Paris has been infiltrated by the tech elite this week as the VivaTech conference gets into full swing. But the occasion also affords the capital of fashion to showcase how it will incorporate tech and Web3.
Euronews Next spoke to LVMH, the home of luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Dior, and to beauty leader L'Oréal, to find out the latest innovations of France’s biggest luxury and beauty companies.
One of the most talked-about products and possibly one of the most expensive too is the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Ultra, the world’s thinnest mechanical watch with a profile of 1.80 mm thick and at a cost of €250,000.
Not only is it designed to look good on your wrist, but the watch also has integrated NFT technology that provides digital proof of ownership.
The owner of the timepiece, of which only 10 have been made, can scan a QR code which then takes them to the NFT system where they can view the history of the watch, including design sketches.
“You can always say that you are actually connected with the moment of creation of the watch,” said Massimo Paloni, Chief Operations and Innovation Officer at Bvlgari.
“The QR code actually is different for each watch and because every QR code is different, every product is different. We wanted to actually create an experience for the customer.
“So when you scan the QR code, in reality, you enter into a mini-website and that mini-website gives you all the story, all the journey of our creators,” he said.
“You have the passport, the digital passport of the watch on the blockchain. You have the artwork minted on a polygon blockchain. And these two smart contents then are merged into a third smart contract that cannot be separated. So there is a flotation system by which the customer will never be able to separate. And this means that these NFTs will never be on the market”.
NFTs: the one to watch
LVMH has made other NFT watches with its brand Tag Heuer, which lets you display your NFT on the watch.
The company also allows you to buy the watch with cryptocurrency.
Finally, the metaverse plays a big role in the future plans of LVMH, which has a virtual shopping world for Sephora where you can try out bold make-up choices.
“Sephora was one of the very first brands to offer a virtual try-on for makeup with augmented reality and I think there's a couple of learnings here. So first of all, nothing will ever replace interacting with a physical product and especially with beauty and skincare. You want to know how it smells, what it feels like,” Nelly Mensah, head of Web3 and Metaverse at LVMH, told Euronews Next.
“But what the metaverse offers is inspiration. So, for example, I might not be bold enough to wear orange lipstick, and so I would never think to try it on in the real world, because I think, well, maybe that's not for me, but in the metaverse it's very frictionless to actually go through hundreds of colours really quickly.
“So imagine you are swiping through orange, purple, pink, and then you realise, wait, actually orange is a great look for me. And so then you either order it online or go into the store, have a conversation with a beauty advisor, and then buy the physical product. So I think those two go hand in hand”.
While doing your shopping in the metaverse, you could also own a Louis Vuitton handbag as an NFT. The real thing of course may be too expensive for most budgets.
Asked why you would want a digital-only version of the bag, Mensah said LVMH sees the future of luxury in the metaverse as a combination of the physical piece and the digital.
“We think that a consumer who spends a lot of their time in digital spaces will want to show off what they own in the real world. So if you own a physical retail handbag, you will then have a digital version of it,” she said.
“It's a digital twin that will give you even further benefits in the metaverse, or, for example, early access to a product or access to a metaverse environment that you can only enter if you have this digital product.
“And the way you have the digital product is you buy the physical one. So this combination of digital and physical is what we think will be the future of the space”.
The beauty of the metaverse
The beauty giant L'Oréal is also entering the metaverse.
At the start of June, its cosmetics subsidiary NYX announced it was partnering with The Sandbox metaverse and the blockchain lab People of Crypto.
The partnership will see an avatar collection which features different skin shades, gender identification, sexual orientation and different make-up looks.
“We know that the world is changing where people are going to want to experience products in the metaverse. So we have to think about what that's going to mean for a company and if we're doing it collectively with the digital teams as well as our team in research, and then we will see how we can create value and change people's behaviour and that that's always the most challenging part,” Guive Balooch, Global Vice President of L'Oréal’s Technology Incubator, said in an interview.
“And I think our approach the last 10 years [...] has helped us to understand that we have to really focus first on consumer needs and expectations”.
In its bright white stand, L'Oréal also showcased other tech-beauty innovations.
On Yves Saint Laurent’s scent booth, you could find the perfect perfume to match your mood.
It works by an ECG-based headset, created with the neurotech company EMOTIV, that tracks emotional responses to different scents and then analyses that data to make different product recommendations.
“When you look at fragrance today, there are some basic emotions that you're looking at - stress, energy, concentration. And today this kind of field of neurotechnology has been around for 50 years. So it's not something that just came out of the blue,” said Balooch.
“I think that, yes, this part is advancing. We are at 95 per cent. We're not at 100 per cent. So there will be some people that will have to do the experience a couple of times or may not get there right.
“But we will continue to inform with the data and try to get to a point where we can get it to be as close as we can to 100. I think beyond that, there's something else that I have to tell you, is that it's not a miracle device in that sense,” he added
“Some people like fragrances that make them relaxed. Some people like to be energised by fragrances. That's not something the headset can measure. This is why at the beginning, there still is a need for human intervention. We have to understand first what consumers want out of their fragrance”.
The beauty of sustainability
One of the more sustainable inventions is the company’s Water Saver.
It is a showerhead that uses rocket engine technology to create a luxurious and efficient hair washing experience while reducing water consumption by 61 per cent compared to standard methods.
For now, it is designed for use in hair salons and it has the potential to help save billions of litres of water annually.
“It allows you to have to 10 times smaller droplet size, which means the speed of the water can be the same, but the efficiency of each drop is very high. So I feel no difference in this, the strength and rinse, but I can save 61 per cent water,” said Balooch.
Asked if this technology could one day be rolled out to our homes, he said: “I think, I hope and I truly wish that that will be the case”.