“I believe that technology should be like fashion’s best friend. It’s like the magic wand that can get you closer to the consumer, that can allow the consumer to be part of your storytelling,” says Yeomans.
In her view, gaming not only gives fashion brands the opportunity for “deep immersion,” it also protects luxury brands, allowing them to maintain their messaging, iconography, and integrity.
From the ‘Phygital’ to the Purely Digital
With most actual shopping now taking place online, retail has become experiential, with brands and stores aiming to bring customers in as brand enthusiasts, not just shoppers. This means the “phygital,” a marketing term that describes the desire to combine a physical store with the seamlessness of the digital experience, is becoming more prevalent.
Most fashion-gaming collaborations also offer customers a chance to get their hands on a physical garment, like an exclusive, limited-edition piece featured in the game. In the case of Drest, garments can be purchased via the website Farfetch. Some of the game’s younger players use it as a way to “style before you buy.”
“We developed this RVR concept of real to virtual to real. Everything that you see is part of real life, so if we’re doing a partnership with Prada, it is part of a capsule collection that is launching and dropping in stores,” says Yeomans.
“We know that these experiences increase dwell time, make consumers feel more connected to the brand, and make them value physical products more highly. We are undoubtedly entering into an entirely new era of experiential retail,” explains Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion, who notes that these principles are starting to impact traditional ecommerce too.
These purely digital fashion items and experiences offer the added bonus of not using up precious natural resources or leaving a trail of production waste—although, looking ahead, digital pollution is something brands will need to start thinking about, even if it’s far less toxic than the alternative. It’s estimated that digital technologies emit 4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
When Customer Becomes Cocreator
“At some point, gaming will go in fashion, rather than fashion trying to go in gaming. They won’t have the choice, because their inspiration will come from the youth, and the youth is all playing games, all of them,” says Pagotto.
One of the criticisms often leveled against the world of high fashion is that it is neither inclusive nor democratic. Some of the pioneers of digital fashion want to change that. For example, the Fabricant encourages others to interpret designs on their own terms and gives away free digital pattern files. Larosse has noticed designers moving beyond face filters to filters for the body, which move effortlessly and incorporate a wide swath of body types. (Technology innovator Alvanon is pioneering size-inclusivity via 3D avatars, with the ultimate aim of making the production of garments more inclusive, seamless, and sustainable.)
“Key to the whole digital fashion world is the full-body filter. Rather than the current Snapchat filter where you end up with a pair of cat ears on your head or whatever, the full-body filter will enable you to move very naturally and see yourself in a garment flawlessly,” Larosse says. “We’ll probably all have a digital expression that roams around the metaverse existing on our behalf in a digital way. Digital fashion has a natural, obvious, home there.”