Robert Triefus, the CEO of Gucci Vault and Metaverse Ventures, spoke to the Georgetown University community about the future of fashion in the digital age and how Georgetown students can become involved in the fashion retail industry.
The Georgetown Retail & Luxury Association, a student-run club dedicated to educating students on retail sectors including high-end fashion, and the McDonough School of Business hosted the March 14 event. Triefus discussed the potential for luxury brands such as Gucci to explore the untapped opportunities provided by metaverse, the gaming industry, and Web3, a potential new phase of the internet that would enable users to read, write and own webpages.
Triefus, who has worked at Gucci for nearly 15 years, said Gucci’s extensive history can expand its legacy even further by pursuing a future in the metaverse.
“Gucci is 102 years old, so it’s good to put that into perspective when you talk about the metaverse,” Triefus said at the event. “Gucci has always made it quite a bit of its DNA to be constantly thinking about reinvention, to a degree, disruption and how its brand can remain relevant to its community.”
Despite its reputation as an older brand, Triefus said Gucci has historically capitalized on modern changes within the industry and disruptions within society to successfully reinvent themselves.
“Back in the 2000s, Gucci was one of the pioneers in luxury e-commerce at a time when it was really questionable to offer a luxury experience online,” Triefus said. “At that time, as today, and as over the last 102 years, the brand and its custodians wanted to make sure that it would lean toward opportunities.”
Triefus said critics have doubted Gucci’s experimentation with digital media platforms such as Facebook in the past.
“There is the question of whether luxury brands should be active on social media,” Triefus said. “Back in 2008, when we opened our Facebook account, I had an intern running a social media account. We were looked at as potentially doing something wrong, something that wasn’t appropriate for luxury brands.”
But Gucci now operates and markets its products across multiple social media platforms and has rallied more than 40 million followers on Instagram.
Triefus said Gucci is still looking to breach new frontiers with augmented reality (AR) and other emerging digital platforms.
“We were one of the pioneers in using AR to help our customers with try-on experiences, first with shoewear. It has been very successful, and now we have try-on experiences for eyewear and makeup,” Triefus said.
“Again, what we’re doing is trying to have a deeper engagement with our customers and ultimately making the technology work for a purpose,” Triefus added.
Triefus said the gaming industry is another source of new ventures for luxury brands. Gucci Vault most recently collaborated with gaming companies and platforms like Roblox; the Sandbox, a virtual world where players own their characters as NFTs; and Yuga Labs, a blockchain technology company that develops NFTs like the Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Triefus said Gucci Vault’s initial gamble on collaborating with the widely played game Roblox was unexpectedly a resounding success.
“We opened a Gucci experience in Roblox for two weeks, and we sold an unlimited amount of digital assets,” Triefus said. “There was this Gucci handbag that was selling in the secondary market of Roblox for more than the physical product. It shows that there is an appetite for digital luxury products.”
Triefus said the gaming and entertainment industries provide a great opportunity for Gucci to grow its brand in the era of digital evolution, as they open the brand up to a vast number of potential clients.
“As we think about how brands engage with different audiences and communities, the gaming community is unequivocally the most important community that is presenting to brands for the future,” Triefus said.
Outside of gaming, Triefus said he sees more opportunities to expand the brand by embracing similar developments, such as NFTs, with an open mind.
“We are looking at new experiments with technologies that will have potentially embedded NFTs,” Triefus said. “There’s enough evidence that our physical and digital sales are continuously merging for a lot of different reasons. Gucci has always been willing to experiment, test and learn to plot a path to the future.”