what are the opportunities for designers in this merger?

When two cultures collide, that is, when the intersection of two different groups leads to some kind of friction, a new culture is created. This new culture is built on different aspects of both the original ones, sharing positive and negative impacts. This is what the anthropologist Roy Wagner defends in “The Invention of Culture”, written in 1975.

When we are talking about fashion and gaming interacting, we are also talking about two different cultures sharing one space in the market. So is there a collision about to happen? What is this new culture? Which aspects from each of the original cultures, fashion and gaming, will continue?

We asked these questions and more to key players of the fashion and gaming industry: is there space and what are the opportunities for fashion designers in this merger?

This article is a collaboration between The Digital Fashion Group Academy and FashionUnited, written by Dr Lívia Pinent, Digital Professor for Research at The Digital Fashion Group Academy.

Digital design from a traditional perspective

Designing for gaming requires not only programming skills, but also aesthetics. The gaming world has a very specific aesthetic that, could be said to have been influenced by fashion brands such as Balenciaga in Fortnite. Or could fashion have been influencing gaming for longer than we think?

For Lui Iarocheski, Group Marketing Director at PlatformE, this relationship between the two cultures has always existed. He entered the fashion world because of gaming. He wanted to develop the perfect garments for his favourite characters, with the right fit, drape and realistic fabrics. From Iaroscheski’s perspective, traditional fashion offers techniques that are not being explored by gaming, yet.

“As a gamer, one thing that bothers me is that this collision between fashion and gaming is too much around product plugs. And for the gamers, this is not a meaningful approach,” states Iarocheski. If fashion brands are not creating real experiences for gamers, the other way around is also true: “sometimes garments are not as well represented as they should be, and the gaming narrative breaks, the immersion breaks” adds Iarocheski. As he explains, using a hypothetical game set in 2050. To develop a real experience, game designers should think about the cotton fabric being used for the characters. “How will cotton fabric be 50 years from now? Will there be any fabric at all ? This is the kind of discussion fashion designers have in mind and could bring to the gaming agencies,” concludes Iarocheski.

Metaverse and the limits of fashion

The merger of gaming and fashion offers unlimited opportunities for creativity, which will go beyond the physical limits of the fashion industry. William Easton, from FutureGames, believes that when other industries try to enter gaming, “they’re trying to mirror, or make a simulacrum of what we already have in the real world, and bring it into the game. But the space of the metaverse allows you to change physics. You don’t have the same kind of constraints.”

Daniella Loftus, from This Outfit Does Not Exist, adds: “In the physical world, I might wear an avant-garde dress, but it is tied to my physical form. I’ve been born with a set of determined biological characteristics.” Even wearing physical garments to cover or hide certain characteristics, we are still tied to that. As Loftus concludes, “In the virtual world, your avatar is constructed by you, it can look how you want it to, it can express anything that you feel needs to be expressed”.

Careers in the metaverse and gaming for fashion designers

The unlimited opportunities of the metaverse can be explored by fashion and gaming designers when working in collaboration. As Alexis Arragon, managing director of Skinvaders, reinforces: “we are still in the infancy of this new combined culture between gaming and fashion. We will need to teach a new breed of fashion designers, as well as a new breed of game designers to realise new roles and new expertise that will take us to new limits.”

For Richard Hobbs, from Brand New Vision, the skill set required in digital fashion for gaming is at the core of fashion design. Hobbs discussed traditional techniques such as understanding how patterns work and how materials behave. How a garment is constructed, as well as an overall design concept, is still very important: “What we have to do is create beautiful fashion and then convert it for gaming.” As a veteran in the merger of fashion and technology, Hobbs concludes our discussion reflecting on the role of gaming engines and the instrumentalisation of the fashion industry: “I see gaming engines as a means to an end for fashion. Fashion doesn’t have to be part of the game, it could be using the tools the gaming industry created to create other experiences. People don’t necessarily want to wear a Balenciaga couture piece while they are running around shooting their friends. Gaming per se is one part, but gaming engines interconnected with really good avatars and really good fashion is where the future should be. We are at the very beginning of the discussion about the endless creative opportunities for designers and fashion professionals in the metaverse. We need to quickly occupy the spaces and make our voices heard. As Easton quoted from fiction writer William Gibson, “The future is already here-it’s just not evenly distributed.”

This article is based on the live webinar “The Metaverse: where fashion and gaming collide”, hosted by TDFGA in partnership with Parsons N Ventures. You can watch a sneak peak of the discussion below and the full webinar at TDFGA’s website.