Fashion has always been about chasing trends, with brands spending billions of dollars every year on the whims of people who are far too comfortable with spending far too much on clothes and accessories. This is not to say that luxury fashion doesn’t have its place, but rather that the place it occupies is generally so high-brow that it seems almost absurd when they go in an opposite direction just to grab some market share. Oddly still, in this case, the category is gaming and the products are the games themselves.
Just saying that out loud raises questions as gaming has for long been an ostracised hobby, and the thought of fashion brands associating with game companies seems almost comical. Yet the increasing popularity of games, and the billions of dollars spent on them each year seems to have convinced some brands to try and cash in on opportunity through the barest of efforts. In most cases, the relationship doesn’t move past brand integration on the gaming front, since fashion labels hardly have anything else to offer, except for their logo. On the fashion part, the reveal is often paired with a one-off fashion/accessory line that integrates some design elements from the game, depending on whether the game/character design is unique enough to go mainstream.
This isn’t a new practice either, as fashion brands have been trying such experiments for almost a decade now, with Prada doing a Final Fantasy-themed shoot way back in 2012. In addition to the designs and shoots, a lot of brands have started creating digital accessories and clothes for gamers to buy within the game itself, as well as real-world counterparts that are sold for exorbitant rates, such as the $1200+ Moschino Sims backpack. Other brands that have done the same include Dior, Chanel, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Uniqlo and many more. Even Louis Vuitton has done similar experiments with League of Legends, and even gone as far as naming a Final Fantasy character as their brand ambassador. This hasn’t been the end of the brand’s ambition though, as they have increasingly been pursuing partnerships outside the digital realm as well. One of them being the branded trophy that they created for a League of Legends tournament that matches their corresponding fashion line, as well as a game of their own, called Endless Runner.
If that last bit surprises you, don’t be, since oddly enough LV isn’t the only brand looking to get into gaming. It seems that the fashion industry has realised that the money to be made from owning the game itself is far more than what they can get from just product placement. It’s easier and more profitable for them to just hire third-party developers to churn out a passable title with the main focus on promoting the brand name. If by chance the game succeeds at grabbing eyeballs, they can then try to convert into paying customers through their fashion offerings. The sad part is that these types of business practices take advantage of the pure joy fans get by dressing up like game characters and living out their fantasies. By converting it into an exclusive dress-up club, they are introducing a new element of peer pressure amongst the gaming community that is already full of toxic competitive behaviour as it is. Predictably, it isn’t the only brand working on such projects. Other games from prominent brands include; Gucci Ace & Bee, Hermes Dice Game, Prada Mahjong, Fendi Ways to Rome, and many more. Chanel has even opened a pop-up store called Coco Game Center to encourage more gaming clientele.
Despite all of this interest, the reality remains that most of these games are surface-level attempts with little to no attempts made at creating a narrative, made solely to attract casual gamers that have proliferated in the recent smartphone revolution. Majority of gamers can easily see through the gimmicks, and it leaves a condescending aftertaste in its wake. If the brands would put as much effort on the gaming front as they do on the branding, we are sure that the segment could someday become truly worthwhile. For now, let us wait and see which new direction this half-assed obsession of theirs takes us.