You can thank The Sims for the rise of luxury fashion in gaming | Bot To News


Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

Gaming and fashion may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but what our avatars wear, whether it’s parachuting into battle in Fortnite or having dinner in The Sims, has been of interest since video game characters have been able to change clothes for first time

And more recently, luxury brands are keen to enter the space. Balenciaga, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger and Valentino have dabbled in the past three years, hosting shows in the Animal Crossing village-building game; collaborating on apparel and clothing, often called “skins,” in titles like League of Legends and Fortnite; or create game environments for purchase on Roblox.

And while the appetite for digital pieces has taken off outside of gaming in recent years, along with the advent of collectible NFTs, check out Dolce & Gabbana’s record-breaking $6 million collection or a pair of Nike and RTFKT sneakers selling for $133,000 . basis for the current virtual fashion boom.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the gaming community helped establish a thriving environment for independent designers creating custom fashion in video games like The Sims, as well as a lucrative system for selling digital EverQuest and World of Warcraft products on eBay, years before. game developers and clothing brands have begun to monetize the skins for a wider audience.

“The direct-to-avatar economy is not necessarily new,” Cassandra Napoli, senior strategist at trend forecasting firm WGSN, said in a video call with CNN. “I think what’s new now is that people are more aware that this is an opportunity, whereas in the past, it was a niche experience for people who are already gamers.”

Last year, a virtual Gucci bag sold on Roblox for the equivalent of $4,115, more than the value of the bag's actual physical counterpart.  In September, a digital version of a Carolina Herrera dress worn by Karlie Kloss at New York Fashion Week raised $5,000.

Last year, a virtual Gucci bag sold on Roblox for the equivalent of $4,115, more than the value of the bag’s actual physical counterpart. In September, a digital version of a Carolina Herrera dress worn by Karlie Kloss at New York Fashion Week raised $5,000. Credit: Roblox

Now, he said, “the magnitude of games in general has really become more mainstream.” According to a 2020 WGSN report, skin sales accounted for 80 percent of the $120 billion spent on digital video games in 2019, and that was before the industry’s pandemic boom as much of the world spent more time at home .

Personalized creativity

When The Sims first debuted in 2000, offering a world just like ours instead of the fantasy titles that dominated the industry, the creative pool of virtual fashion exploded. Like many game titles, The Sims could be modified or “modified” with cosmetic changes, such as hairstyles or clothing, imported from programs outside the game.

“That’s really where digital fashion came into play: the idea of ​​not always wanting to look like an NPC (non-player character) or another player,” said Jenni Svoboda, a Texas-based designer who goes by the name Lovespun and has been creating custom designs for games like The Sims, Second Life, and Roblox since mid.

The Sims have partnered with fashion brands for nearly two decades, starting with H&M.

The Sims have partnered with fashion brands for nearly two decades, starting with H&M. Credit: EA games

Over the years, The Sims has partnered with H&M, Diesel, Moschino and Gucci, but with unofficial player-made designs, any look is possible. Players get “custom hairstyles, clothes, makeup, pretty much anything you can think of,” Svoboda explained. If you want Kylie Jenner’s matte lip colors, the matching pink outfits from “Mean Girls,” or all of Jules’ looks from “Euphoria,” there’s a mod for that.

But where custom designs are meant to enhance Sims gameplay, they’ve become the basis of platforms like the early metaverse Second Life, where the entire virtual world is built by its residents, and Roblox, where users play and create games on the platform. . In Second Life, major fashion brands began staking their claims as early as 2006, with American Apparel, Armani and Adidas opening their digital storefronts, at a time when the platform was worth an estimated $64 million. Earlier this year, Jonathan Simkhai presented his Fall-Winter 2022 collection in Second Life instead of a physical show at New York Fashion Week.

Jonathan Simkhai Virtual Collection presented in Second Life.  The open virtual world began to attract the biggest names in fashion in the mid-2000s.

Jonathan Simkhai Virtual Collection presented in Second Life. The open virtual world began to attract the biggest names in fashion in the mid-2000s. Credit: Linden Laboratory

In Roblox, top developers have earned millions and have the opportunity to design game environments for their fashion partnerships. Svoboda has worked with Forever 21, Tommy Hilfiger and Karlie Kloss, and believes Roblox “has definitely been a gateway and an opening for a lot of brands to come in and collaborate,” he said.

