'Good energy can be transmitted through anything, even the metaverse', say Vyrao, the wellness brand which Yasmin Sewell abandoned a lucrative career in fashion to launch earlier this year. It's proven to be a risk well worth taking; Vyrao recently launched at Saks in the US, and has sold like wildfire in Selfridges London. Hotels are requesting scents such as Free 00 to be their signature, Sewell tells me, and the brand's collaborative approach to campaign imagery reveals devoted fans in Gen Zedders to high-flying creatives, of all genders. Sewell is well-versed in how we engage with product, and she's frequently attested that the energy she got from supporting once upcoming brands such as Rick Owens, relaunching Liberty London and helming leading roles at Browns and Farfetch, was what she thrived on whilst working in fashion. And yet some may be surprised to hear that Vyrao's latest team member is an avatar named Ræ.
We're seeing avatars and virtual influencers take hold across all industries, particularly in fashion, with virtual modelling agencies on the rise and brands such as Prada launching their own avatars and inviting influencers like Lil Miquela to their fashion shows. Ræ, however, should not be mistaken for a product-pushing influencer or as an advertising strategy. They are an agent for storytelling, created by digital artist Ujin Lin and masterminded by Sewell and Vyrao's creative directors Jaime Perlman and Olena Slyesarenko. I spoke to Sewell and Slyesarenko to find out how the Vyrao avatar plans to bring a very human energy into the metaverse.
Hetty Mahlich: Creating a sense of human feeling in the metaverse is something a lot of cynics are worried about. Do you feel that this connection is something that's missing from existing avatars, and why is Ræ different?
Yasmin Sewell: The question you’re asking me is exactly the reason why I wanted to do it actually. Ultimately, we created Ræ to be a presentation of Vyrao; a digital representation of what we’re about, for all of us. A being that omits good energy, as helping people shift and awaken their energetic field is ultimately the source of everything we’re about. But we did have to think about whether this was the right direction for us at this moment as a small company. We've been investing a lot into creative campaigns and assets with wonderful artists, which is a huge part of Vyrao; the healing, the wellness, tapping into senses, but also the creative.
I started to think about healing in general and energy. I was reminded that I’ve spent the last 10 years talking to my psychic on the phone. When I do healing sessions with Louise Mita [Vyrao's energist], they’re over the phone or over Zoom because she’s in Hawaii. I thought, 'Well yeah, energy can be transmitted through anything'.
In terms of images and these beautiful videos we create, we look at colour. Everything that makes you feel different, that shifts your energy, you’re looking at through a screen. I thought, 'Ah, we do this, this is what we’re about, this is the message we can tell through our avatar'. Yes, it's tapping into what everyone else is talking about with the metaverse and avatars, but it's about actually connecting to Vyrao and telling the story that energy is in everything and can be transmitted digitally.
HM: What's the concept behind this digital being's appearance?
YS: When we decided to do it, we thought, so what is this avatar? Who is it, what is it? We can do anything we want. But the first thing that we did was sit down with my animal spirit tarot deck (laughs), and we decided to pull a card for this avatar and we got the hummingbird, which is a transmitter of good energy, so that became a part of Ræ's being.
Olena Slyesarenko: We wanted to create an avatar which felt timeless, and wouldn't be a gimmick that lasts for a season. For me, it was the ultimate creativity project. Other than that hummingbird card, we could do absolutely anything, we could draw any being. We ended up reigning it in so we have a more relatable [human] being we can identify with. They embody all that energy, which comes through in the actions and scenarios we embody in the films.
YS: We wanted Ræ to be genderless, people might refer to them as a girl, but they can shift and transform...technically the word is 'fluid'. We’re a young brand, we’ve got so much to say about the fragrances, about why we created them. This is just the birth of Ræ.
OS: This being will live and develop with the brand. Over time, we’ll explore these different personalities and sides with them.
HM: How does Ræ exist as a 'team member', rather than as an influencer or a form of advertising?
OS: People are fed up with being forced to buy and shop, and we didn't want any of that present in the brand. I think Ræ is very much an extension of Vyrao branding. They are very fluid, they kind of embody all these key energies we talk about through sense. It was very important to embody that rather than an influencer or a model used in advertising to sell the product.
YS: There's no guy on our back going, 'Where’s the bottle!' I hope that guy doesn't appear (laughs).
OS: We approached the branding from the beginning realising that there is such a stigma around spirituality and new age thinking that the visuals of it are always very earthy or hippy. We come from a fashion background, so we want to make it really beautiful, attractive and seductive. We want it to be modern, we want it to be cool.
YS: I want it to be relatable so people aren’t scared off by the witchiness. I left fashion to do Vyrao, to tap into my healing journey. I thought maybe I was going to forfeit the creativity, but in fact I’m doing more creative work now than I’ve ever done. It’s so great. I never quite realised that that could be possible.
HM: Is there scope for how Ræ can exist in the future as interoperability in the digital sphere opens up, or will they remain in the Vyrao world?
YS: We’ve already got plans for that. Ræ is definitely stepping out of .com and socials for sure. I see them hosting healing events, even be in a retail space somehow. We’re stepping into a new realm in so many ways, so let's just roll with it and see what comes up. When you think like that, the magic arises. There’s also the unknown and not being scared of the unknown, which is something I’m very pro.