Why fashion is taking video games seriously

This weekend, while scrolling through Instagram to follow the menswear shows in Milan, I came across an ad from Louis Vuitton highlighting an app-based game it created as part of its expansive collaboration with artist Yayoi Kusama. After downloading it, I found myself coloring various objects — Kusama-esque faces, the LV logo — as they floated around my living room in augmented reality on my phone screen. I returned to it multiple times to complete challenges and water the seeds I received from each to unlock more games.

Later the next day, I watched the premiere episode of “The Last of Us,” the post-apocalyptic new HBO series based on the 2013 game of the same name. It’s notable for possibly being the first adaptation of a video game for the world of prestige television, rather than another mindless, big-action production. that audiences usually get when games are source material.

The two experiences were very different, but they share something in common: they are both examples of video games entering rare spaces (luxury, prestige TV) that were ignored until recently.

Today, games are not just entertainment. They are a cultural force in their own right. The kids who grew up with the first home consoles are now seniors with disposable incomes and fond memories of playing their favorite titles. For younger generations, whose media diet is as much YouTube and Twitch as television, games are on par with music and movies. Recently, when Deloitte surveyed people in five countries about their media habits, it found that watching TV and movies at home is still a favorite pastime for older groups, but not for Gen-Z.

“In all five countries surveyed – the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil and Japan – Gen-Z respondents cited playing video games as their favorite leisure activity,” it said.

This gaming-loving generation accounts for an increasing share of fashion sales. For example, in its 2022 summary of the luxury goods market, Bain & Company noted that Millennials and Gen-Z were behind all of the growth in the market last year, and that “consumption by Gen-Z and the even younger generation Alpha will grow three times faster from other generations by 2030, accounting for a third of the market,” the authors wrote.

These buyers also have a “more precocious attitude toward luxury,” they noted, and are starting to buy expensive items at a younger age than their predecessors did.

Fashion, which has long used ties to culture and entertainment as a way to connect with customers, has taken this into account. Brands are getting involved in popular games like Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite, while sports companies like Nike and Adidas have worked to build a presence in competitive gaming, called e-sports, by sponsoring teams or professional players who can attract large online followings.

They also want to bring games into their worlds. VogueLuke Leitch from Gucci’s show last Friday noted that alongside personalities like actor Idris Elba and celebrity chef Massimo Bottura, Pow3r, an Italian professional gamer, was in the front row.

Nike went their own way, buying RTFKT, a web3 brand heavily influenced by games that essentially has its foundations in space.

“I was the oddball of my generation, but now every 13-year-old is a gamer,” Benoit Pagotto, one of RTFKT’s co-founders, previously told BoF.

Interest in games will only grow in the years to come. Games are currently among the best uses for virtual reality headsets, and many experts believe that today’s immersive games could act as prototypes for a metaverse, which would essentially be a 3D Internet.

But even if that never happens, video games will continue to exert their cultural influence, forcing fashion brands to take them seriously.

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