In its early days, virtual fashion was a booming opportunity for fashion and luxury brands.
Interest in virtual fashion is at an all-time high, with a growing number of consumers seeking all-digital offerings as the way forward at a time when consumers can seamlessly navigate between URL and IRI. . Given the sustainable growth of the gaming market and the rise of the metaverse (i.e., shared virtual environments that people can access through the internet), brands are increasingly turning to virtual fashion. to meet consumers where they are. And the results come in the form of in-game clothing and accessories, whether that’s Balenciaga Fortnite gear or branded items created in collaboration with Roblox, as well as digitally generated outfits that can be filtered from a consumer’s images and posted on social media. platforms like Instagram or TikTok.
The previously marked dividing line between the “real” – that is, tangible – versions of clothing and digital versions, and the distinctions in the value of these two types of offerings is evolving rapidly in real time thanks to new developments. developments from traditional fashion brands and digital native brands. , look alike. Meanwhile, virtual fashion – that is, fashion designed and marketed exclusively for online avatars – poses new legal questions for fashion and luxury goods companies, including from an enforcement perspective. brand, and also raises many eyebrows in terms of status. as the next frontier in fashion, as it is easily touted as capable of “surpassing [the] physical â, according to AFP.
The adoption of fully virtual fashion offers by mass market consumers may be just the start, but the attitudes of young consumers – and the time they spend online – seem to indicate that a bigger change is underway, and brands will want to be careful. In a report released this summer, for example, the website builder and ecommerce platform Squarespace found that of the 2,000 U.S. consumers surveyed, no shortage saw the importance of how they appear online compared to to in person. Specifically, Squarespace found that 60% of Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) and 62% of Millennials (born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s) believe that “the way you present yourself online is more important than how you present yourself. in person.”
In another nod to the focus on digital appearance, something that has undoubtedly been advanced thanks to the dominant role social media play, including image-centric apps like Instagram, 86 % of Gen Z and 79% of Millennials said of with the same poll that they âresearch people online before they meet them for the first time,â a big leap from the 65% of the Generation X and the 44% of baby boomers doing the same.
The rate at which young people, especially Gen Z, are shopping in the virtual fashion space makes sense given that, in the same way that they grew up with access to super-fast, super-good fast fashion market, they were also plugged into social media at a much younger age than any other generation. Add to this the fact that the virtual landscape is such that digitally connected consumers aren’t just part of powerful online communities, Kelly McDonald, CEO and co-founder of predictive data platform Kyndoo, says they âhave entire relationships that are primarily, if not entirely, based online. This raises the bar significantly when it comes to retaining and investing in online personas.
And while “many parents can scratch their heads paying real money to accessorize an avatar,” the AP reported in September that Gen Z consumers have “long been prepared for this development, [having] roam streets and physical parks to intercept and capture Pokemon Go characters “in 2016, and more recently, spending much of their pandemic lockdown period” playing with real-world friends on gaming platforms like Roblox , [where] dress up avatars is an old hat.
With such a level of familiarity with games and in-game purchases aimed at improving the appearance of their digital characters, Roblox VP of Brand Partnerships Christina Wootton said Generation Z consumers ” sometimes saw virtual products as more valuable than physical products. ” This is often the case on platforms like Roblox, âwhere everything revolves around storytelling and self-expression, [and where] so many people who get together and connect with their friends, and want to digitally represent themselves through fashion ‘while doing it.
The user and dollar figures at stake bear this out.
Overall, the market for in-game “skins” – which allow video game players to alter the appearance of their characters – is expected to reach nearly $ 50 billion by the end of 2022, reported the. Guardian this spring, noting that Epic Games’ Fortnite grossed over $ 9 billion in total for Epic in 2018 and 2019, with such revenue largely generated from in-game purchases by its more than 350 million global users. for things like skins.
To put skin sales in perspective, Epic revealed it sold 3.3 million NFL-branded skins between November and December 2020, generating sales of around $ 50 million. Meanwhile, Roblox – which had more than 43.2 million daily active users in the second quarter, more than half of whom were under 13 – is showing growth. The California-based gaming platform revealed this summer that its revenue for the three-month period ending June 30 increased 127% year-on-year to $ 454.1 million, with those results largely being powered by “the millions of people. from all over the world who want to connect and share new experiences every day on Roblox.
At least some of the millions of people who use Roblox were eager to accessorize their characters with Gucci offerings, including designer handbags, glasses, and even virtual perfume that can be purchased with Robux in the virtual store included in the platform link. with the Italian fashion label this spring. (As TFL reported at the time, most Gucci products initially sold for around 475 Robux – the equivalent of $ 5.50. However, some of the inexpensive “limited” edition handbags were resold on Roblox for much more … like $ 4,115, which is even more than the retail value of $ 3,400 attributed to tangible versions of Gucci bags. Overall, Gucci is said to have sold over 4 million. virtual items as part of the Roblox collaboration.)
Ultimately, the field of virtual fashion is in its infancy, which means it is full of opportunities for brands looking to connect with the next generation of luxury buyers. At the same time, this burgeoning market has no shortage of legal issues that brands should consider, according to Alison Cole of UDL Intellectual Property, who says that âwherever a market of value emerges, those looking to profit from it will follow, and the law often takes time to catch up.
With that in mind, she says the following questions are worth considering: Who owns the rights to a digital garment? If a design exists virtually, but is copied in reality, will it be a forgery? And in the other direction? And how can digital counterfeits be ‘seized’? When considering fashion events or gaming events featuring fashion designs, who will own the rights to the video and / or audio recording of the event when the event was created rather than staged? What about the image rights of the individuals who appear in the event if the models are avatars?