Coveted virtual goods

Edward Castronova, a media professor at Indiana University Bloomington and an expert on the virtual economies of video games, has documented the rise of virtual goods since the late 1990s, when the first big wave of massively multiplayer online role-playing games took place ( MMORPG). released One thing that has never surprised him is the lengths people will go to collect digital clothes.

When the fantasy MMORPG Ultima Online, which debuted in 1997, offered users unlimited storage for their gear, one user became monomaniacal by collecting T-shirts, Castronova recounted in his 2006 book, “Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games”.

“He somehow acquired and stored over 10,000 of them, for reasons unknown,” Castronova wrote.

Video game costumes, or "skins" they have become a multi-billion dollar business in recent years.

Video game costumes or “skins” have become a multi-billion dollar business in recent years. Credit: Louis Vuitton x League of Legend

Rare armor and skins became coveted items, and their own out-of-game economy worth tens of millions on sites like eBay in the mid-2000s, as Castronova documented, but it wasn’t until the 2010s that game companies took start monetizing them. Now a multi-billion dollar revenue stream in gaming, skins have also attracted the attention of fashion brands.

That interest has been fruitful for many multiplayer games, including the super popular Fortnite, whose stylistic influence is an integral part of its gaming experience.

Louis Vuitton and League of Legends collaborated in 2019 on a series of skins.

Louis Vuitton and League of Legends collaborated in 2019 on a series of skins. Credit: Louis Vuitton x League of Legend

“The whole player experience is centered around this idea of ​​fantastical self-expression,” said Emily Levy, director of partnerships at Epic Games, which publishes the title. Fortnite may have shot to fame in 2018 for its 100-person competitive battle game, but it also hosts social events like concerts (where Ariana Grande performed) and fashion tournaments. Some outfits have developed “cult followings,” Levy said.

A long term relationship

Sallyann Houghton, director of fashion at Epic Games, believes the two industries will continue to converge, noting in particular that technology is finally at a place where luxury brands can mimic their physical clothing. Epic is also the developer of Unreal Engine 5, a real-time 3D modeling tool that powers many video games and metaverse platforms, and has also created catwalk experiences for designers such as Gary James McQueen (nephew of Alexander McQueen).

“Advances in graphics have come so far,” he said. “We can now create a digital double, whether it’s a piece of clothing, a building or a landscape, that helps communicate the mood of a collection.”

For a partnership with Moncler, for example, the characters’ outfits changed from light to dark depending on their altitude, a nod to the Italian company’s Alpine roots, a creative twist physical designers would have been hard pressed to pull off.

Fortnite has teamed up with Moncler and Balenciaga on creative clothing that can react to game environments, such as Moncler's Altitude Adjusters.

Fortnite has teamed up with Moncler and Balenciaga on creative clothing that can react to game environments, such as Moncler’s Altitude Adjusters. Credit: Epic Games

But many of the recent partnerships have also been one-off, and it will be some time before it becomes clear whether the big fashion houses are committed to the gaming market for the long term. Gucci is a brand that invests heavily in the space, with projects featuring Pokémon Go, Roblox and Tennis Clash, as well as its own Gucci Arcade, inspired by vintage games. That’s because of its global potential, according to Robert Triefus, who leads its corporate and brand strategy.

“(Gaming) crosses generations, crosses genders, crosses ethnicities. It’s a truly global community in every sense,” he wrote in an email to CNN. “We realized there was an opportunity for Gucci to have a voice in that community.” Triefus added that his team conducted “a number of different types of experiments” for a “deeper understanding of the gaming world.”

Whether we’re in a true digital fashion renaissance, entering an era of the so-called metaverse, or what Castronova calls a “wave of hype,” Castronova believes that branded products in video games will always be an attraction.

“People care about how they look, whether it’s in a virtual or real environment,” he said. Wearing a Versace hat in a game “is tremendous marketing,” he added. “It’s getting harder and harder to get the eyeballs of 18- to 34-year-olds, and their eyeballs are on interactive experiences. So I think that’s going to continue and intensify.”



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