In a world where habits have been completely overturned by an unprecedented health and economic crisis, generation Z has more than ever found refuge in the virtual universe. Since 2020, the video game market has been booming and fashion has seized the opportunity to establish a strong link with this industry. In-game” shows for Balenciaga, Gucci and Longchamp collaborating with Pokémon Go, Jordan with Fortnite, Nike with Sony… The phenomenon is growing. Not to mention the appearance of 100% virtual brands such as Tribute Brand or The Fabricant. Gaming is the new favourite playground of the fashion sphere and it is not ready to stop.
Louis Vuitton at the digital forefront
When Nicolas Ghesquière decided in 2015 to make Lightning, heroine of the game Final Fantasy XIII, a Louis Vuitton muse, the world was riveted. Of course, some had already flirted with the gaming world. Ten years ago, brands such as American Apparel and Dior Joaillerie entered the Second Life game run by the company Linden Lab, to present collections and dress avatars. But the artistic director of Louis Vuitton women is obviously pushing a bigger door by literally giving the star to this fictional character.
A few years later, Ghesquière’s strategy paid off as Louis Vuitton began a strong partnership with the game League of Legends. He first designed a coveted outfit for the character Qiyana, then dropped an IRL (in real life) capsule collection with the game’s publisher – Riot Games – and then created a brand new briefcase containing the 2019 LOL World Championship trophy.
While Louis Vuitton’s approach is visionary, the world had no idea that 2020 would become a key year for the gaming industry. The health crisis and successive confinements have caused revenues generated by digital games to soar to 139.9 billion, 12% higher than in 2019. The American firm SuperData predicts that this figure will reach 165 to 200 billion in two years’ time. A juicy market that is perfect for giving fashion a look. The British fashion house Burberry has therefore also entered the world by creating a collection of “skins” (digital clothing) for the Chinese game Honor of Kings.
2020: a year of Animal Crossing, Fortnite & Pokemon Go
For several years now, sportswear brands have been present in certain games whose universe is closely linked: FIFA or NBA2K for example. However, this did not stop Jordan from stepping out of its comfort zone and jumping ship in 2019 by partnering with the giant Fortnite developed by Epic Games. Worse, brands have even decided to become official sponsors of various E-Sports teams, like adidas with Vitality or Puma and Heron Preston with the Gen G group.
In March 2020, it is the Nintendo game Animal Crossing New Horizons that redistributes the cards in a more dense way by proposing a new functionality: the customisation of avatars’ outfits. Creative gamers are having a field day, reproducing the most desirable pieces from the catwalks. Brands such as Marc Jacobs and Valentino are now presenting a collection in the Japanese game, while Givenchy is offering players the chance to design their own beauty looks.
Another Nintendo licence that is causing a stir among brands and consumers alike? Pokémon. Pikachu is taking pride of place in wardrobes if the long list of collaborations is anything to go by: Levi’s, Longchamp, Uniqlo, Moncler and especially… Gucci. Alessandro Michele’s Italian fashion house is hitting the big time with the Gucci x The North Face collaboration, and is also offering it via the virtual reality game Pokémon Go. Parisian players are invited to visit the Gucci shop on Avenue Montaigne to unlock the looks on their app and why not get their hands on the real pieces of the collection?
Digital fashion week and 100% virtual brands
With closed borders and forbidden gatherings, fashion is forced to cancel fashion weeks and reinvent itself. If many opt for simple lookbooks or videos, others go further. Riccardo Tisci for Burberry decided to partner with the streaming platform Twitch to broadcast his Spring/Summer 2021 show and then in the process, presented his first online game called B Bounce. Dior will also use Twitch to unveil its Fall 2021 men’s collection.
3D creations and mannequins are flourishing everywhere among brands, from Thierry Mugler to Andrea Crews, but it is the prestigious house of Balenciaga that is throwing itself wholeheartedly into cyberspace. For its Fall 2021 collection, it is launching Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow. An ultra-detailed game where the Internet user experiences a futuristic world – between an urban area and a jungle – where each character he/she meets wears the pieces of the collection. The icing on the cake? Some pieces are branded with the PS5 logo, announcing a collaboration with the giant Sony which is releasing its brand new console. Once again, the Georgian artistic director Demna Gvasalia is making his mark in the avant-garde.
Another exciting phenomenon is the 100% virtual brands. Although the idea of buying something that doesn’t exist seems crazy, emerging labels are finding takers. In 2019, The Fabricant is auctioning a dress called Iridescence for $9500. The agency, which supports various companies in their digital transition, thus advocates limitless creative possibilities, a considerably reduced impact on the environment and a new approach to thinking about fashion.
The web has seen the birth of Tribute Brand, the first entirely dematerialised brand. The latter offers Internet users the opportunity to buy a limited quantity of a piece and send a photo of themselves wearing it. They then become the lucky owner of a very Instagrammable image. Ready for the world of tomorrow?