In today’s augmented reality world, where so much of our life is spent online, the strangest connections are being formed across industries. However, few could have predicted that the jeans, t-shirt and hoodie world of gaming could have any serious influence on the fashions paraded on the runways in Milan or New York.
Yet as gaming has grown to become a top leisure pursuit among broader demographics, high street fashion labels have started to collaborate with game developers in ways that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
Fashion and technology
With each passing year, the influence of technology on fashion becomes increasingly evident. Take a look at the highlights from last year’s New York Fashion Week and you’ll see it in various forms, from a virtual reality runway here to an electrified dress there – not something to be wearing on a rainy day. But it is the connection with gaming that has really evolved in recent years.
Amanda Erickson is founder of Closet to Console and has been sharing her passion for fashion and games since 2011. Back when she began, the two topics seemed a strange combination, and Erickson notes that in the early days of merchandising, the best anyone could hope for was a black t-shirt with a game logo on the front.
Today, however, there is more sophistication to both games and gamers. From battle arenas like Fortnite to sports simulators such as FIFA to popular casino games like blackjack, there is something to attract everyone, regardless of age, background or personal taste. The gaming industry worldwide is worth something in the region of $135 billion. With numbers like that, it becomes less surprising to see the likes of Louis Vuitton teaming up Square Enix, the developer responsible for Final Fantasy.
As two of the most creative industries imaginable, the benefits to both could be significant. As game developer Teddy Diefenbach put it, this kind of collaboration is practically guaranteed to bring new ideas and fantastic products that will benefit both gaming and fashion in equal measure.
The fashion houses coming up with great ideas is fine as far as it goes. Things really get serous, however, when those innovations get some celebrity backing. Who can forget Kim Kardashian’s sexy blingy robot dress at the 2016 Met Gala? Or how about Zayn Malik in his bizarre combination of Versace suit and bionic arms, a look inspired by Jax from Mortal Kombat?
Sometimes, the technology can, in itself, become the fashion. At the same event, Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry chose to accessorize their wardrobe with a Tamagotchi instead of a belt or a brooch.
There are even designers who have looked to the virtual world to provide the influencers that showcase their latest lines. In years gone by, Louis Vuitton was synonymous with the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell making the runway their own. But in 2016, the label chose a face that was just as recognizable but almost certainly easier to work with. The video campaign for their spring and summer collection featured Lightning, the pink-haired warrior from Final Fantasy, taking to the runway with just as much poise and elegance as her real-world predecessors and striking poses with her Louis Vuitton clutch bag.
UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph even ran an interview with the virtual character. In it, she talked about how working with Louis Vuitton changed her perspective on fashion, and said it “displays the essence of who you are to the people around you.”
Taking gaming and fashion to the next level
Fun one-off fashion statements, or using game characters as virtual models is one thing. But the latest collaboration is set to take the relationship between gaming and fashion to a whole new level. Moschino has gone into partnership with EA to inject an entire fashion range into gaming phenomenon The Sims.
With 80 million players, the game commands a truly immense audience, and every one of those players can access Moschino’s latest range, free of charge, via their avatar in the virtual world. If they like what they see, the same products are available in the physical world, but at a price. The range starts at an $85 phone case, but also includes a $600 hoodie and a $1,300 backpack.
A two way street
As the above example suggests, it is not just a case of games influencing fashion designers. The reverse also holds true, and fashion-inspired games have a growing audience. The pioneer here was, once again, none other than Kim Kardashian. In 2014, her mobile game Kim Kardashian Hollywood was released on iOS and Android. Within three months of release, it had hit 22 million downloads and generated more than $40 million in revenue. The main driver of the game was Kardashian’s real-world fashion label and clothing line.
Kardashian explained that by bringing her products into the virtual world, she made them accessible to a wider audience, regardless of bank balance. As well as her own label, Kardashian partnered with Judith Lieber, Juicy Couture and Balmain Paris, the designer behind that famous gown from the Met Gala.
Unsurprisingly, other fashion labels saw the success of Kardashian’s game and were quick to follow suit. There are dozens available on Google Play and the App Store, but perhaps the most successful of them all is Covet Fashion. This provides a whole array of clothes and accessories, all of them from real-world fashion brands, with which players can dress their avatars. It features special events, competitions and social gaming aspects in which players can vote on each other’s efforts.
Two worlds collide
With the recent media reports that gaming is overtaking both movies and music in terms of revenue, the collaborations will only get stronger. However, this is more than just a crossover between industries. It is blurring the distinction between the real and virtual worlds. On that note, let’s return to that Telegraph interview with Lightning for the final word: “I hope that one day, we can share the same stage, that different worlds can come together. But who knows? Maybe that’s ambitious, even for me.”