Luxury fashion’s obsession with gaming
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We’ll all be wearing digital tracksuits in the metaverse, won’t we?
Last week, Balenciaga made a bold announcement. It’s creating a new company division: The Metaverse.
Sounds wacky, until it’s not. If ever there was a moment to believe that luxury fashion has a place to coexist in the metaverse, that time is now. After all, Balenciaga became the first luxury brand to partner with Epic’s Fortnite this fall, which arguably one of the world’s (if not the) most popular video games. But, Balenciaga isn’t the only one dipping its toes in the metaverse. Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed Louis Vuitton team up with League of Legends, Gucci partner with Tennis Clash and Roblox, and Burberry collab with Honor of Kings. The drops keep on coming.
Balenciaga’s announced its inaugural partnership with Fortnite in grand fashion, by placing a giant 3D billboard Ad in Times Square.
Maybe you’re still thinking, “yeah, whatever, another collab.” But, this is huge deal, especially for Balenciaga.
Consider this: Fortnite has a hearty user base of 350 million. Globally. Crazy, right? How about this: Fortnite was founded in just 2017.
A few years ago, when Burberry and Honor of Kings collab’d, HoK was hovering at over 100 million daily active users, and 95% of them were based in China, which is a colossal market for luxury brands.
Back to Epic. Why are brands going after Epic? Well, frankly, Epic is crushing it. The company reported $5.1 billion in revenue in 2020 with JUST Fortnite alone (and a total of $9B in revenue et al.), and 85% of its users are between 18-34.
If you’re still not convinced there’s greenspace to build an entirely new business model for your brand, especially luxury, in the metaverse I’m not sure what to tell you.
But how does it work?
This is a huge shift for brands, especially luxury brands, which have traditionally built brands around OOH advertising and brick & mortar. Online was never part of the playbook.
Throw those rules out the window. Balenciaga and Gucci are leading the way.
Before Fortnite, Balenciaga made its own video game called Afterworld. They leveraged Epic’s 3D technology to create their digital world and debut its Autumn 2021 collection. This cleverly laid the groundwork for their partnership with Fortnite, where Balenciaga launched four different skins (outfits) that gamers can buy for their characters.
Each skin costs 1000 V-Bucks, which is basically $8. We’ll cover why this is important later.
Balenciaga getting into video games feels like a very Balenciaga thing to do. But don’t forget about Gucci in all of this. In addition to their Tennis Clash collab, Gucci dropped a limited apparel line with 100 Thieves (for their 100th birthday this summer), the wildly popular gaming organization. It was a perfect manifestation of how Gucci is choosing to position itself for the future and gave us a glimpse of how luxury can co-design in the real world with metaverse brands.
What does this mean for luxury?
The world is changing fast.
And to watch luxury brands embrace how we consume media and content is fascinating, bold, and ironic. Here are two reasons why I think this is an important fashion’s role for the future of media, web3, gaming, and the metaverse.
1. Accessibility and the long haul
These partnerships are an opportunity for brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton to remain relevant by effectively advertising in the spaces where younger audiences are, even if those consumers don’t quite have the means to purchase items from those brands yet. The thought is that those customers will develop an association, love, and affinity for these brands over time, and eventually, they become customers.
For now? $8 to buy Balenciaga clothing is a fantastic way to create accessibility for all gamers.
2. Community building with creators
Partnering with gaming companies fosters community and collaboration. It’s a clever way for Balenciaga to leverage the built-in community and distribution that the creators in Fortnite already carry with them.
“There’s also an opportunity for brands to tap into the creativity of the Fortnite community to help them create garments or virtual activations,” says Alan Cooper, Epic’s director of product and consumer communications. “We are seeing very large; significant brands begin to realize that they don't need to necessarily partner with Epic at the Travis Scott or Ariana Grande level, creating massive worlds. They can work with the existing Fortnite creator community. Brands can commission our players to create for them. We can work to kind of help shepherd that.”
Indeed. Luxury brands realize that they don't necessarily need to partner with an A-list celebrity to make a splash with gamers. They can find niches online with hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of gamers and build community and customer loyalty around that. Lachlan, a Fortnite gamer (who you’ve likely never heard of) with 14.7 million YouTube subscribers, hosted a fashion show that got over 11 million views. That’s distribution.
Buying digital outfits sounds crazy until it's not. And I have a strange feeling we’re about to see luxury engulf its brand into the metaverse this decade. One fashion show at a time.