In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights video, Amanda Razani speaks with Indrė Viltrakytė, CEO and co-founder of The Rebel NFT, about utilizing NFTs to enhance her fashion business.
Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani with Digital CxO, and I’m so excited to be here today with Indrė. She is the CEO and co-founder of the Rebel NFT. And she’s here to talk a little bit more about that, and why they chose to start an NFT with their business. Hello, how are you doing today?
Indrė Viltrakytė: Hello, super excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Amanda Razani: Excited for you to be here, too. So can you share a little bit about what went into deciding to create this NFT?
Indrė Viltrakytė: Okay, so a bit of a background here. I have a real life fashion business together with my partner. It’s called Robert Klinken. We are based in Lithuania. And we’ve been doing traditional fashion for more than 10 years, I would say. So we have an e-commerce store, we have a physical store, and all of the things that small labels all over the world have. So we’ve been doing that for for quite some time. And a few years ago, I just felt that this whole industry is very repetitive, very predictable, and doesn’t really like change. And I felt like it’s time to move on in some way. And I didn’t really know in what direction we should go. And yeah, I just had this feeling that really needs innovation, and fashion is not known for that, I would say, because it’s usually one of the last industries to adopt new things coming in, especially in the technology sector. So when I found out about NFTs, and blockchain in general, and what can non-fungible tokens do and what opportunities to provide, I just instantly realized that’s the perfect match for fashion. And that’s the direction we should be going. And it’s only natural that I started with digging deep with art and art NFTs. And that quickly, led me to realize that fashion would probably be next. And I’m already seeing that change a little bit. So we are not aiming to be a fully digital brand. But I’m seeing this huge opportunity to bridge those two worlds. So basically, take the best of the physical world of fashion and bring that into the digital realm and see where that could take us because digital fashion and especially blockchain fashion is extremely new. It’s an extremely new concept. And I don’t think that anybody knows where it’s going, and what opportunities are there. So I’m just very excited to be exploring that with the Rebels NFT. We launched in January with the 10,101 NFTs as our first launch of our first collection, and we sold that particular quickly, and we are now building the platform for creators, manufacturers and suppliers to bring this whole creative industry into one space. And yeah, basically unleash their creativity in fashion, because I feel like digital artists already found this space; not so much with the fashion designers. So that’s what we’re trying to build.
Amanda Razani: So what is your NFT? What do your NFT images represent?
Indrė Viltrakytė: Oh, this is quite an interesting story. Because the whole of the characters are based on this one store that we had back in 2013, where we produced an ad for our fashion show; it was a pretty big fashion show in Lithuania. And it used the common language phrases that we in Lithuania use every day; something like, “Jesus, Mary – what are you wearing?” Or, “Mother of God – what a dress!” That is something that you would say to your friend or someone you know, and this ad showed those phrases and showed a figure, a woman figure and a male figure as well, and supposedly the church felt that belonged to them. And they were not happy about that because they felt we insulted them and the feelings of people of faith, even though we didn’t think so. It’s a very beautiful aesthetic ad. So we got fined in Lithuania for the ad. And yeah, we had a few years of court fighting, and we lost the case in Lithuania in the Supreme Court. But we found that it’s wrong and it violates our freedom of expression, our freedom of speech, because advertising also belongs to the freedom of speech realm. So we went to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which is the Supreme Court, in the European Union, dealing with those sorts of matters of universal human rights. And in 2018, we won that case. So basically, we made the precedent in the European Union, in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. And I’m super proud of that, because I feel like we were just two young kids, you know, fighting the establishment, and I’m very happy that we had this courage to push through until the end. And yeah, we finally regained the right to use the character again, because we were banned from doing that for many, many years. So yeah, I thought, “What’s the best way to do it?” And I instantly thought, “Oh, I’m gonna put it forever on the blockchain.” And it’s gonna live there for eternity. And so that’s what we did.
Amanda Razani: So there’s a lot behind the title, the Rebel NFT.
