You gotta be physically fit, you gotta be mentally fit, you gotta be spiritually fit, to be able to handle, so it doesn't get to you. It's a never-ending marathon with a lot of sprints in between, and, uh, you just gotta keep going and try to have fun with it as much as possible.
Yeah, keeping that health in place is super important. The easiest way to start is with the physical health aspect.
Calin: Got it. So physical health, nutrition, and enough sleep
Kerry: Sleep is the most important thing in life, I tell you.
Calin: Don't you have a rebel inside of you? Like sometimes I have this rebel inside of me. I know theoretically everything that I need to do, but then inside of me I want to rebel a little bit. Ah, going to bed at 10 and getting eight hours sleep? Boring
Kerry: Yeah, no, I think that's necessary as well. There was a time when I was super strict. A lot of sports and only healthy nutrition, clean eating, and a lot of sleep. But what you start feeling is you start feeling like a robot at some point. Like this kind of routine, the emotion disappears. I'm gonna say something, completely against what I was just talking about. Sometimes I just love to have some really nice drinks, smoke a few cigarettes, and just not care about anything for one night, knowing that I will pay the consequences of that for a few days. But it's, it's just, let, letting loose.
It is important, but it's part of that relaxation that goes into it. I do it very little. I'm also 40 years old, so I have to be a little bit careful. Because my hangovers are four days long in that sense. So the timing is essential, but definitely, life is about balance. Finding a balance, a healthy balance between everything, between healthy living, unhealthy living, between being a rebel and being a good boy.
Calin: Love it. Love it. And you mentioned digital fashion and how everything is kind of moving so fast. Tell us a little bit about what digital fashion is and how did we get here?
I'll start with the first part because the second part is a little bit more complex. digital fashion, essentially. It's focused more on the virtual identity side of things. So if you think about fashion from, like what is it from a philosophical standpoint or like from a functional standpoint, essentially, like what is the function of clothing? One is to cover your body, two is to keep you warm, but the main aspect of fashion has to do a lot with your identity. What is the story that you tell today to the world through this clothing that you wear? If you decide to wear just a black t-shirt, you're telling a story. If you decide to wear a super colorful hippie t-shirt, you're telling a story.
So clothing has a lot to do with storytelling. Essentially, and that's what we're focused on with digital fashion. It's just looking at it from really different channels, So it's not something that you wear in your physical life throughout the day, but it is something that you wear in your virtual existence, on your profile pictures, these days, even in your Zoom calls, you can do that, which is to just enrich your identity to go beyond what it is in our real lives.
To challenge yourself a little bit to think about, Hey I'm not just a stereotypical white male from Finland. No. It's like I can be basically whatever I like in the metaverse or in the virtual space and just think about myself as somebody richer than just the stereotypical boundaries that have been put on me.
How people perceive me, and how I perceive myself. You can just completely break those and really challenge yourself to actually think about, hey, how does this affect me in my personal life if I'm wearing a dress in my virtual existence, would I do it in my physical existence?
Probably not that quick but it can affect you in those ways and can really just break taboos and boundaries that we've set ourselves for society. So digital fashion, in short, is really focused on how we create our virtual identities, and that's what we're focused on.
It's a very high-level answer, but that's the truth. And how did we get here?
Honestly, I think we've always been here. Especially when we look at our digital lives, when we look at the digital experiences that started coming out when the internet started coming out when we really started connecting to each other in other ways than just in real life. It's just an extension of that. It's just a tool that helps us to make a little bit more sense and have a little bit more fun. Digital fashion is definitely there on an entertainment level, but the other aspect, which I'm super keen on is disrupting an industry, creating a change in an age-old industry.
Which is the physical fashion industry that is still super fragmented, that has a lot of toxicity and concerns around the environment, around the culture of how these fashion houses are being run, about the supply chain and all the sociopolitical challenges that go into it, so that industry is set.
It's very hard to change anything within the industry. So we see ourselves really on the outskirts of the traditional fashion industry, the challengers, the rebels, the people who come from the sidelines and start poking, people who are, who have been doing things traditionally for a very long time. And just creating a little bit of chaos with the hopes that we actually create a better future through that, so it's quite spiritual and esoteric in that sense, but sustainability plays a big role in our value set with the company.
Calin: Where do you see digital fashion within the Metaverse or within the web3?
Kerry: Yeah, that's a big question. I'll try to really frame it in a short answer. So let's call that The metaverse, is the environment that we exist in, and digital fashion is one of the objects within that environment itself. If we would paint the picture like that, if we really look at storytelling, you have a main character that's like the most important part of storytelling. And then you have the four layers that go into narrating that full world. The number one layer is the environment. The number two layer are the objects within that environment. Number three layer is time. What is the time that we exist in?
