The future of the world of fashion seems to increasingly be interwoven with that of videogames, a trend that has been reinforced by the pandemic, and above all with the passion of new generations – with GenZ and Millennials leading the way – for the world of gaming. Thus, in March 2020, in the midst of the complete lockdown, the first in-game collective fashion show was held with the avatars of Animal Crossing: New Horizons (the latest version of the Nintendo videogame) dressed by stylists of the calibre of Valentino, Marc Jacobs and Gcds.
Even before this, there were the virtual (and non-virtual) looks created by Gucci as part of the ‘Gucci Open’ tournament for the Tennis Clash videogame with an exclusive designer capsule collection ‘suitable even for those of us who are flesh and blood’ sold on Gucci’s website. However, over the last 2 years, this kind of ‘gamification’ has contaminated many important brands, not just luxury ones like Vuitton, Burberry, Fendi, Moschino, etc., but also fast fashion ones like Uniqlo or H&M. It’s precisely H&M that announced in April this past year its desire to use Animal Crossing: New Horizons in launching its new campaign in favour of sustainable fashion with the avatar of the renowned actress, Maisie Williams, as its celebrity spokesperson.
The connection between fashion and videogames did not end however at this opportunity for leading brands to provide a new and fresher visibility onto their collections, while directly speaking the language of today’s youths. The next step in fact was that of creating a specific fashion FOR gamers, which caught on to the extent that the gamers of today’s videogames are often bona fide celebrities, with millions of online fans and their own styles, also when it comes to clothing (one example is Ninja with his blue hair, the most famous online gamer in the world with over 22 million followers registered on his YouTube channel and over 14.9 million followers on Instagram).
Among the first brands to catch on to the opportunities presented by the creation of dedicated collections for e-sport athletes was Champion Athleticwear, which in 2019 had collaborated with the leading footwear chain Foot Locker for the production of a line of clothing sold in digital and traditional stores, dedicated to five important organisations of e-sports (OpTic Gaming, Dignitas, Counter Logic, Spacestation Gaming, and Renegades), with many events held in Times Square, where participants were given the chance to challenge gamers from every team and purchase their favourite items of apparel.
In 2020, even Adidas undertook a collaboration with Tyler Blevins, the above-mentioned Ninja, to give life to the “Time In” sneakers pack, a collection that ‘celebrates the dedication and determination of gamers to achieve maximum results’, which immediately sold like crazy.
Between 2019 and 2020, Puma signed four agreements with eSport and other gaming groups, including Gen.G Esports, the South Korean creator of an online team of League of Legends players, dressing the team with Puma sweaters and a line of co-brand apparel.
There were then also designer labels like Gucci, which signed an agreement with the eSport Fnatic team for a limited edition dive watch sold at the modest price of 1600 dollars that quickly sold out; or Louis Vuitton, which collaborated with League of Legends for a capsule collection, but also legendary designer Jeff Staple, who worked with Overwatch League on a line of shirts.
An entrepreneurial understanding of the world of youths and non-youths, who share the same passion – that of videogames – with the same system of values, and even similar tastes, has accordingly led to the creation of brands dedicated to the world of gaming and digital entertainment. In this, Italy was a pioneer. Among the first to debut on the market we in fact find Yokoipro, a start-up launched as the idea of three young Italian entrepreneurs who met online while playing against one another in their favourite game (it’s no coincidence that on their website they present themselves with their avatars and nicknames FADE, CL34V3R, JOLT99), which was immediately backed by GameStopZing, leader in Italy in the distribution of videogames and pop culture merchandising.
In October 2020, the first Yokoipro collection of apparel and accessories based on the philosophy “The controller is YOU” made its debut online. The base concept is this, as can be read on the brand’s site: “E-sports and games in general have nothing to envy to all the other activities that we carry out in our lives. That’s why we want to create a new world, a reality in which to live our passion, leaving compromises outside the door. Are you a gamer? Well, then always play as if it were your last game. Take control of the game, control your life. Your body is your controller. And we’ll make sure you never miss a beat”.
In the collection, we find items dreamed up by individuals who are passionate and above all expert in the world of gaming. They have been engineered to offer maximum performance and allow gamers to dominate the game. The ‘Sublime Tee’ and ‘Core Tee’ t-shirts, for example, are made from absorbing and breathable “climate” fabric, which avoids extreme changes in temperature that might distract gamers and affect their performance while playing, while flat stitching avoids snagging. At the heart of the collection is the “Vision Hoody” sweatshirt, which is wide and comfortable, with side pockets, paddings for elbows, and cuffs in compression satin, which supports the areas stressed the most when gaming with openings around the thumbs for a perfect grip. The spacious hood limits the disturbance of light and sound, creating a visual cone that focuses the gamer’s attention on the monitor. In the collection, we also find “Glide Jogger” trousers, with front pockets and fabric patches on the legs for resting your elbows while playing. In perfect harmony with its young public, Yokoipro also has an eye of regard for the environment and iconological themes, to the extent that the entire collection is made with 100% certified sustainable materials with zero impact. In the wardrobe of the perfect e-sportsman/woman, we also find the multifunctional mask and neck warmer and the maxi gloves with grip sleeve for the perfect grip.
Always in 2020, another Italian fashion brand debuted that is expressly dedicated to gamers: Beaths. Once again, in this case, it’s a sportswear brand created by gamers for gamers, with solutions specifically studied to make the movements of gamers easier, while guaranteeing maximum performance during games.
With these new brands, it’s interesting to underline how the involvement of consumers occurs by implementing ‘ad hoc’ communication strategies and methods aimed at creating a more exciting ‘shopping experience’. The launching of the e-commerce platform of Yokoipro, for example, happened during Milan Games Week/Cartoomics, an event where the brand was the Official Merchandising Partner. On that occasion, Yokoipro also announced its collaboration with Arcadia, the new urban fantasy comic book saga from the universe of Nomen Omen, with one of the protagonists of the first volume wearing the brand’s clothing. At the same time, it created a “secret drop” limited edition of the Grip Sleeve, a special compression glove that guarantees maximum grip and enhances in-game performance. Thanks to the collaboration with Nove25, it has also made a silver ring with a code available to clientele, which allows you to enter in a secret digital room with special contents.
At the same time, there is Beaths, which is focused on the concept of ‘community’, that confirms on its site, ‘Beaths makes you part of something much bigger’. In this way, visitors to the site are invited to become bona fide ‘Beaths ambassador’, which is to say people who believe in the brand and share in its activities and values (Ambitious, Friendly, Fearless) and who participate in social and live activities specifically created for them. The same site presents some ‘Beaths ambassadors’, who provide advice on looks, like 25-year-old Mara Croft from Ischia, who is a full-time beautician, but a streamer by passion. Alternatively, there is MICHA3L_tv, who underlines how ‘One of the wonderful sides of the world of Gaming is the possibility to interact with and meet new people from all over the world, while staying in the comfort of your own home’.