Meet the Dublin designer at the pinnacle of the metaverse

What image comes to your mind when you think of the metaverse? For many, the concept may be a bit too science fiction to imagine as part of everyday life.

But that is changing. Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 featured Tommy Hilfiger and Coach and Charlotte Tilbury immersed herself in virtual beauty technology with her 3D volumetric avatar.

Meet Irish businesswoman Liz Dolan, who is at the forefront of this changing retail landscape and believes there is unlimited potential in the space.

Liz and her husband Rob Tracey are the brains behind Dublin mortar & more And although they initially designed in physical brick-and-mortar stores, they now also work in the virtual world.

Liz Dolan and Rob Tracey, co-founders of Mortar & More. Image: Fran Veale / Delivered

Liz loves the potential of her virtual design work To inspire that the team is not “constrained by regulations” and can “turn the design on its head.”

She said, “We design spaces that people experience, be it physical, digital or in the metaverse… It’s not just about something looking pretty, it has to actually offer something interesting and support a brand.”

“Right now (the metaverse) is very experimental.” For us, it’s exciting because there aren’t any constraints, we’re not bound by building or structural codes, so you can flip the design on its head.

“We are very fortunate to be in this position. A lot of people I talk to also say, ‘Oh, the metaverse, isn’t that something that was hot last year and has now dissipated?’ But no, it hasn’t gone and it’s here to stay!’

A metaverse concept that Mortar & More worked on
A metaverse concept that Mortar & More worked on. Image: Included

Currently there is still a lot of development to be done in Metaverse rooms as it is an upcoming room, but that means it is an exciting place to work.

Liz said, “Right now a lot of these platforms are pretty basic, but they’re getting more sophisticated.” Spaces have been pretty rudimentary in some cases and that’s going to draw crowds, but for other generations that don’t get it, they won’t get that aesthetic please. That is where the power to create better aesthetics lies.”

How did Liz get involved in Metaverse design? Like many other companies, Mortar & More had to adapt its approach during the pandemic and began to make greater use of virtual reality.

Liz explained: “Covid threw us in a different direction.” We were working with overseas clients in retail and were no longer able to travel to meetings. That’s why we started developing towards VR in the concept phase, which is unusually early.

One of the Metaverse concept details that Mortar & More worked on
One of the Metaverse concept details that Mortar & More worked on. Image: Included

“We sent the clients a headset and then, while we were sitting in the Dublin studio, we walked them around the room so they perceived the space as avatars.”

“Then a client came up to us and said, ‘If you can do that, can you work in the metaverse?’ And we said yes. We found out over time.’

While this presented a “huge learning curve” for the studio, it wasn’t scary and the team took up the challenge of using this technology.

Liz continued, “It was a huge learning curve in the studio, but also a great opportunity.” We had already developed walkthroughs, but only for PCs, not headsets, so it wasn’t a big leap for us. I think learning the scope of the metaverse was the learning curve.

Liz Dolan, co-founder of Mortar & More
Liz Dolan, co-founder of Mortar & More. Image: Fran Veale / Delivered

“Developing the rooms wasn’t a huge leap either, but it’s about understanding the possibilities of where things can go and who is making them accessible.” , and it will continue to grow.”

Looking ahead, Liz hopes more Irish brands will embrace the Metaverse. “Small, hungry Irish brands offer opportunities like this,” she said. “You could do something that exciting for a small brand.”

Although the metaverse is our goal, Liz also believes there will always be a need for physical stores. Liz said, “We’re still years away from making the metaverse accessible to everyone, and it still needs a lot of training for people to know how to use it.”

One of the Metaverse concept details that Mortar & More worked on
One of the Metaverse concept details that Mortar & More worked on. Image: Included

“I also think that there will always be a stationary offer. I love going into stores and seeing the human interaction and I think people will pay for a premium shopping experience.”

“The Metaverse offers something completely different, it’s another way to educate customers, and brands use it in completely different ways.” Starbucks uses it for a loyalty system and Burberry uses it almost as a loyalty system as well, but is also bringing it into the store and merges everything.

“Physical retail spaces will always be important, but I think augmented reality will also be important for physical spaces and we’ll see a much more blended experience.”

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