And the fourth layer is what are the situations that happen in that world. So where does digital fashion really fall into that? it falls in these situations. We can also start playing around with time because fashion can be a way to give a sense of a certain timeframe. Whether it's the future or the past, whether it's nighttime or daytime, fashion can really narrate those stories as well. So it's a very powerful storytelling tool within the world. And it's also a way for us to differentiate our unique personalities and identities within this world. If anything, I think it will be one of the strongest tools. One of the most important components of this metaverse is being built. Digital fashion is just gonna play a massive role in that evolution, and it already is, but it will be even more.
Calin: I love the way you framed it. Were you always trying to frame things going from first principle?
Kerry: Maybe it's not so much deep thinking, it's just, the tools to be able to frame things into categories to be able to build stories from, to build a company from, to build a brand from, to build an identity from, to make sense out of the world, to make sense out of anything, to go to the movies and watch a movie and to be like, Okay, hey, what are these different layers that we're talking about?
And it gets way more complex, of course, because all characters have certain personalities and they have their flaws, and they have their strengths. Especially in movie making and gaming, all of those things have been thought out, but I think in our lives we're constantly struggling to find the meaning of our identities. How, where do I belong in this world?
How do I want to showcase myself and my identity in this world? So for me, these tools essentially do make sense out of the complexity of the challenge that we have ahead. And to try to frame it in a simple way so people can see it as well in the same way. You called it well, a framework essentially to make sense out of, a funny little niche world that we're in.
Calin: And maybe it's obvious now with all the structural trends in the Metaverses and web3, but what gave you the conviction to pursue this seven years ago when you started the Fabricant?
In hindsight, it was very easy. Back then it was more of an intuition. And the intuition came from, just being informed, by certain things that had already happened. I entered the film world in early 2000. That was about, a little bit over 10 years into the digital transformation of the film industry. And back then, the big question was, which one is better, analog film or digital film? That conversation disappeared completely. Kodak went bankrupt in 2012, which is one of my favorite examples because we now ask which physical fashion house is gonna be the first one to go bankrupt because they chose to go through digital transformation too late. I was seeing all the same trends happening again. It was a lot about the tools getting better, the software getting better, and the mindset being there. People are already starting to have glimpses of where this is going towards, even though it didn't exist yet, we already knew where it was going, especially in film.
All of those things came true. It all happened within a decade and, the film and visual effects industry has only been around in a proper manner for about 30 years, and the amount of innovation that's coming from film and visual effects is immense, and it moves fast. I see similar trends within fashion. So it's like having a crystal ball into the future just by looking at other industries, just by looking at film industry, graphic design, photography, architecture, a big one of course as well. Automotive, and any design industry, where they've moved towards. And then it's easier to predict what's gonna happen with fashion. And the greatest thing in 2016 was, digital fashion was not a terminology anyone was using yet alone a digital fashion house. So when it's the first time, you're coming up with a concept.
The question is, what does it mean? What is a digital fashion house? Is it just like a traditional fashion house that designs clothing but only digital? Those are the answers that we're unraveling right now. A digital fashion house, especially ours is a company operating at the intersection of fashion, visual effects and blockchain development. I can put it into this triage in many other ways. It's fashion tech and product. It's a fashion market and product. We're a product led company that focuses on digital only fashion for our virtual identities.
So there's a lot of playfulness that goes into it because the world is not set, the rules are not there yet. So we essentially get to be the ones who create the rules. we don't have to be falling against gatekeepers the whole time. The people who have already set the rules, we can be the ones who set the rules, and that's a very comfortable position to be able to operate in because you don't. You don't, you're not constantly falling into the same traps that's happening. For instance, in the advertising industry, we just get to operate on something that's exciting and fun. It just comes down, with the caveat, which is it's extremely challenging, to be operating in a field where you just don't know where you're going towards. There's no north star, there's only an intuition that digital fashion will become bigger than the physical fashion industry, which is a $3 trillion industry and that's the ambition.
I'm like, okay, what are all the steps? Like how do you backtrack that and how do you see those steps to be like, okay, what is the step that I need to take right now to get one step closer towards that vision? So honestly a super exciting topic that I still think about a lot as well, but the main answer is that fashion's going digital and there's no way back. ask yourself, is the world becoming less digital or more digital? And the answer, of course, is more digital. And through that, you just know that it's going to keep growing bigger and bigger.
You just don't know at what pace, So there's a lot of unknowns. No unknowns and a lot of uncertainty. but that's part of the excitement of it as well. And the sexiness as well.
it's gotta be sexy, it's gotta be simple. It's gotta be scalable. Scalability is very important.
Calin: sexy, simple, scalable.
Kerry: That's right..
Calin: When you look at these three pillars, fashion, visual effects, and then blockchain, what are the biggest challenges?
Kerry: for the fabricant, product market fit. I would say it is the biggest challenge. From a mainstream adoption perspective, we have a fantastic community and I absolutely love the people who interact with us.
And, they're all capable of seeing where this is going towards, for us to, let's say, become a proper business. We're all aiming for profitability, and it's just about finding that place of what is the fashion that people want? What is the utility or how do they want to use the fashion?