Indrė Viltrakytė: Yes, absolutely. That name come naturally, actually. Because we felt like we really fought for what we believed in. And, yeah, the supreme power agreed with that.
Amanda Razani: So a lot of people may not know that an NFT is not just a piece of digital art; you were talking about the benefits behind the NFT. So what are some of the benefits, or the reasons, why someone would want to purchase this?
Indrė Viltrakytė: I think the best way to explain that, that is something that you will not only possess, but it’s something that means that you belong somewhere. So that feeling of belonging and the benefits related and tied to that it’s, it’s the essence of NFTs or non-fungible tokens. So basically you can either have an NFT for just pure art, if you like, how it looks like. And some of our holders, they actually they do hold them just for that, because they liked the story; they feel connected to it somehow. And they liked the artwork, which our two brilliant designers did. And we put a lot of heart and a lot of work into that. So that’s one way you can look at it. Another thing is that if you hold our NFT, the Rebels, you instantly become part of everything that we do. So we are now building this platform, and this platform is going to be like really far reaching. And I really hope it’s going to be truly global, like reaching all over the world. And so the first holders and those who believe in our mission and what we’re building, they’re going to be those who will get all the future benefits. So, and not mentioning the collaborations that we have, the partnerships, the drops and physical collections and digital collections that we’re doing – so that’s a lot of things that we have planned.
Amanda Razani: So ownership kind of makes you a member of your fashion club. And there will be future benefits tied to it too.
Indrė Viltrakytė: Absolutely.
Amanda Razani: So how does someone who is really not familiar with NFTs and blockchain and all of this new digital era – what advice do you have for them, as far as how to get into NFTs? How would they purchase an NFT?
Indrė Viltrakytė: I think the most important thing is not to get overwhelmed, because I know there’s so much information out there. And sometimes that bombardment of all the info and knowledge can be misleading and also demotivating in some way, because you don’t really know where to even start, because there are so many projects, and hundreds come every week. And the Twitter is hard to really grasp because you don’t know who to trust and who actually means well or who has interest in the things that they’re saying. So I really feel like someone who wants to start in the space should find a really good community or a few communities – maybe like three to five, but maybe not more, especially at the beginning. And really spend some time in there. And spending time I mean, being in the Discord, because Discord is usually the main channel where people can learn about NFTs. And there are plenty of educational projects that have this direction. And they’re happy to teach every single person who joins about blockchain, about the language that we use in here and how to install MetaMask or any other blockchain wallet and basically guide you through that process, which is not that easy. I will admit that, because I think we do have an UX problem with complications and the design of how blockchain works, because so much responsibility comes down to that person. Nobody else is responsible; that’s what trustless environments is about. So yeah, I do feel like this is the best course of action. And that really helped me a lot when I started. And that’s not so long ago. Well, I think around a year ago, but that’s, that’s not that much. When you think of all the career, so I feel like a person who is really interested can really get it in a couple of months, I would say.
Amanda Razani: Yes, I feel a lot of it’s mindset. It’s just this mindset that is difficult. But as you said, there’s lots of research; there’s lots of information. If you research it, it will help you get into this space. Like you said, Discord is the main group channel that you can get into and learn a lot about NFTs, and Twitter does have some great information. And there’s – even YouTube has a lot of information about how to get into NFTs and NFT ownership. So, as you mentioned, blockchain and you know, the things behind NFTs – blockchain, cryptocurrency, smart contracts, how do you think businesses should be utilizing all of this technology as they try to digitally transform in this new era? Do you think it’s going to be important for businesses to look at how they can utilize say, as I said, cryptocurrency and NTS, blockchains, even Metaverse – where do you see the space going for businesses in general?
