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Are video games the new frontier for fashion?

Industry Commentary
Image: Square Enix

Video games have become one of the hottest places to market new products, and that’s especially true for the fashion industry, according to a recent op-ed in The Guardian. Louis Vuitton, Supreme, Palace, Puma, Uniqlo, Lacoste, Burberry, Balmain, Prada and Gucci are just some of the brands that have collaborated with or featured in video games. In fact, it would probably be quicker to mention the brands that haven’t entered the gaming space yet – so what’s going on? 

While major collaborations such as Ralph Lauren giving its logo a Fortnite makeover or Minecraft and Burberry teaming up for digital and physical capsule collections, fashion houses tapping into gaming audiences aren’t anything new. 

One of the major breakthroughs between the two industries came when Lightning, the protagonist of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII video game, became the face of Louis Vuitton for its SS16 campaign. But even then, the idea of video game characters being used as digital models can be dated all the way back to 1999 when the protagonist from Kenji Eno’s D games was used to model clothes from Yohji Yamamoto. 

What we’re seeing now is a natural evolution of that. Similar to how video games are now using film and TV to reach new audiences, a growing number of high fashion and streetwear brands are using video games to do the same thing. 

As Louis Vuitton is probably not the first brand that springs to mind when someone mentions Japanese role-playing games, this could be the first time that many of Final Fantasy XIII’s younger players encountered the brand inside a game. And we’re sure that some of those players – even if it’s a small percentage of the 7.7 million people that purchased the game – will have converted into Louis Vuitton sales. 

One of the reasons virtual fashion is so hot right now is because there’s a growing focus on user-generated content in video games. Developers have more tools at their disposal to create authentic digital clothing, which gives players a seemingly infinite number of ways to express themselves through in-game fashion items as they dress their characters and avatars in their favourite clothing. 

But simply putting virtual versions of your clothing into a video game is no guarantee that it’s going to sell. There are several things you need to consider, from the functionality and transferability of your clothing to how it looks and, perhaps more importantly, how much it costs. 

The functionality and transferability of virtual merchandise is usually dictated by the game or platform it’s made available on, but any digital clothing you can transfer from one game to another (such as on the Roblox platform) is always going to make for an easier sale when it comes to justifying the cost. 

Similarly, if your virtual clothing has a tangible use outside of just making your character or avatar look great, that’s another reason for players to purchase. Examples of this might be an achievement or award for purchasing a full clothing set, or some cosmetic items offering in-game power-ups such as special abilities. The branded Dragon Ball characters in Fortnite are a great example of this. 

Finally, make sure you consider your target audience and how well your fashion brand aligns with the game or platform. Streetwear brands such as Supreme and Carhartt will inevitably turn heads in a new Skate or Need for Speed game, but could feel out of place in a role-playing game such as Final Fantasy. 

Some brands can get around this as long as the collaboration or campaign is activated in a way that feels genuine. Burberry and Minecraft aren’t two brands that people would typically associate with each other but the creative for the campaign is done in a way that both Burberry fans and Minecraft fans will love. 


Read the episode transcript here

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