Who's the true target audience? Of course, we have a lot of data around that. We have a great hunch and feeling for what that is from all the conversations and interviews that we've done. but we haven't found that hockey stick. Curve moment yet where it just truly starts taking off, you know?
So we're like the traditional startup where we're burning more money than we're making at the moment. And of course, the intention is to find, that moment in time and that, product positioning. That makes sense where people actually get value from where people start using it in a habitual way. That's the, let's say, the higher level problem.
And then I can give you some insights, that's organizational things of getting everybody to understand ex the exact strategic direction that we're moving into, working like a well-oiled machine, as a company where everybody understands exactly what we're doing, so it's just about reducing the ambiguity of the day. for the full organization and empowering everybody to be on board with that.
I'm super proud of the culture that we have with the company. We've always been focused, on, very heavily on the, on, on the culture, so that's it's a very good foundation. Now we just need to get better in operations when it comes down to recruitment, when it comes down to processes, when it comes down to, just having a proper organizational chart with very clearly defined roles and responsibilities. must be very stereotypical challenges that sound very boring. But those are super important to have a proper foundation, to really ensure that we're in a good place when that kind of blitzscaling moment is there. where the whole world is ready to be wearing digital only clothing.
And we just need to have that scalable platform in place that we can onboard millions and millions of users. So we predict that's gonna be 2025.
Kerry: That's right.
Calin: And I would definitely see how maybe coming from a very creative background, so the filmmaking background that maybe, it doesn't come natural with all the processes to put in place in a company because you just want to come together and create something beautiful. Is that the case?
Kerry: No. I would say not.
I would say I would go watch a highly animated movie. Let's say the Marvel movies, The Avengers, whatever. Go look at the credits list and see how many people are part of that, that is a crazy operation of thousands and thousands of people working together in a short timeframe to create this one movie.
So everybody understands the vision. If anything, movies are like one of the best, organized, groups of people coming together because you're having even competitive companies working with each other. So I really look up to, let's say, movie production. Maybe not the Art of Hollywood, but just the professionality of Hollywood, of how they've been able to take it so far.
And like I said, a lot of innovation comes from the film and visual effects industry. And to get like these thousands and thousands of people together to truly work on this thing, which ends up being a 90 to 120 minutes movie on the screen. The years that go into that. It is just crazy. It really is crazy. What I don't like about it, it's not a scalable business model. Again, it's just okay, we made one movie now on to the next one. so that operation side is super important. And thankfully, we have a very good CFO who happens to be a COO at the same time and who's really mentoring our teams to be much more operational.
It's becoming less of a creative industry or company in that sense, and more of a process-driven one. But it is necessary. And if anything, those processes are there to elevate the creativity to the next level. That's the challenge.
And, that type of change management just happens to be one of one of the most challenging ones. But when you start seeing it happen, that's when you start saying Okay, this is powerful. And I think regardless of the product any startup is doing, they all go through the same challenges.
Calin: I saw that you recently raised an A round from Ashton Kutcher and also other investors. How was that?
Kerry: Yeah, it was cool. I thought I would be able to kick back and chill out for a little bit longer, but it's just money that came in and came with a new set of challenges. It really accelerated us into a new phase. It allowed us to have more resources and really start delivering to the vision that we had, just as a great tool to really push digital fashion onto its next level of evolution. We're being somewhat careful in the current market, but we're also building very aggressively. we really just ensuring that, digital fashion is top of mind the whole time,with our community and just doing a lot of activations and, we, we also have a fantastic group of, investors,coming along so I'm super proud of the syndicate that we've created and, there's just a lot of, amazing people behind the scenes really supporting us and helping us out, moving further. So it's not only the money that's important. but it's also the network and the strategic thinking and, the helpfulness of connecting the dots in the right way. And I just wanna give a shout out to Greenfield One,who was leading our Series A around, that they're really fantastic crypto vc. Europe's largest crypto vc. so definitely look them up. They have some really cool investments and I think they're gonna be really pushing the crypto bill in Europe.
Calin: If Kerry from 10 years ago would listen to this podcast, what would you tell him?
Kerry: 10 years ago. Okay. So I'm 40 now so when I was 30 I found myself to be fairly naive to the world, even at the age of 30. I would probably say, don't go into the advertising agency world, go into the startup world, go into digital fashion, go buy Bitcoin, buy a lot of Bitcoin.
That's what I would say to myself. Do those type of things. Of course it's very easy in hindsight to see all the things, developments. But, I would also just give myself back to the back and say I think I still embody the same values that I did 30 years ago.
They just happened to kick me in the ass a lot harder, because they don't really fit the traditional corporate, capitalistic bill of Hey, I'm here to create impact and do good for the world. That type of thinking doesn't really work. But, I learned a lot in the past 10 years and it's led me here and I'm the happiest I've ever been. And, that's a great place to be in. And it's all the work that I did back then. So if anything, I want to thank my 30 year old.