Indrė Viltrakytė: I truly feel like blockchain technology and Web3 will be the next internet basically, or next mobile phone – next smartphone, because it opens up immense opportunities and ways to implement that. And I’m not the technical person. So I don’t claim to know everything that is possible, but even those things that I know excite me that much, and I am just super excited for the future. So I do feel like every brand, and especially every small brand, every independent brand, should really explore that as soon as possible, because later it’s going to be more difficult. One thing I would say, what not to do, is not to just come here for the money or for just a one time drop. I’ve seen big brands, and also small brands, do that. They just come into the space; they don’t know anyone. So it’s like going as a guest, someone’s home, you know, and leaving some stuff and going out, and that’s it – and not leaving any value behind. So I do feel like if you as a brand are coming into Web3 and want to really truly build something that lasts, you really need to spend some time get to know the people – get to know the technology. Be transparent, fully transparent, because blockchain is transparent, so you can’t really have hidden intentions then and expect to build the business this way. It really doesn’t work that way. So just be there, get to know your community, because the Web3 is all about the community. It’s not about possession. It’s not about competing. Like healthy comparison is alright, it’s fine. Every business should do that. But I do feel like the most important thing I think is to be genuine in the space. And for small brands, it’s usually easier to do that. You know, just be here. Be honest, be transparent and it’ll guide you on what’s possible and what you can build. They’ll find new connections and people to meet – things to build.
Amanda Razani: Yes. So do you have any future plans when it comes to virtual reality? And some businesses are starting to look at having online or virtual reality stores in the metaverse where you can walk around and feel like you’re shopping your clothing line online in the metaverse. Do you have any plans to look into that in the future?
Indrė Viltrakytė: We actually did have a trial already. We were participating in the metaverse Fashion Week in Decentraland. Back in March. So we already saw how that looks. And obviously, when everything is decentralized, including events, it is a very different experience. There’s no work, no one to go to, no one to blame if something goes wrong, so I feel like it was a really good experiment. And Decentraland is just one metaverse, and there are plenty others, even though I don’t feel like metaverse adoption is going to come fully anytime soon – like, maybe five to ten years or somewhere in that timeframe. But now we have some technological issues that we need to solve before the metaverse concept goes mainstream. But yeah, I don’t feel like this is going that direction. Specifically, the augmented reality way, because I think that augmented reality technology will come much faster than, for example, for VR experiences where you have to have a headset. With augmented reality, it’s much easier to implement things and especially in fashion, just blend into the real environment that you’re in. And I can imagine being in like a semi or full augmented reality meeting and having to change your clothes or something like that. Then, okay, you just sit on the screen, and you don’t need to do anything. That’s it for you.
Amanda Razani: It’s so amazing where technology is leading us. So last question. As far as all that goes, how are we going to handle security issues? I know you mentioned even with when you’re trying to get into the NFT space, there’s a lot of scams. So how do we avoid those scams? How do we put in security measures so that we can guarantee we are safe as businesses enter into these spaces?
Indrė Viltrakytė: Oh, this is a very good question. I think there is going to be an eternal question for the rest of the blockchain history, because we are actually responsible for it ourselves. So as I said, there’s no one to complain to if something goes wrong. But the number one thing that we need to be doing, all of us, is education, basically, to teach people about this technology and how it differs from anything that we have right now. Because now we have banks, we have financial institutions that are regulated. We know that if you send like a sum of money to the wrong person, you might be able to get it back. It’s not the case with blockchain; when it’s gone, it’s gone. And it’s fundamentally different from everything we have right now. And especially in the financial sector, so the only thing that would help us is knowledge and learning and taking that responsibility – understanding how it works fully and knowing that if you can really nail it, it will be like this technology will be your best friend, but you cannot expect anyone else to do the job for you. So basically, as brands as small businesses, big businesses, big corporations, if we believe in this technology, it’s our job and our responsibility to share that knowledge and onboard other people with us, if we want that mass adoption and security. And this will be a shared feeling of security if we just do things right, and we all help each other to learn.
Amanda Razani: Absolutely. Well I want to thank you for coming on today and speaking with us about NFTs and all this technology that’s coming down, and I wish you the best. Thanks so much.
Indrė Viltrakytė: Thank you so much. It was great.