The Interview: Lucy Yeomans, Founder & CEO, DREST

Lucy Yeomans is revolutionising the fashion industry through merging gaming and fashion. In October 2019, Yeomans launched DRESTthe world’s first interactive luxury styling game.

The game allows users to style and create their own content, share it across their social channels or with other users in the DREST app, and shop on its selling platform. Players are provided with a diverse line-up of avatars and the latest styles from its partner brands, along with hair, make-up, locations and backdrops. Lucy tells TheIndustry.fashion more:

DREST launched back in October 2019, what was the initial response?

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, but because in gaming you have to test for several months, we actually only soft launched in October 2019 under a wait list, working with Gucci as our exclusive partner. Collaborating with Gucci was fantastic as they are such a creative and forward thinking brand. We created a series of immersive and playful virtual bespoke challenges for them, relating to their fall/winter 2019 collection and advertising campaign shot by Glen Luchford, as well as creating their own dedicated avatar in the game –  of one of their favourite campaign models Unia Pakhomova.

And the response since then has been amazing. We have received incredible support from media, brands, talent as well as companies in film, travel and music industries. And our users, or DREST stylists as we like to refer to them, are also wonderfully vocal and constantly share feedback and ideas – indeed we encourage and enjoy a two way dialogue that also really helps us when it comes to shaping the game and developing new features.

Can you explain the concept of DREST?

DREST is a mobile game where players adopt the role of a fashion stylist and enter daily Photoshoot and Mood Board challenges, inspired by a “real time” editorial fashion news feed, working with four key elements: model casting, location setting, makeup and fashion styling.  Our fifth element, changeable hair,  is coming soon!

When entering Photoshoot challenges, players can select from a diverse line-up of twelve lifelike DREST models (bespoke avatars designed in-house), fashion products from over 200 of the world’s leading luxury brands, an array of global locations recreated virtually and digital makeup curated by award-winning fashion and celebrity makeup artist, Mary Greenwell.

Mood Board challenges are created with three elements – backgrounds, stickers and product. Users then submit their visual creations to win rewards – in-game currency as well as virtual fashion product gifts – according to how well they have met the brief and how other players have rated their looks, resulting in level unlocking and game progression.

Prior to launching the DREST App, you were the former Editor In Chief at Porter magazine and before this you were Editor in Chief at Harper’s Bazaar UK. What has the transition from publishing/editorial to technology been like for you?

At the time the industry saw my move from Harper’s Bazaar UK to NET-A-PORTER.COM as a radical one and some thought I had ‘sold out’ when I transitioned to an ecommerce and tech business. But for me, my role in publishing was always about how best to connect to and serve our reader – providing her with compelling journalism and authoritative fashion and beauty advice that catered to her life and needs – and I saw my move to NET-A-PORTER as just the next natural step in serving her better.

By combining the best elements of editorial with luxury e-commerce for me just added the service/shopping element our reader had always been dreaming of. And so, with Natalie Massenet, I launched the world’s first shoppable print magazine, PORTER. During this time I had so much data at my fingertips – seeing in real time what products and brands were selling and what stories resonated in certain parts of the world was fascinating and taught me so much.

In gaming I have been hugely surprised by how fast the space moves – in terms of creative and technological production and release as well as user acquisition – it’s lightning speed compared with other media platforms. We are forever iterating, learning, adapting and responding to deliver the best experience for both our users and our brands.

What inspired you to merge fashion and gaming?

During my years at NET-A-PORTER and PORTER brands were increasingly asking for ideas and content pitches that would resonate with the millennial and Gen Z audiences – they realised the need to engage with these audiences in radically different ways. Gaming, at this point, was something I just couldn’t shake from my mind – I’d noticed an interesting synergy between the gaming and fashion worlds around ten years ago.

Both promise immersive storytelling and elements of fantasy and escapism, as well as being playful, strategic and competitive on occasions. And crucially gaming afforded an interactive and more democratic experience that seemed to my mind to chime with the desires and mindsets of a new generation of fashion lovers. And so around 18 months ago I decided to take the plunge and embark on my journey to create DREST – the world’s first interactive luxury styling game.

DREST launched at a time when the gaming industry was exploding with a growing number of contenders entering this market. How does DREST  differ from other fashion gaming apps?

Unlike many games, I wanted DREST to bring together the real and virtual worlds. In our game real news, luxury fashion brands, products, talent and philanthropic causes are recreated virtually to deliver immersive digital content that encourages product and brand discovery and most importantly creativity and experimentation amongst our users, with the potential to lead to real life physical transactions or awareness around events or causes.

