If one thing was truly evident this year, it was the continued blurring between the fashion and gaming worlds. Whether it was the cohort of individuals turning to the comfort of the digital realm or the announcement of Meta, it seemed that many were pivoting their attention to their online selves, a move that high-end fashion brands evidently saw a market in.
Quite specifically, brands looked towards already established gaming platforms, in which players can navigate fully-formed worlds through the use of customisable avatars. This has opened up a vast, largely untapped market, that major fashion houses explored through the launch of virtual collections and branded content.
FashionUnited has rounded up some of the most notable gaming collaborations from 2021, that saw fashion transcend traditional barriers and break into the virtual domain.
March: Burberry and Honor of Kings
In a continuation of its previous partnership, Burberry released exclusive designs for the mobile game, Honor of Kings. Two new skins were made available for the game’s heroine, Yao, with looks inspired by outfits from the brand’s spring/summer 2021 collection. One even included the classic Burberry trench, complete with beige colourings and the house’s check lining. Fans were able to buy the looks both in-game, online and in stores in mainland China.
April: H&M and Animal Crossing
Following the announcement of actor Maisie Williams as its global sustainability ambassador, H&M launched an island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, dedicated to its garment recycling machine, Looop. The island was designed with a sustainable theme in mind, allowing players to explore and recycle their in-game outfits into new versions at a virtual clothing recycling station. Players were able to learn more about recycling and interact with the Looop Island notice board, to leave their own thoughts on circular fashion.
May: Gucci and Roblox
Luxury house Gucci made an unexpected appearance on Roblox, in the form of a virtual garden as part of the game’s digital world. The activation was inspired by the house’s creative vision, designed as an exhibition with different rooms to explore. On entrance, players’ avatars were transformed into neutral mannequins that adjusted according to the room they entered, allowing for a totally unique experience per user.
Alongside the experience, players also had the opportunity to purchase virtual Gucci products in-game. Items included in the collaboration gained immense popularity, with one digital bag selling for 4,115 dollars on the platform, almost 1,000 dollars more than its original, physical value.
August: Ralph Lauren and Zepeto
Social networking site Zepeto became home to a number of completely digital Ralph Lauren collections this year, with the lines available reminiscent of the brand’s physical apparel. Users had the option of 50 unique items to dress their in-game avatars, including skateboards and exclusive accessories only available the virtual world. Digital elements of the Ralph Lauren brand were also developed, such as its Madison Avenue Flagship that users could visit and explore.
To celebrate the launch of the experience, Ralph Lauren hosted a live virtual event alongside the avatars of the popular K-Pop band, Tomorrow X Together, during which visitors could interact with the group in the newly formed world.
September: Balenciaga and Fortnite
High fashion brand Balenciaga took to Fortnite, digitising its luxury fashion for users of the popular game. Items included in the game were based on real collections, with players provided with the additional option to visit an in-game version of a Balenciaga store or use a specially created dance by the brand.
Physical merch was also made available, however, while its in-game experience proved to be popular, outside of the game the brand faced criticism for the sale of 700 dollar physical t-shirts, targeted at Fortnite’s younger audience.
October: Pandora and Animal Crossing
In a continuation of its Pandora Me collection launch, the jewellery brand launched a custom-designed Animal Crossing island, inspired by its star-studded campaign. Alongside immersive brand locations, players could visit virtual homes that mirrored the brand’s celebrity ambassadors, including Charli XCX and Beabadoobee, each also present in the form of their own in-game avatar. Furthermore, a recreation of Pandora’s Chiang Mai factory allowed players to use crafting benches and materials similar to the ones used to create the Pandora Me collection.
November: Nikeland for Roblox
Sportswear giant Nike took to the Roblox platform to offer a completely immersive branded experience, Nikeland. Buildings and fields in the virtual world were inspired by the brand’s real-life locations and included a digital showroom featuring Nike products that could be worn by the players’ avatars. The virtual space translated into the physical with the introduction of an ‘accelerometer’ that transferred offline movements into online play and rewards, encouraging kids to get moving.
November: Fashion Awards and Roblox
Roblox continued to remain popular throughout the year and even attracted the British Fashion Council to its platform of over 43 million users. For this year’s Fashion Awards, the organisation presented its newest award category, Metaverse Design, in the game itself, with the award delivered by an avatar replica of Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele.
Alongside the virtual ceremony, visitors to the experience could also enter a digital Royal Albert Hall, in which they could browse an exhibition of virtual items to try on. Additionally, a range of digital Gucci items were also available for purchase, with proceeds going toward the BFC Foundation.
November: Stefan Cooke and The Sims 4
London-based designer Stefan Cooke brought his forward-thinking message to The Sims 4 game, releasing a 23 piece menswear kit of ‘Simified’ versions of his real-world designs. Items included a varsity coat, men’s skirt and suits, with the idea behind the creations based on Cooke’s value of individuality and inclusive acceptance.
July: Off-White and Virgil Abloh with Katsu
In a collaboration with New York City graffiti artist, Katsu, Off-White released a mobile game featuring its late creative director, Virgil Abloh. The game launched ahead of the duo’s collaborative collection, as part of the ‘Offkat’ project, which included a range of menswear and womenswear inspired by the artist’s work.
In the game, players needed to navigate either Abloh or Katsu through a virtual city, based on the collaboration, avoiding police as they attempt to spray graffiti on buildings.
August: Louis Vuitton’s 200th anniversary game
As part of its 200th anniversary, Louis Vuitton launched a game directly inspired by the life of the house’s founder. Taking the player through six imaginary worlds, the house’s mascot voyaged through a branded forest, metropolis and island to reach a festive birthday destination. The character was required to collect as many monogram candles as possible, as well as keys to access new levels, with each candle unlocking a new anecdote on the luxury brand.
The game also featured 30 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in an integration of blockchain technology, with 10 of the tokens created by digital artist Beeple.
October: Charli Cohen and Selfridges for Pokémon’s silver anniversary
While it might not be considered a game, Charli Cohen’s virtual world created with Selfridges did offer visitors an immersive experience that transformed the way they shopped. The Electric/City shopping platform was developed as part of Pokémon’s silver anniversary, allowing users the opportunity to ‘walk’ through a digital world to discover various elements of the collaborative campaign.
The world was inspired by international cities and features virtual performances and opportunities to shop the Cohen’s Pokémon collection from augmented reality merchandise vans. Clickable symbols along the ‘streets’ provided further information on the line, which included both digital and physical pieces for multiple wearing options.