Ralph Lauren’s former chief digital officer, Alice Delahunt founded digital fashion startup Syky (pronounced ‘pysche’) at a time when crypto funding has shrunken for many in the space. Since, Syky has raised $9.5 million in a series A funding round led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s VC firm Seven Seven Six. Brevan Howard Digital, Leadout Capital, First Light Capital and Polygon Ventures Group also participated in the round. 

“Alice is the perfect example of ‘founder-market fit’; she was ahead of everyone in pioneering digital fashion initiatives at Burberry and Ralph Lauren and now she is bringing her unique talents and foresight to Web3,” says Colleen Sullivan, co-head of ventures at Brevan Howard Digital, the crypto and digital asset division of the hedge fund management firm to Vogue Business. She adds that Syky is building a “visually appealing experience that is inherently social, sustainable, and open to anyone in the world with an internet connection”.

Delahunt is ready to reveal the first phase of Syky’s business: an NFT drop whose membership includes access to digital and physical events, curated fashion-tech reports, networking opportunities, access to future drops, and early notice of Syky’s forthcoming releases. The collection will mint a total of 987 “Keystone” NFTs; distribution will include leaders in both fashion and Web3, with an allowlist opening today and a wider release to the general public on 20 January for ETH 0.2 (around £253 at the time of writing).

Interestingly, the collection will reserve 50 Keystone NFTs for aspiring Web3 fashion designers, who can apply via a process via the Syky website. “We’re not looking for a CV with the best schools on it. We’re not looking for those who have interned at the best design houses, or people with relationships in the industry,” Delahunt says. “It’s pure talent. We want a global footprint of emerging designers who are talented and excited about being part of a community.”

The price point is also noteworthy with the ETH price translating to about $300 and thus intending to signal value without excluding people from accessing the community. “We’ll let the secondary market decide the price in the future,” Delahunt adds. 

Syky launched only two months ago as a blockchain-based platform designed to bridge the ongoing divide between emerging digital fashion talent, the mainstream fashion industry and consumers. Its business model is three-pronged, focusing on community for Web3 and fashion; a collective for next-gen designers to showcase their work; and a platform for people to buy, sell and trade their collections. The Keystone NFT serves as a community membership pass whose inspiration is from the ancient innovation that supported arched portals (the keystone is the wedge-shaped piece at the crown of an arch, which locks the other pieces in place), and will be a central motif moving forward. 

It makes us happy to see someone so established, such as Delahunt, recognise the power of the Web3 community. “There is a cultural shift underway. What you wear digitally is just as meaningful as what you wear physically, and the two will soon be connected, opening new monetisation opportunities enabled by Web3” expressed Brevan Howard Digital in an interview with Vogue Business. 

Other similar platforms at varying stages of growth and business offerings include DressX, The Dematerialised, Rstlss, Tribute Brand and The Institute of Digital Fashion, while those including Exclusible, UNXD and Arianee, among others, hope to facilitate Web3 technology for traditional brands. Syky is differentiated in that its founder has a traditional luxury background, and it combines all three elements, spanning infrastructure for creators and brands, and a consumer-focused product plan. Especially in these early days, creators and influencers are also often the collectors of other projects.

A point we must stress is that Syky’s team is made of women, queer people and people of colour. “I think that across the board, this diversity makes Syky stronger. We’re more competitive, more resilient, and I hope it encourages others building in Web3 — as well as allocating capital in Web3 — to do the same and be very intentional in that way.” This is extremely encouraging seeing that, according to research from consultancy McKinsey & Company  male-led metaverse companies have received 95 per cent of funding in the past five years. 

“Building organisations that embrace diverse perspectives and lead with empathy helps to break down the barriers to great ideas and talent finding capital,” says Syky investor Alison Rosenthal, founder and managing partner at early-stage venture fund Leadout Capital. Delahunt is bringing diversity, equity and inclusion both within the organisation, and in the fashion community that Syky is building, Rosenthal adds.

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