PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston November 2022

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into a crowded market full of established competitors, she chose to innovate. Ballard's experience in fashion publicity, publishing, and luxury goods gave her the foresight to launch a luxury resale brand before there was a market for luxury resale. The Gold Standard Ballard left Conde Nast, married, moved to New Orleans, and had her first child in 2009. That same year, knowing there was an undercurrent of luxury goods circulating and aware of the demand, she launched her first start-up, DesignerSocial— an e-commerce marketplace connecting buyers and sellers of new and pre-owned designer handbags and accessories. At the time, the only way you could buy a secondhand luxury handbag was on eBay. "I worked with my friends in New York and all the fashion houses at the time to build the initial inventory," she says. Just like NFTs today, she knew that resale was going to be a big market, "There weren't any platforms like this," she says. Competitors like the RealReal arrived on the scene years later. Connecting consumers to the luxury retail market through her own social network, Ballard was honing skills for what would later become a tokenized network to connect her buyers with NFTs. Ballard pitched the financial benefits of partnership to big legacy brands Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, and Michael Kors. She wanted to secure a sales and distribution channel to ensure secondary royalties for each retailer as their items were resold. But the brands weren't ready for it, and neither was the world. "I didn't have the right technology to connect the dots," she says. It wasn't until 2015, when the Ethereum protocol made smart contracts a foundational element of blockchain tech, that a trustless secondary sales concept could be executed. Once again, Ballard was ahead of her time. "Everything just kind of came together," she says. "All of my passion points. Almost every person I've met has helped me in this process." Her brother, Zak Davis, introduced her to crypto in late 2020. Ballard had worked as style editor at large for PaperCity magazine since moving to Houston in 2013, writing features, producing style pages, and calling in looks for fashion shoots from luxury fashion houses. She was also involved in rebranding and relaunching the PaperCity website. But when she began to understand the knew if she wanted luxury for her Web3 community, she would have to create it herself. "Metagolden provides a physical connection to our consumers' digital identities," she says. They sell a curated selection of luxury physical products tied to unique digital assets. The two are sold together and could be in the form of digital art or AR (augmented reality)/ VR (virtual reality) "wearables." AR relates largely to filters that can be worn on social media; VR means apparel or accessories worn on an avatar, a representation of oneself in the metaverse. "Almost no one that I meet or talk to completely understands what I'm doing," Ballard says, "but the opportunity in the gaming and metaverse space is enormous. Gaming alone represents a $200 billion market right now, and fashion is a $2.5 trillion industry. Music and books have already gone digital, so if I can capture even 1 percent of the fashion space, that's $25 billion." To simplify and streamline the experience for crypto newbies, Metagolden built a Web3-compatible website that allows collectors to purchase with either cryptocurrency or a credit card. If a user buys with crypto, the transaction is converted to U.S. dollars automatically on the back end. If customers already have a digital wallet, they can transfer the NFT upon purchase, and if not, they are sent instructions on how to create one. They can also store the NFT on a partner platform until they are ready to engage. With a collection for sale at Fred Segal Los Angeles, collaborations with Moda Operandi, and a line of digital wearable assets and a sculpture project with Sotheby's already in the Decentraland metaverse (yes — Sotheby's, Dolce & Gabbana, Etro, Dundas, and many others are there, too) Ballard's Metagolden is at the forefront of digital luxury, with real- world collectible assets that mirror their authenticated digital counterparts. Her most recent collaboration was a lot for sale at (the real) Sotheby's in New York. A ring that sold for $7,000 was the first and only phygital item in the sale and was exhibited paired with a digital wearable. "The idea of status is changing at an accelerated pace, shifting to reflect our new identities in a digital era," she says. "People value scarcity and individuality — having something nobody else has over the status quo." The value proposition for NFTs is expansive. "My daughter's digital assets (pets, clothes, furniture) in Roblox — another metaverse gaming environment — are more important to her than her Barbies," Ballard says. When it comes to fashion's future, Ballard's Metagolden represents innovation and transformation. You can confirm this if you like — it's all right there, with perfect synchronicity, authenticity, and transparency, on the blockchain. 32 IT'S NO WONDER THAT FORWARD- THINKING PIONEERS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS UNLIKELY HEROES OF INVENTION. (Continued from page 30) value principle behind blockchain technology, she began doing her own research — spending hours, day after day, during COVID to familiarize herself with members of the crypto community, the technology, and how she could implement it. The seeds of the business were planted on Instagram in April 2021, and the website and platform went live in June. "I never would have launched another business if not for this space," she says. "I wanted to do something unique, scalable, and forward-thinking." But Ballard Metagolden NFT ring auctioned at Sotheby's "Art as Jewelry as Art" sale. Metagolden jewelry

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