An unconventional post could soon start popping up on all fashion job boards: “Wanted: Metaverse design specialist; unnecessary experience. “
Fashion brands piling up in the virtual fashion craze are finding that finding the people needed to operate in the metaverse can be as complicated as the technology itself. Web3 experts, non-fungible tokens, and other emerging categories have plenty of options: Job listings mentioning the “metaverse” skyrocketed 1,042% between November 2020 and November 2021, according to Indeed. Posts using the keyword “crypto” increased by 300 percent over the same period. Companies known more for their runway looks than their tech skills may not be the first choice for top talent.
Brands do best to play long when it comes to talent acquisition and training, experts say. This can mean training current employees in new skills and expanding the types of people they hire for technology and engineering roles in the first place. In some cases, this could mean hiring recent graduates or early career professionals from adjacent industries who have completed month-long coding programs.
“What we have seen with a group of companies that need to fill positions [for the metaverse], is that they had to have tremendous flexibility in the qualifications of such individuals, ”said Abby Hunter-Syed, partner of LDV Capital, an early stage venture fund that invests in visual technology businesses.
Thinking outside the box
Three years ago, when Tommy Hilfiger decided to produce 100% of its clothing via 3D design by 2022, the company knew this would require a review of its organizational processes and people.
So he created an internal incubator, called Stitch, which operated as a “business start-up” made up of two groups: software engineers who would develop proprietary 3D design technology and “creatives” who could train and “transform” the design. the company’s existing team, said Martijn Hagman, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe.
While the brand is still far from its ambitious goal of using 3D design across its clothing range (that’s about 55% of the way, Hagman said) the incubator itself was the key tool in helping it attract the likes of technological talents needed to get such a project off the ground.
“You want to offer those technology-oriented people an environment where they can truly excel in their core competencies and build something that is new, unique and inspiring to them,” said Hagman. “To attract this talent, the names of Tommy Hilfiger and PVH alone are not enough.”
The brand will use this same strategy with a new incubator, Metaverse Studio, which will help the company “experiment, test and learn” how to become a formidable player in the virtual reality space, he said.
Like many fashion brands, Tommy Hilfiger also relies on third parties to realize its virtual ambitions, Hagman said. In addition to collaborations with Roblox and Animal Crossing, from 2019 the brand collaborates with Obsess, an e-commerce platform that creates virtual shops.
But if the metaverse is to live up to its hype and fashion companies really want to profit from it in the long run, they’ll need to map out a talent strategy that allows them to build their own bench strength. The starting point for most companies is to find an initial pool of 3D designers and engineers who are experienced in working with or developing the technology.
“I think the biggest challenge to take on today is a senior 3D engineer because everyone needs it,” said Hunter-Syed.
Not all companies will need to train an incubator like Tommy Hilfiger, but to attract skilled engineers, they’ll need to offer salaries that compete with tech giants like Google and Meta, rather than their fashion peers.
“The first step we had to take was to tell people that we can pay more and that we’re doing something really cool,” said George Yashin, CEO of Zero10, an app and fashion-tech start-up based in Russia which allows users to buy and wear digital clothing. “[In response] we have guys from some of the biggest companies in Russia. “
Another option is to hire recent design and engineering graduates. Lack of experience isn’t necessarily a problem, said Neha Singh, founder and CEO of Obsess, who also partnered with Coach, Dermalogica and Farfetch to create their online stores using augmented reality that mimics in-person shopping.
In 3D design, most specialists have experience in architectural visualization – where they work with real estate developers and architects to create 3D renderings of buildings – or in video game development, Singh said.
“What we really need is a combination of these [expertises] as well as some other skills – and that’s hard to find, ”he said. “So, in a way, less experience is fine because these [people] they are willing to learn … they can watch the things being done in the metaverse and develop their skills to do so.
A “passion for fashion” should be at the top of the qualifying list, Hunter-Syed said.
“What you are really looking for are people who are artists who now have to go 3D,” he said.