Long before the pandemic accelerated all things digital, House of Blueberry was selling digital fashion.
Founder and CEO Mishi Mcduff started House of Blueberry as an outfitter of Second Life avatars in 2012. In the 11 years since, the company has sold more than 20 million units of digital clothing across 10,000 SKUs. It’s also collaborated with fashion brands including Jonathan Simkhai and hosted the first metaverse fashion show. It currently has a customer base of nearly 500,000 and growing.
House of Blueberry’s chief operating officer, Katherine Manuel, joined the company just over a year ago after spending more than a decade at the data firm Thomson Reuters. In her last four years with Thomson Reuters, she was its vp of innovation. Manuel said she realized the potential for gaming platforms while watching her daughters use Roblox to socialize at the height of the pandemic. And, as these platforms increasingly connect technology and art, their impact over the next 10 years is set to be “mind-blowing,” she said.
House of Blueberry, therefore, is well positioned. “We’re a digital-first company,” Manuel said on the latest episode of the Glossy Podcast. “We’re really forward-thinking about fashion, but [fashion] entirely for avatars.”
Manuel also discussed current investor interest in digital fashion, and the ways digital and physical fashion can work to each other’s advantage.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
The significance of Roblox
“It’s enormous. If you look just at Roblox, there are [around] 270 million monthly active users. And when you look at those average ages being around the ages of 6-25, and really skewing to the younger side, it’s an enormous place where a lot of young people are spending a tremendous amount of time. … Kids are getting Robux for their birthdays. … There’s a lot of interest in young people being able to express themselves while they’re playing games and they’re being in these online communities — and it’s not just Roblox. It’s really sort of the swell of that generation of where time is being spent and also friendships are being made. My background is not in games or fashion. Yet I will tell you that the reason I was so drawn to this space, in particular, was during the pandemic watching my own daughters; when they couldn’t have playdates and they couldn’t play with their friends in person, they were going on Minecraft and Roblox, and they were playing games and connecting with their friends there. This is where community is being built. This is where friendships are not only being made, but they’re also being fortified and strengthened. It’s that camaraderie that, when I was a kid, was happening out in the driveway. It’s still happening out in the driveway sometimes, but it’s also in these online platforms. And it’s a [place] for communities to burgeon, but also for kids to express themselves and be who they are.”
The power of digital x physical fashion collaboration
“Jonathan Simkhai was a fantastic collaboration. [Our fashion show featuring the collection] was actually the first metaverse fashion show ever, … and it was in Second Life. … The fashion show happened in February 2022, and then I was actually walking through SoHo in New York City in September of 2022 — so it was a full seven months later — and the same dress that we had created for Second Life was hanging in the store window. So you can really begin to see, sort of, the supply chain happening, with the fashion being able to be played with online … and then coming into reality — which is a bit of magic for somebody like me. And it was tremendous for us. It definitely got us a lot of PR. Also, this was a time when there was some seed investment in Blueberry, but we were still recruiting a team of executives to come on board. And so I think the Jonathan Simkhai collaboration really put House of Blueberry on the map, and it attracted a lot of us that wanted to understand more and get into the space, in general.”
Investor interest in ‘web2.5’
“There’s so much opportunity right now. We’ve had the web3 big push over the last couple of years, and it’s felt like that’s come to a screeching halt, in many ways. The interesting thing about House of Blueberry is that we never really got into web3. My [take on] web3 is anything on blockchain. And we have steered clear of blockchain, to date, because we really feel that there’s tons of market opportunity in web2 and what some people call web2.5. And what’s happening in these gaming realms — which I know we all call ‘metaverses,’ but really, these are big social games — is that a lot of these games are opening up these UGC marketplaces. They’re these opportunities for creators to come and develop and design. And so investors really want to understand that — if there are going to be these marketplaces and there are going to be these creators that are doing the work and building designs — how do the economics play out? … You can make money, but it’s hard to make a lot of net revenue. … And can a player like House of Blueberry really extend a digital-only brand across all of these platforms? And the investors believe we can.”