Is it brick-and-mortar retailer? A gamer? Or a metaverse pioneer? At Pacsun, it’s all about innovation, said its president, Brie Olson, at the recent Shoptalk con-ference in Las Vegas.
“The core of our brand, the heart of our brand is innovation,” Olson said, noting that Artistic Director A$AP Rocky scanned in his own body to create his own non-fungible token (NFT). “Brands need to think seri-ously about how, when and why to create a metaverse strategy.”
This emphasis on digital innovation is largely because Pacsun’s shoppers are teens and young adults who are very comfortable in both a virtual universe as well as shopping at their local malls. The apparel company was an early adopter of cryptocurrency and closely examined how its audience was en-tering the metaverse — largely, it determined, through gaming. In June 2021, Pacsun opted to partner with Roblox, a global gaming plat-form to launch a digital catalog.
“We wanted to meet the consumer where they’re already socializing and Roblox argu-ably is the best platform for socialization,” she said. “It’s another piece for Pacsun look-ing for opportunities to decentralize. The audience gets to build alongside the brand. We were building emotional bonds with the consumer.”
The line consisted of seasonal items — some of which were available in the company’s brick-and-mortar stores, too — as well as flat-out fan-tasy items for players’ avatars, including gold wings (a top seller, according to Olson).
In January, Pacsun’s presence in the metaverse expanded further as the retailer started to roll out a series of unique NFTs called Pac Mall Rats. Pacsun initially unveiled a limited series of three Pac Mall Rats, repre-senting Los Angeles Pacsun retail locations in Santa Monica, Brea and Downtown Los Angeles. Over time, 300 unique Pac Mall Rats will eventually be released to corre-spond with all of Pacsun’s mall and stand-alone retail locations. Each Pac Mall Rat character is carefully designed by Pacsun’s in-house team and created as a full body look to allow Pacsun to showcase acces-sories, footwear, tops and bottoms in com-prehensive looks that enables the brand to highlight styles from current campaigns and product initiatives.
“One of the important considerations we had when contemplating NFTs is that it ties back to authenticity,” she said.
The development of Pac Mall Rats came on the heels of the brand’s first-ever NFT, which debuted in November 2021 and was designed around its wave logo. The Pacsun Wave NFT sold above the asking price, and 100% of proceeds were donated to the Fashion Scholarship Fund, a education and workforce development nonprofit that aids the fashion industry within the United States.
The first Pac Mall Rats series sold out quickly, and the company is issuing more regularly. In addition to the NFT, purchasers also received a commemorative physical T-shirt with their Mall Rat on it. The second drop of Pac Mall Rats debuted in March, representing 14 different Pacsun locations, as well as Reebok, Pacsun’s first Pac Mall Rat based on a brand partner.
And unlike many apparel brands, Pacsun welcomes a copycat.
“Product emulation (or the copycat) is something we look upon quite positively,” Olson said. “Virgil Abloh shared valuable advice early on about what it means for a brand to be cop ied. It shows the power and energy behind the brand. It should be seen as positive when the community itself is accelerating brand growth as the consumer is building alongside us. In fact, some of the emulation is stronger than what we put out in the first place.”
The metaverse even extends to how Pacsun is running the company, Olson continued.
“We have cross-functional meetings in the metaverse monthly and our training all of our leaders in our creative spaces,” she said. “We’re encouraging our team leaders to download Roblox, to participate in the metaverse.”
The company’s presence is now even greater; just days after her presentation, Pacsun launched Pacworld, a fantasy interactive mall experience on Roblox through a partnership with game development studio Melon.
Pacworld allows players to create a unique hub that intersects fashion technology and community. Players are the owner and operators of a new mall, and it is their objective to make the mall as profitable and popular as possible. The starting point is a sunny beach island reminiscent of Pacsun’s Southern California home base, where players can choose a plot for their personalized mall that they can build their stores onto.
Players will be able to create and remove shops, upgrade the shops that do well, decorate the mall to try and attract more customers, and even invite their friends to visit their mall.
In time, Pacsun may acquire digital “land” for its own virtual malls. Anything is possible in the metaverse.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” Olson said at Shoptalk. “It means creating connection points, allowing community [and] building alongside the consumer.”