Fashion and Gaming: How These Industries Are Collaborating

June 11, 2021

As younger generations of gamers seek out avenues for self-expression in games like Animal Crossing, more and more fashion brands are crossing over into the gaming space, delivering digital experiences and designs that give players the opportunity to level-up their avatars’ style. When it comes to these kinds of industry collaborations, the merging of gaming and fashion makes complete sense, especially in a time when experiences are everything (and both industries are all about them).

“Gaming and fashion also go hand in hand because both aim to give enthusiasts a world of larger-than-life, aspirational experiences,” notes Wired of the relationship between fashion and gaming. “As anyone who has ever attended a fashion show in Paris can attest, it’s a grand spectacle, like the most exuberant theatrical performance, often with a captivating narrative unfolding across every element of the show. Capturing that energy in a game is certain to pique consumers’ interests.”

By moving into the gaming arena, the fashion industry has a meaningful opportunity to authentically connect with Gen Z (which is typically marketing-averse) where they are and add value to their overall gameplay experience. What’s more, in a time when sustainability is increasingly important, debuting new designs in a digital world could help brands become more eco-friendly.

But perhaps most important of all, this kind of reach comes at a time when more people are gaming than ever, and is a clear illustration of how to effectively reach consumers in a post-COVID environment.

A Surge in Gaming Popularity, With Gen Z Leading the Pack

In 2020, the gaming industry saw a major surge in popularity, no doubt a direct result of the need to stay indoors and for many people, find new forms of entertainment. In fact, nearly all of the major gaming consoles saw a notable rise in users.

“Gamers turned to their Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox devices as time spent at home increased in 2020—monthly digital console gamers saw a larger increase than any other gaming device, growing by 6.3% from 2019,” notes Business Insider.

And that’s just consoles. Mobile gaming is seeing a major surge in popularity as well, with Business Insider noting “there will be more than 150 million monthly mobile gamers in the US this year, amounting to over 89% of all digital gamers.”

What’s important to point out in all of this is that Gen Z, arguably the most influential generation in today’s culture (and a critical consumer group for brands), lead the pack when it comes to today’s gaming demographic.

“Gaming’s appeal spans generations: 87% of Generation Z, 83% of millennials, and 79% of Generation X are playing video games on smartphones, gaming consoles, and computers at least weekly if not daily,” notes Fortune.

So with that being said, for fashion brands it makes sense to pay close attention to the gaming industry and find new ways to reach consumers on popular gaming platforms since that’s where the data shows they’re actually spending a good chunk of their time.

New Brand Awareness Opportunities

And with the pandemic fundamentally changing how the retail industry connects with consumers, especially through in-person events like fashion shows, many luxury fashion brands are seeing a new opportunity to debut exclusive designs and lines on some of today’s most popular games.

Take Roblox, for example, an online gaming platform that allows users to embed themselves in any of 18 million virtual worlds created by independent developers. In many of those environments, players can buy apparel from an avatar shop using the platform’s currency, Robux.

“The fashion crowd wants to ride this upward trajectory and develop relationships with new and future customers,” notes the L.A. Times.

But at the core of this union between fashion and gaming is a key opportunity for brands to help gamers express themselves and their individuality, something that more and more games are giving people the opportunity to do.

The union also gives people a chance to step into a fashion fantasy, and lets brands and consumers alike play with out-of-this world designs.

“Unconstrained by the requirements of the physical world, designers can use digital products to explore fantastical interpretations of a brand’s identity,” notes Footwear News. “This allows them to disregard the cost and logistics of certain materials — or even ditch realistic materials altogether.”

Tapping Into the Power of Self-Expression

For many gamers, one of the most fun and personal elements of playing a majority of video games today is the opportunity to customize your character’s appearance and clothing. By making your character uniquely you, there’s an opportunity to express yourself and even boost confidence, something major fashion brands are aware of and getting in on.

“In fashion and beauty, Valentino, Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui released signature in-game looks in popular game Animal Crossing this year, while Parfums Givenchy and Gillette Venus catered to the players' in-game beauty needs,” says Vogue Business. “The Venus range, created with digital designer Nicole Cuddihy, allows users to apply characteristics like freckles, acne, body hair, cellulite and stretch marks to their in-game avatars.”

And when it comes to luxury fashion, gamers can elevate their avatars’ style and have the chance to play with fashion in a way they might not have been able to previously.

“Fashion, especially luxury fashion, has always possessed an aspirational element; digital products enable a democratization of discovery, even if only in a virtual realm,” notes Footwear News. “For the brands, it provides a new way to share their designs with a greater audience, without diluting the exclusivity of the products themselves.”

For fashion brands, there’s an important opportunity to not only extend their brand awareness and increase the amount of people they’re reaching on a digital level, but also take their designs and tailor them to provide people with personalized gaming experiences. And because they’re reaching audiences like Gen Z where they are (on consoles and platforms like Twitch), it feels organic, which is important for an audience seeking authenticity.

An Increased Emphasis on Sustainability

Sustainability is a topic that continues to generate more and more conversation and increased levels of importance. And with that said, when fashion brands take their designs to games and gaming environments, there’s an opportunity to contribute back to the environment and reduce the waste otherwise associated with producing IRL designs.

“Sustainability is a growing concern for brands and consumers alike, and digital products offer an appealing compromise,” notes Footwear News. “And as technology develops, connecting different virtual platforms into a unified Metaverse, the merchandise will be able to travel across video games and other digital worlds.”

As Footwear News also points out, digital fashion and the technology that comes with it makes it possible to try different styles and more outfits while lowering costs and the waste that would usually come with a typical more traditional way of sending out designs and styles.

The Takeaway

These days, nearly everyone plays games, whether it’s casually on their phones or competitively on gaming consoles and PCs. It just makes good business sense, then, for brands to integrate themselves into the space when there’s a natural fit—and for fashion brands, gaming collaborations fit like a glove.

Posted by Dyan Cornacchio | Request as a Speaker

Social media and creative writing connoisseur. Obsessed with my golden retriever, pop culture, and pizza. Nothing makes me happier than being home on LI, relaxing at the beach with my family.