Lucy Yeomans is the Founder of DREST, the gaming company that opens up the exclusive worlds of luxury fashion, beauty and lifestyle to everyone, everywhere.
Having served as Editor-in-Chief at Harpers Bazaar UK for over a decade and as Global Content Director at NETAPORTER.COM, where she launched PORTER Magazine, Yeomans founded DREST in 2019. They have since partnered with 250+ luxury brands, including Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Cartier.
The game incorporates philanthropy at its core, with supermodel avatars as key figureheads for charities and a portion of in-game revenue donated to causes supporting representation, digital responsibility, mental health, body positivity and female empowerment.
Tell us about how you founded DREST?
The initial idea of DREST came from a desire to find an innovative and exciting way to open up the often exclusive worlds of luxury fashion to everyone who is passionate about great style. Coming from the world of publishing, I have always been driven to create inspiring content that people could connect with. But I was frustrated that content creation had long remained a very one-way experience; a small number of people in the fashion industry deciding what was good and what was bad and then relaying this to their waiting audience. Some of that content also seemed to serve the industry rather than putting the reader or user and their needs and desires first. The rise of social media challenged this, but even then, fashion content was dictated and created by a relative few, and remained unattainable for many people who either didn’t look a certain way or did not have the financial means to buy luxury items to feature in their posts.
Just over 12 years ago, while I was at NET-A-PORTER, I became fascinated with the world of gaming, finding the immersive quality of the experience very compelling. I also observed lots of similarities between fashion and gaming; both are deeply creative industries and experiences, with storytelling, fantasy, identity and self-expression at their heart. What I loved most about certain games was their interactivity which allowed their players to be part of the storytelling, and not just passive observers.
At the same time, I saw that many brands, particularly in the luxury space, were facing a challenge over how to engage and communicate with the next generation of consumers, who demanded a more augmented content experience and wanted to participate in the conversation, to share their points of view and creative ideas.
I believed that by harnessing the interactive and immersive mechanisms of gaming and combining these with the real worlds of fashion and beauty, there was an opportunity to conceive an innovative experience that would enable audiences to step into the fashion world and get seriously creative, thus connecting more meaningfully with the brands they either love or aspire to.
Have you found any synergies from your previous work as Editor-in-Chief at Harper’s Bazaar and Porter Magazine?
Absolutely! Gaming and fashion are extremely creative experiences and the end goal is to tell a compelling story to your audience, captivate their imagination and act as a form of escapism. Running DREST on a day-to-day basis has a lot of similarities to running a magazine. What makes us unique as a mobile game is that we have real-life news and real-life products that our audience interacts within a digital environment. Our editorial and fashion teams constantly create content and select brands to feature – we want to have the best fashion there is out there, available for our players to use – from the best high luxury brands such as Cartier, Gucci, and Valentino to the hottest brands of the moment like Jacquemus, Simone Rocha and JW Anderson.
Similar to a magazine, we also work with many luxury brands on a partnership basis, creating bespoke content for them to allow them to showcase their latest collection or their new hero products. The storytelling opportunities here are endless, and our partners are extremely excited about the ability to share their product with a hyper-engaged audience; our average daily session is 29 minutes, an unheard-of figure when you compare it to an e-commerce or social media app. This brand-focussed content is also the most desired and valued by our players, so it does turn the traditional advertising model on its head.
What have been the biggest challenges in scaling and how have you overcome them?
It’s been such an exciting ride since 2019! Shortly after launch, we experienced a 250% year-on-year user growth but also very positive engagement rates within the game, especially compared to those of e-commerce and publishing.
Our journey had many highs but also hard learnings. What proved to be most challenging was how to bring together fashion and tech – not just as a product but also internally within our teams. From the get-go, we wanted to make sure we had the strongest talent from both industries to deliver a product that was truly groundbreaking and unique but we soon realised we had a lot of fantastic fashion expertise and not enough gaming experience. As a result, the tech suffered, and shortly after launch, despite having great UA numbers, we decided to focus on building a better and stronger gaming team that would take our product to the next stage. We have now hired incredible professionals from the gaming industry, who work hand in hand with our fashion experts to deliver a game that is true to our vision.
What does the future hold for you?
We are now, excitingly, at an important moment in our product’s evolution as we are getting ready to launch a new and highly improved version of DREST this year with more fashion, more features and thus more interactive storytelling. Our game will move into a faster-moving tech platform, making it available on both iOS and Android (the current game being now only available on iOS) and will come with a plethora of new features that will enable our players to feel part of a cultural creative community and immersed into these unique luxury experiences. I am particularly excited about the new opportunities the game will bring to our brand partners, as they will now be able to replicate digitally and at scale, some of their most exclusive seasonal activations. What was normally exclusively reserved for a very small group of people – VIP client dinners, influencer and press trips – will now be accessible to all. This, in my opinion, is groundbreaking and gives the opportunity to brands to reach much wider, and newer, audiences.
Do you have any advice for future founders in your field?
The decision to become an entrepreneur was exciting and very scary at the same time. My advice would be not to underestimate how difficult this is: no matter where you’ve worked before as an employee and no matter your seniority. When it’s your own business, your worldview changes and you feel the need to be involved in everything – from tech to product development, marketing, brand communications, HR and finance, you name it! The reality is that you can’t; therefore surrounding yourself with a leadership team that you trust and that is as equally passionate as you are is paramount. Another thing I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, is that you won’t know everything all the time. And when you don’t, make sure to find experts in their field to ask for advice before taking any decisions or actions.
Edited by Chiara Benn