Asian fashion brands are getting into the metaverse in a big way, thanks to a recent joint venture between Singaporean platform aggregator 1MetaWorld and Seoul-based Fame Universe. The aim of the partnership, dubbed 1Fame, is to help fashion designers and digital creators create, launch, sell and produce their own digital fashion non fungible tokens (NFTs) in connection with physical garments and real-world experiences. We recently sat down with James Hong, CEO of 1FAME to talk about his career,
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areer, thoughts on leadership and what makes him tick. Inside Retail: Tell me about your professional journey. How did you get into the phygital fashion Metaverse space, and what roles have you played along the way? James Hong: During my 7 years as the CEO of a designer fashion brand, I witnessed the following issues which are still the two main pain points in the fashion industry: counterfeiting and overproduction. Successful designs are very quickly copied and fakes soon flood the market. Also, fashion trends tend to have shorter and shorter life cycles due to modern lifestyles and this means that unsold inventory is a very real problem for the industry. Additionally, from a public relations perspective, the industry has a negative image and was not perceived as an equal opportunity employer. As with other creative industries such as the movie and performing arts, being perceived as not being an equal opportunity employer will have a negative impact on attracting the best talent into the industry. I thought that because of its properties NFTs could be the solution to these unresolved issues. However, despite the current trendiness quotient of NFTs, the Metaverse, and Web3 they have yet to reach the stage of mass adoption. FAME – the fashion focused Metaverse company- was created to address these issues in the fashion industry and hopefully create more awareness and adoption of NFTs, the Metaverse and Web3.0. Using blockchain technology and NFTs, original fashion designs are authenticated, protected, and can be monetized to reward the creativity of the talented designers. Fashion NFTs that have both physical and phygital values are an easier and more beneficial way than cryptocurrencies to introduce the Metaverse and Web3.0 to those who are less technically knowledgeable. And this might help to bring forward the timeline for mass adoption of the Metaverse and Web3.0. IR: What have been some of your career highlights? JH: In 2008 I had my first start-up- the Korea Speakers Bureau, the first speakers’ bureau established in South Korea. Korea Speakers Bureau was the first speakers’ bureau established in South Korea. A speakers’ bureau is an organization that operates to facilitate clients’ requirements for motivational speakers, celebrity speakers, or speakers in specialist fields. A bureau also organizes its own events featuring such speakers. During my tenure as Founder and CEO of the bureau, I facilitated or organized over one hundred speaking events. Korea Speakers Bureau achieved a first for a private enterprise when the then President of the former USSR, Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev accepted our invitation for a speaking engagement in South Korea. I had many opportunities to meet world-renowned personalities including Mr. Jacques Attali the French economic and social theorist who served as a Counselor to President François Mitterrand and was the first Head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Sir Guy Sorman the author of several seminal books on creativity and modern capitalism; and the Right Honorable Maurice Frederick Strong a Canadian businessman who headed several United Nations agencies on environmental conservation. The vision of Korea Speakers Bureau was ‘to enlighten, to inspire, and to motivate’ people of all ages by facilitating unique opportunities for face-to-face interaction with world-renowned personalities who have made significant contributions to humanity. The success of the Korea Speakers Bureau enabled me to make an early exit from my investment and pursue other paths in business. IR: What do you enjoy most about your job? JH: The most rewarding thing about being the CEO at 1FAME is the joy that I derive from bringing business opportunities to fashion designers and rewarding them for their creativity. Now, every fashion designer who is inspired to create aesthetic fashion is given the opportunity to showcase his or her creations and to benefit from it without fear of fakes destroying their value. The exclusivity of the limited edition garments and their NFTs also resolve the issue of overproduction. Brand recognition and image is enhanced to benefit the creator of the designs. This was not possible before. I am committed to make 1FAME continue to be the leading opportunity provider and collaborator for all fashion creators around the world. IR: What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the phygital fashion space? JH: NFTs and the Metaverse are not entirely separate from the physical Universe. They exist concurrently with the physical Universe and when combined give us the phygital Universe. Fashion NFTs provide a good way for people to experience the phygital Universe. They can own limited edition physical garments to wear in the physical world, as well as NFTs of these garments. The NFTs also function as membership accreditation to the fashion community and provide opportunities for interaction with people of similar interests and lifestyles; as well as enjoy VIP invitations to exclusive fashion events. IR: Do you have any business heroes or book heroes? JH: Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Charles Branson is my hero. I am inspired by his success in creating so many memorable brands for the Virgin group from its origin as a music record retailer. I follow the advice in his quote: “Fun is one of the most important – and underrated – ingredients in any successful venture.” IR: What are some of the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned throughout your career? JH: I have learned that I need to constantly step outside my comfort zone. There is no gain without pain. Run, you might fall but you must get up and keep going to inspire the people you lead. IR: Do you have any hobbies that help you unwind and recharge your energy? JH: I spend as much of my spare time as possible with people who share my interests. In such a circle of friends we hear and discuss ideas, and learn from each other. I find that there is still so much to learn. This constant learning stimulates me and a good night’s sleep recharges my energy for the next day’s work. IR: How do you keep up with the Metaverse’s rapid evolution? JH: When you have a passion for something, even if it’s a rapidly evolving technology, you are incentivised to follow its evolution, absorbing the changes into your mind. I maintain my vision while constantly monitoring if I need to adapt it to changes in the technology.