The in-game fashion assortment is provided by both Farfetch and brands directly so players can shop the content they have created and competed with virtually in real life. There is also an important community and social aspect to it – users can build their own network of fellow style aficionados by rating looks, exploring the Looks of the Day gallery and opting to follow other players. The My Wardrobe feature has been designed to encourage players to style, shop and share looks with friends.

With the growth of digitisation and social media, consumers are constantly seeking new platforms to experience fashion, how does fashion gaming offer this?

DREST opens up the world of luxury fashion to everyone – it provides a level playing field where everyone can discover and style with products virtually – also satiating the desire for newness in a sustainable way. DREST has a captive audience who are learning about fashion and developing strong brand affinities – we are currently seeing engaged users playing five challenges a day and spending about 33 minutes in the app and their virtual wardrobes and portfolio of looks reflect their unique point of view on fashion.

Virtual styling is becoming increasingly popular amongst retailers at such challenging times, how do you think virtual styling will change e-commerce and the shopping experience?

Shoppers are always keen to see the many different ways they can style or wear a certain piece. We hope DREST will lead to more thoughtful consumerism – its audience can experiment and “style before buying”. We are also developing a game mechanic that rewards “cost per wear” so players understand the real value of luxury fashion.

Magazines and e-commerce sites have limitations when it comes to styling, often showing only one, two or possibly three ways of how a piece can be worn. DREST enables users to have creative freedom – to style looks themselves, experiment virtually and also build their own community of fellow stylists whose fashion creations they admire – and take inspiration from the endless ways others have styled.

Traditionally the target audience of the gaming world has been predominantly male, is this demographic changing?

Yes absolutely! Traditionally gaming was very much targeted at a young male audience, but now the gaming population is larger than film, television and music audiences combined and more than 60 percent of mobile gamers are female.

How has the DREST app been responding and adjusting to the current Covid-19 pandemic?

We were due to launch a number of the world’s top Supermodels as avatars into our game in March but decided to press pause when the devastating effects of the global pandemic became evident. Although it has been a deeply unsettling and challenging time, there have been some positives for us – we have seen increased levels of organic users and engagement, especially since so many countries have entered into some form of lockdown.

Sharing and connectivity have increased too with our audience publishing even more of their creations socially.  It is clear that people globally are actively seeking fun, creative and inspirational outlets during their downtime.

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Who is the typical DREST app user?

Considering that we only provide womenswear fashion at this stage, it probably comes as no surprise that the majority of our audience is female. However, what is hugely interesting is that 14% of our user base are male. It’s still early days for us, so it will be fascinating to see how our demographic changes over time. For now, I would say that a typical DREST user is a fashion lover who seeks inspiration and a way to express themselves creatively.

Where is the fashion gaming industry heading?

I think it is set to grow and grow with more brands experimenting in this space and forming key partnerships. Gaming affords users a unique interaction and deep engagement with products, so it’s an amazing way for brands to forge brand affinities with the luxury consumers of the future as well as delight, inspire and engage existing consumers.  For any sector, gaming and community entertainment is an area to consider seriously.

What is the future for DREST?

We are focusing on bringing even more real elements into the game, so aside from featuring over 200 of the world’s top luxury brands, we will also be introducing this autumn our Supermodel line-up led by Natalia Vodianova whose charitable giving app, Elbi, will also be woven into the gameplay.

We have pledged to embed philanthropy into the very core of our business and game. We will donate a percentage of the game’s revenues generated by the Supermodels to their respective charities, as all of them are key figureheads for important philanthropic enterprises and movements. We are also pledging to donate five percent of every in-game microtransaction to causes that support diversity and inclusion, digital responsibility, mental health, body positivity and female empowerment.

As a data business we hope to help tackle issues currently faced by the fashion industry – brands have shown interest in using DREST to test products before putting them into production, allowing them to gauge market and consumer interest and therefore scale orders accordingly to avoid unnecessary waste. My wish is to ensure that DREST is a positive, empowering and inspiring creative environment. Our roadmap is crammed with beauty, travel and film partnerships as well as new game features and launches including fine jewelry, menswear and the ‘Selfie’ avatar – it’s a really exciting time for us!

What advice would you give to anyone starting up their own fashion business?

Always start with understanding your user/reader/consumer. Think about his or her emotional and mental need state,  their  desires and dreams and how you might answer or give flight to those. And I see technology as the wings that can make so many of our creative ideas fly, so get close to that too and educate yourself about it, so you can truly harness its incredible potential for your business.