Every issue, GRAZIA Singapore highlights a Game Changer who inspires, educates, and celebrates individuality, beauty and style. This month, meet Nick Lau, the founder and CEO of Hong Kong‑based luxury Web3 platform Wear.
The idea for Wear first emerged whilst I was studying at Parsons School of Design in New York, as I saw an untapped opportunity to bridge luxury brands with blockchain technology to reimagine ownership and consumer engagement. Once I had the idea, I had to endlessly pitch it and by late 2021, I was backed by Farfetch, Outlier Ventures and XRC Labs. With the help and incredible insights from our investors, I was able to build on the concept and develop two core products led by the initial vision. Wear was to take the momentum and ambition of luxury brands and match it with the energy of the non‑fungible token (NFT) marketplace.
The pre‑seed funding rounds gave me just enough capital and time to build the two core products. Firstly, W+, which at that stage was a tokenised rewards system, and secondly, Wearhouse, a hosting infrastructure for multi‑verse spaces. At that time, I was using a model not that dissimilar to an agency to increase the company’s cash flow. That way of working was directly influenced by my time and connectivity working in fashion and retail.
I had the fortune of building a robust engineering team and as we neared what we thought was the end of the product development cycle, something happened: The FTX scandal amplified any mistrust in the crypto markets and they plunged. Paired with the macroeconomic situation, things were looking bleak. We had to really take a harsher look at the products and their utility in such a market.
By chance, in the midst of that, I attended a panel at Farfetch, where I spoke about these shifting market dynamics. That was where I met my Chief Growth Officer Karl Herdersch, who was an unlikely host for the event. I was thankful for this chance encounter—a week later, he was the first additional member of the Wear team beyond the engineers. The timing couldn’t have been better. We had a similar design sensibility as well as a shared experience in the agility and tempo of studio‑based cultures, and together, we jumped straight into enhancing the utility of Wear, pitching to brands and preparing for the next funding round.
Thinking about it, this behaviour is not so unexpected of me. Whilst at Parsons in New York, I co‑founded a store and focused on tech rather than my fashion design major, and whilst studying at Harrow School in the UK, I started a skate brand. Both relied on working with the best people around me. I started Wear in the midst of the pandemic, when crypto, Web3 tech and everything blockchain seemed to be legit and relentlessly mooning, and investment, slowing down. It was a bubble that has now deflated (and maybe even popped). People around me went from hyping the next NFT launch to now selling out their collections and grieving over substantial losses. For most, this would be a warning sign, but due to the founding of the company in a time of optimal hype and a product launch due within the current rupture, I felt strangely at ease within this market shift. To humbly learn from it is far more interesting than to back down, and to do so with a team I was building that would help me to question, creatively approach and genuinely design within such a market was aligned with the original vision of Wear.
W+ is due to launch in the second quarter of 2023, and I’m excited to see how communities and brands come together within this alternative network for events. For the past 10 years, consumer platforms have rewarded endless “doom‑scrolling” with advertising algorithms that constantly pressure you to purchase. This is supplemented by “free coffee” rewards models that really don’t operate effectively. We want to shift the narrative away from the mistrust and rewarded sensationalism, and towards meaningful and trusted interactions for communities.
Wear has always focused on luxury fashion and engaging customers, but through working with partners such as Vogue Hong Kong, Clé de Peau Beauté, Siglo Accessory, Krista Kim and Christian Develter, it became apparent that something was changing. Some brands feel it more than others and when going through initial consultation phases with them, it became evident that they were looking for alternative ways to engage customers who were backing away from their platforms. The language was more focused on sales and reach, but really, the issue was clear. Communities were gathering in alternative ways, using tools not that dissimilar to what Wear was developing, and our products will allow a negotiation to take place between these existing communities and the brands.
Simply put, Wear activates communities that gather around luxury products on behalf of the community itself. This mirrors the techno-social attitude of the Web3 development culture, and creates an innovative space where the tooling and utility of these systems really outshine the previous iteration of e‑commerce and social media platforms. Wear can really develop immersive social layers that no longer reward users with small incentives, but instead deliver events and URL x IRL gatherings that are engaging and therefore matter more. Wear and W+ want to be the infrastructure that digitally enhances and rewards the process of gathering around what we love. We’re fundamentally about community and I hope that you become a part of us.