How games were an early entry point into the world of digital fashion

Digital fashion is starting to make a big impact on the fashion
industry. A lot of extremely innovative work is being done in that
particular segment of the industry, but there is still a disparity
with its widespread applications. In order to change this, experts are
talking about the necessity of gamified environments. Gamification in
itself refers to the integration of game-mechanics into non-gaming
environments. In the case of digital fashion this is the integration
of visuals and sounds into a real-life environment, in order to engage
with visitors and enhance their engagement and participation.

What this makes very clear is the intricate relationship between the
world of gaming and digital fashion. Being digital environments by
nature, games have always been a great entry point for various fashion
houses to integrate their pieces digitally. This synergy between
digital fashion and the world of gaming has existed since the
introduction of human characters in gaming, as afterall, every
character in every game has always been wearing clothes. Not only have
they been wearing garments to cover their naked bodies, ideally they
are also important clues to provide further pieces of information on
the character. They are also tools to illustrate the wider environment
the game is taking place in, adding depth and richness to a digital

Conceived and designed by inside developing studios, the next step was
to get the players more involved by offering them the opportunity to
customize their avatar according to their personal tastes, introducing
a sense of self-expression and personal aesthetic into the world of
gaming. This is closely linked to the wide-spread popularity of games
whose storylines follow one specific character or avatar, increasing
the likeliness of a closer relationship between the player and the
character. This becomes especially apparent in games that feature an
avatar navigating an open-world environment, as in games like ‘World
of Warcraft’ or the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series, or real-life
simulations, such as ‘Second Life’ or the highly popular ‘The Sims’
games. The latter also increased the likelihood of direct
identification with the avatar, as in many cases they were idealized
versions of the players themselves.

Identifying with your avatar

As part of this customization, clothing was an intricate part. Players
were able to acquire digital clothing pieces in exchange for in-game
currency and later on real currency.

‘Second Life’ was developed by Linden Lab and was first introduced in
2003 and has, according to a 2020 interview with Ebbe Altar, CEO of
LindenLab, still around 900,000 active users. The concept is based on
living life in an alternative world accessible through a computer.
Inside this world, people were able to acquire items and even
property, creating a new potential source of income. One company to
recognize this early was Adidas, entering the digital arena by opening
a presence inside the virtual world. But, it wasn’t just real brands
that were able to create digital clothing. Users also had the
opportunity, given the necessary coding abilities, to design and offer
their own collections to other players.

This integration of real brands into a game environment wasn’t just a
single occurrence. Other very popular examples of this were ‘The Sims
2: H&M Fashion Stuff’ (2007) and ‘The Sims 3: Diesel Stuff’. Both of
these were expansion packs, add-ons onto the main game, which offered
the players digital versions of H&M and Diesel pieces for their

Fashion and Games today

Today, according to Statista, the gaming industry is worth around 178
billion US dollars, an increase from 70.6 billion in 2012, with
estimates it will continue to grow to 268.8 billion by 2025. As online
games became more popular and wide-spread, the initial hesitation to
spend money in-game has been overcome as proven by the hugely popular
game ‘League of Legends’. With around 100-120 million active monthly
players, it counts as one of the biggest online games. Free to play,
but with an option to acquire in-game tender through legal tender, the
game has generated 1.75 billion US dollars in 2020. Within the game,
people are playing through avatars called champions, which each having
multiple skins, different visual representations, available. In 2019,
Riot Games, the company behind ‘League of Legends’ announced a
collaboration with French fashion house Louis Vuitton with Nicolas
Ghèsquière having designed two exclusive skins.

Linea Rossa collection in Rider’s Republic. Source:

Another game which witnessed fashion houses launching into a digital
realm was Animal Crossing, a social simulation video game developed by
Nintendo. Experiencing a surge of popularity during the pandemic,
which forced people to find new ways to connect, the brands also
picked up on the appeal of the game. Marc Jacobs and Valentino brough
their designs to the game, later followed by brands like Gucci Beauty,
Pandora, Ted Baker and H&M, all establishing a presence. Two of the
latest brands to follow were Balenciaga offering exclusive skins in
the game ‘Fortnite’ and Prada approaching the digital world by
offering its Linea Rossa outerwear pieces to players of the game
‘Riders Republic’.

It becomes evident that fashion houses have recognized the huge appeal
and potential for profits of offering digital pieces. What started
within an encapsulated in-game world is now slowly arriving in our
reality as with technological advancement, the emergence of AR
technology, it is starting to become more widely available and
applicable to our daily lives, opening up an entirely new potential
market. Of course, this does not only attract big fashion brands, but
also a lot of new-age designers who have focused on digital creations.
As digital fashion has now transcended the realm of gaming, is making
inroads to more widely used applications and is even becoming an
entity in itself, the success will ultimately depend on how far
reaching AR will be integrated into our daily lives in the future. As
long as our physical bodies take precedence over a virtual one, we
still have to follow the demands the physical world opposes onto us,
such as the necessity of getting dressed, no matter how many digital
worlds we like to connect to in our free time.

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