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House of Blueberry is a digital fashion house, which means it creates virtual assets like wearables for avatars. But it got its start in 2012, far before the metaverse and blockchain technology took off.
Mishi McDuff, founder of House of Blueberry, or Blueberry for short, attended a 2011 virtual concert in Second Life, an online gaming platform some call the first metaverse. She had wanted to see Sean Ryan, a Texas-based singer and songwriter, perform. McDuff joined the platform for the first time and attended the concert with her starter avatar. But alongside characters dressed as fairies, warriors and supermodels, she felt out of place. For her second virtual concert, she wore a polka dot dress she created in Photoshop, and concert attendees asked to buy her design for their own avatars.
McDuff founded Blueberry knowing Second Life users were willing to spend money on their digital identities. Its first year, Blueberry recorded $60,000 in sales according to McDuff. By 2016, its yearly revenue hit $1 million with a team of three, designing virtual clothing for Second Life. Last year, McDuff decided to expand the team and scale the company as interest in the metaverse swelled. It has now entered the Roblox metaverse and sold more than 20 million virtual assets total. In addition to digital clothing, their portfolio includes accessories, hair styles, pets and pet clothing.
The Observer’s Rachyl Jones recently interview McDuff:
What’s your business model?
We are a digital wearable company but also very much a data company. Based on what our customers are purchasing, we are able to predict trends and service their needs, just by looking at our data. Blueberry also isn’t a service provider for real-life fashion brands. We are a digital-native fashion house where we create our own designs.
Who is the primary audience for digital clothing right now?
Honestly, anybody who has a digital identity—anybody decorating their space or dressing up their avatar is a potential customer for Blueberry.
Why do users value their digital clothing?
I mean, it’s the same reason why I wore this dress today to work. It’s how you express yourself. These are not just games. They are social platforms. This is where you meet your friends. I met my husband on Second Life. How you present yourself actually matters just as much as how you do in real life, simply because you’re forming these social connections.
What are some of the most popular outfits you’ve sold?
One of my best selling items is a collaboration where we created an outfit that shows stretch marks between the rips on jeans, which sold more than 6,000 units. Isn’t that interesting? I feel like there was this era on the internet where body perfection was very much on the forefront. In digital spaces where you have your alter ego playing an avatar, people feel safer to own what has been considered flaws. And honestly, that was probably one of my most mind blowing experiences during this business. People care about being authentic even with their digital identity.
We also sell a lot of casual streetwear. And this stuff has realistic-looking folds—not so much couture fit. That might be considered ill-fitting in fashion. But it’s realism in the metaverse, and those kinds of assets sell the most.
How do the prices compare to a wearables’ equivalent in real life?
It costs significantly less. On Second Life, a single color of a shirt can sell for $2. When we release collections, that entire look can be up to $20. And then in Roblox we’re not able to sell entire collections yet. But single color items will sell for about $1.
How do you create clothes for different interfaces that might have different body types or resolutions?
In Second Life there are seven different avatars we create for. Assets are in three categories: hyper-realistic, somewhat stylized like Fortnight, and more cartoony like Roblox. And we have assets in each category. An asset created for a Second Life can be easily translated to the game Sims, but you can’t necessarily translate it to Roblox.
What have you noticed people are willing to spend more money on?
Entire looks collections on Second Life. That can be anywhere from $20 to $30, which is a lot when you think about digital wearables. A Fortnight skin costs $10, and that’s premium. Collections are entire looks where users can change the colors and patterns. Putting looks together piece by piece is less appealing to the customer.
What’s trending right now, according to your data?
We were able to predict this several months ago actually—the ‘90s are making a comeback. Customers were buying low waisted jeans and crop tops with poppy colors. We ended up creating a bunch of ‘90s-inspired sets and they’re selling really well right now. Even though we only launched in Roblox in July, several of our items are on their first page of the catalog.
This interview was originally published in The Creators, a newsletter about the people powering the creator economy. Get it in your inbox before it’s online.