If the cyber fashion space has a leader, it is Tribute Brand. Gala Marija Vrbanic, the founder of the label, grew up immersed in video games, which made her realize the power of self-expression through digital assets at a young age.








If the cyber fashion space had a leader, it would almost certainly be Tribute Brand helmed by Gala Marija Vrbanic. The founder grew up immersed in video games and learned the power of self-expression through digital assets from a young age. Fast forward five years, and Tribute Brand is now known for creations that often go beyond the human form and explore the notion of liberation through virtual skins. From successful collaborations with the likes of Carolina Herrera to gravity-defying, digital drops, Vrbanic discusses Tribute Brand’s hopes to provide the tools needed to discover our most authentic cyber selves.


Before Tribute Brand you had a physical label that challenged fast fashion systems. What made you want to dive into the digital sphere?

I must admit, I was always more interested in the digital sphere. The physical brand I started in 2017 was more of a comment on the fashion system: it wasn't about the product, but the message we wanted to transmit. In the background, I was always experimenting with digital because since I was little, I've known this would be the future of fashion. I've always liked fashion, but I would feel really bored with traditional clothes and fashion shows. At the same time, I grew up playing video games and I would especially enjoy dressing up my avatars. This is how it all started for me; I just kept exploring and once the necessary tech became available, it all went from there.

With brands like yours, how do you think human identity will evolve in the future?

I'd say avatars are still very connected to the human body. But I honestly think soon they won't be. Second skins are often very loud with colors and textures but a lot of people don't want to stand out or even look human anymore. What's very exciting to me is thinking about digital visuals that are not connected to a body, allowing us to have different identities at the same time. I also think what's freeing is being able to belong to different virtual communities and change our avatar identity depending on the context, which is something we already do IRL, anyways.

This is also the reason why if you look at Tribute Brand garments right now, they look like coats, dresses, etc. The main reason why is that it has to stay familiar. When you speak about fashion, most people envision clothes but this for sure will change in a few years.


"I think clothing is staying as clothing, yet fashion is getting somewhere else. For example, in a corporate environment, fashion could be a crypto PFP. They signalize status the same way a Louis Vuitton bag does in the physical world."


It's really interesting to think about the aesthetics of digital fashion and how they are often quite large and eccentric. Do you think a stripped-back outfit or a non-human object would still be considered fashion?

For me, fashion is not necessarily connected to clothing. I can see why it is in the physical world as it is the easiest way for someone to express themselves, to present their identity through clothing. However, in the virtual space, we don't need clothing on our bodies to define who we are. This is why I think fashion in digital ecosystems will soon not look like physical clothing but take on a completely different form.

Fashion is derived from intangible forms people need to put on themselves to have a sense of belonging in specific groups. Fashion is a tool for them to be part of a group they want to be part of. What's interesting is that in the virtual space, it doesn't have to be a dress or a garment. For example, in a corporate environment, fashion could be a crypto PFP (profile pic). They signalize status the same way a Louis Vuitton bag does in the physical world.


A lot of the words we use to explain virtual ecosystems weren't necessarily in the mainstream vernacular when you started Tribute Brand. So, what has changed since you started? 

In this space one month is like ten years. When we started the brand, we were creating AR software and eventually we had the idea of launching an app so people could wear digital fashion as AR skins. When we released it, people were amazed by how good it looked, yet at the same time, they couldn't believe someone would pay for the pieces. Then blockchain came in and people started to understand digital ownership and its value. We don't get those sorts of questions anymore and everyone seems to be very receptive and welcoming.


"A lot of people don't want to stand out or even look human anymore. In the virtual space, we don't need clothes on our bodies to define who we are, which allows us to have different identities at the same time."


How would you say digital fashion is trickling into physical clothing and the runway?

I think there are two layers to it, the first one being old-school aesthetics. That sort of pixelated pattern is becoming a huge trend in fashion, but I don't think this will be long-term. The second layer is how digital wear allows you to embrace trends more quickly and to express yourself more easily. So, I think fashion in the physical world will become more durable and of good quality, while in the digital world, it will be more experimental and creative.

If you look at younger generations, they express themselves in Roblox and Fortnite. I think it's very obvious that most kids nowadays don't care how they look in their physical life. So at one point, they are going to start buying more and more digital skins for fun and creativity. Meanwhile, in their physical life, they will want something that's just good quality and that's providing them with functional protection for their bodies.


What has been the most surprising part about the Tribute Brand  community and its evolution?

People usually assume our community is people buying Bored Apes, NFTs or Crypto Punks, but it's not like that. Our audience is actually a tight fashion community. I would say it's mostly young and tech-savvy people. They like to express themselves primarily in physical fashion but, as their main tool for communication is social media, they acknowledge there's something in digital that can even provide better possibilities for them to express themselves. 

What's most important to the digital fashion movement is good content makers. Tribute Brand’s community doesn't care about the stock market or whether an NFT is worth $10,000 or $2,000 USD. What they care about are interesting concepts and good quality and that's what Tribute Brand is about. For us, it was never about whether our NFT would get valuable with time; it was about how it looked and what it brought. Most of the digital fashion space is just replicating physical fashion. And as I've been saying, there's no sense in replicating something that looks good in the physical world, it’s about creating something new.

How are you seeing physical fashion and craftsmanship changing?

Right now, what's been happening with IRL brands is they are recreating digital garments, but they are still garments. The IRL fashion community is always a bit late. I reckon it may be because designers really care about fit and how clothing looks. 

Digital craftsmanship is still misunderstood. I think people don't realize it is valuable because they don't have a connection to it, yet. It's new, they don't know how it's made. For example, at Tribute Brand, we have this utility called Premium Fitting Service. We are calling it Instagram Couture, because it is couture, and it takes a lot of hours to make a visual like that. And each one of them is unique and bespoke. If you take an AR filter, I would say that's like the fast fashion approach, you make it so everyone can use it but it's not personalized or flattering. We are making digital fashion items in AR because it's very cheap and approachable. But then we're also making the same item as a premium fitting service, the prices, and the experience is very different, but it's more transparent that way.


"The fashion community doesn't care about the stock market or whether an NFT is worth $10,000 or $2,000 USD. What they care about are interesting concepts and good quality."


Where do you think fashion fits between humans and machines? And what excites you the most about this merge?

The moment this happens we will become much smarter and we will be able to learn and acknowledge many things that we are not currently capable of. Right now, for example, you probably care about things like where your wallet or your phone is. It will be much better when we can have a chip in our hands and see everything with our eyes. I can't wait for this. Though I wouldn't do it if the provider was a big corporation; I’m very conscious about data collection policies and refuse to be traceable.


What do you think is next for digital fashion and what is next for Tribute brand?

I think a huge revolution is coming to the whole fashion system. Many things are changing and traditional fashion brands don't even understand what's happening. At the same time, there's a new energy coming in and bringing things to the table. As for Tribute Brand, our goal is to reimagine how digital fashion and ownership co-exist. We hope to set the standard for how fashion is going to be consumed in the future.