All revolutionary history begins with a change in the established order, and this will not be different: before the caress on the physical garment, the limitations of the new reality have put the focus on the digital spectrum. The impossibility of interacting with the public is responsible for the big brands having entered the universe of video games, virtual fashion and their business possibilities. Many industry players have already set out to conquer a new market. While Balenciaga presented its collection this spring with the video game Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, Gucci launches Gucci Virtual 25, a sports shoe with a purely virtual existence that we can only test ourselves in the digital universe, which increasingly behaves more like a alternative space in which to enjoy our favorite firms.
“Video game users usually dress their avatars with special garments that we call skins and that help them to stand out during the game. They can be purchased for a price that is usually affordable and the avatar can wear them whenever the user wishes. This idea has laid the foundations of what it is to dress digitally and has made virtual fashion an industry that the big brands want to get closer to ”, explains Kerry Murphy, founder of the digital fashion house The Fabricant, who already be part of fashion history with Iridescence, a digital haute couture garment that sold for more than € 9,000 at auction. Murphy says the industry’s shift towards video games has changed the way we experience fashion and dress. “Luxury firms are removing complexes and are realizing that many clients spend a lot of time in virtual environments,” he reflects. Gaming allows interaction and participation, and digital products can be transformed, have life ”.
A very lucrative business
“Millions of people play daily and video games are the star environment to be seen and also to reach a younger audience ”, assures Isabel Basaldúa, one of the founding partners and creative director of La Tecnocreativa, as well as the third generation of the Spanish bridal and sewing firm Basaldúa. “Brands see digital fashion as a new way of relating to their customers, as a creative opportunity that opens up other avenues of business. Younger people are particularly comfortable with the digital environment and with virtual life, which for them has the same validity than your real life. So it makes sense for brands to interact with them through the spaces in which consumers choose to participate, ”says Kerry Murphy.
The pandemic and confinements have made video games the new space in which to meet people, socialize and enjoy free time. To that end, Longchamp created a special event during Paris Fashion Week to celebrate the collaboration with Pokémon. Players were able to search for unusual Pokémon dressed in the Collaboration Backpack, available from the Pokémon GO Store. Considering that 2.5 billion people around the world play video games, that the average age of gamers is 33 years old and that they spend billions of euros on virtual goods, it is not surprising that luxury brands want to get closer to the geek side of fashion. However, why would we want to invest money in clothes that we will never be able to wear in real life? “Many of our interactions take place in the virtual world. Why, then, do we need physical garments if we are communicating through a screen? ”Asks the founder of The Fabricant, who believes that it makes more sense to dress in a virtual way.
“Millions of people play every day, video games are the star environment to be seen,” says Isabel Basaldúa.
“Are there no garments that never go out of the digital format or do they not go beyond fashion magazines because they are only images? Now we can generate trends without generating waste. I think they are new ways of understanding fashion, ”says creative director María Ruano, whose project Make It is made up of two virtual collections and a last one real and virtual. “In it there will be basic garments that can be purchased online and garments on demand. A new sector is already being generated on virtual fashion, with garments that are conceived in digital environments and are sold and used digitally. Making is born from this duality, from tradition, sewing and the present, with some physical and virtual principles ”, explains Ruano. “Soon, sensory differences, such as touch or smell, will also be able to be transmitted. The limitations will disappear and we will stop differentiating between digital and analog. We will dress in both ways ”, adds Basaldúa.
New rules of the game
If 20 years ago netaporter.com changed the rules of fashion by selling luxury online, today it is partnering with Animal Crossing: New Horizons to create Net-a-Porter Island, where avatars can be tried on five looks inspired by an Isabel Marant capsule collection, available only from the internet fashion titan. The designs have been brought to the virtual world by visual artist Kara Chung and design studio WeSuperseed., and firms such as Valentino and Maison Margiela have also asked Chung to digitize their designs to dress the Animal Crossing avatars.
However, although the virtual versions are more affordable than the real ones, digitizing designs is not easy. The Fabricant, which has done it for firms like Alexander McQueen, indicates this. “The software accurately recreates the texture, color and movement of the fabric. Being able to have a digital version of the collections gives firms an obvious power. The digital version can be used by its sales platforms and provides an exceptional vision of the creation of the garments and their details ”, assures its founder. In any story, the ending has to offer a teaching or pose a question; and the closing of this invites us to free ourselves … “Your avatar allows you an identity with a margin of preconceived ideas. Who hasn’t ever said, “I wish I was the kind of person who can wear that!” In the digital world, you can, ”assures Kerry Murphy. Let’s play?