Luxury fashion has long been associated with inaccessibility: expensive, elitist and exclusive. But its democratisation is well afoot, and in interesting ways. Luxury brands are now reaching tech-savvy, younger audiences through the use of video game platforms.
A quick search online and you’ll find several (warning: some are rather addictive). Like Burberry’s B Bounce, which invites players to dress a deer character in a choice of monogrammed puffer jackets from the brand, before engaging in a race to the moon. Players are rewarded with special GIFs and virtual Burberry puffers along the way. Helpfully, you can click on a puffer of your choice right below the game and purchase it straightaway.
You’ll also notice designers presenting their latest collections in game form: Balenciaga’s AW21 collection from Demna Gvasalia is available as an online game called Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow. The brand follows in the footsteps of Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton, who released the 1980s-style New York streetscape game, Endless Runner, in 2019 (play it online here).
Partly, this is out of necessity: the pandemic forced designers and brands to explore virtual alternatives to the classic fashion show, and many turned to popular video games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Sims and Grand Theft Auto to showcase their latest wares in virtual form.
However, there are other benefits for brands looking to engage with gamers. These fashion games can inspire and increase brand loyalty, as well as improving visibility and access. Gaming often allows for a more inclusive experience (especially if you can create your own avatar), something fashion has struggled with, as well as tapping directly into an engaged community. Plus, let’s not forget the digital-first retail model – in many cases, you can simply tap and buy a garment directly from the game.
Another bonus? There’s also no waste with these virtual garments. Gucci recently launched its anticipated Gucci Sneaker Garage feature on its app, which combines creating with storytelling and gaming. The Gucci Sneaker Garage is also where you’ll find Gucci’s Virtual 25, a hyper-real trainer with no physical counterpart. Not only can app users try these new trainers virtually, Roblox players can wear them too.
Gucci is undoubtedly a trailblazer when it comes to its gaming and virtual offerings, from the arcade-style Gucci Bee and Ace games to its early partnership with DREST, an interactive luxury styling game launched in 2019 by Lucy Yeomans, former editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Net-a-Porter. DREST is all about fun – and democratising the luxury fashion experience: players become stylists, interact with others in the community and discover new products from coveted brands, levelling up and gaining new backgrounds, stickers and hair and makeup looks as they progress.
Users spend an average of 30-40 minutes on the app, which gives them a “try before you buy” experience as they play around with the digital customisation of their favourite garments and accessories.
DREST is known for its selective, exclusive partnerships; the app recently introduced collaborations with real-life supermodels Natalia Vodianova, Precious Lee, Irina Shayk, Imaan Hammam and Candice Huffine, who appear as avatars in the game. It has also collaborated with Warner Bros’ ‘Wonder Woman 1984′, starring Gal Godot, with players able to dress their avatars in superhero fashions and accessories.
Another one to watch is ADA, from Singaporean company Unmatereality. This hyper-real luxury fashion game allows you to create your own avatars, as well as the landscapes they inhabit. Avatars can try on a selection of virtual fashion from participating brands, and the garments are available to buy in physical form through the app.
For anyone coveting that four-figure Gucci bag or Balenciaga leather biker jacket from afar… these fashion games are a fun way to enjoy the rarefied world of high fashion. And perhaps also to snap up some of your favourite accessories and garments – in virtual form, at least.