It was only a matter of time before people found themselves just as invested in their digital style as they are in their real-world appearance—and we’re not just talking about social media selfies.
Fortnite, the cross-platform multiplayer game that’s captured 53 percent of Gen Z and young millennials ages 10 to 25 years old, has made a lot of money from in-game purchases. Other games entice players to spend, too, but what makes the viral player-to-player game different is that people are swapping their fiat currency for virtual Fortnite V-Bucks simply to make their digital avatars look better.
With mean playing time ranging between six and 10 hours weekly and 15 percent of users claiming to skip “a lot of school” to feed their habit, per the Business of Apps, it’s clear that players are deeply invested in the world of Fortnite. So much so, according to data gathered by Forbes, that 69 percent of the 250 million people who play the post-apocalyptic game have spent an average of roughly $85 on the free-to-play game—and it’s the first in-game splurge for more than one-third.
They’re not buying tools to help them fight better or fast-track their way to the next level—they’re buying one of dozens of “skins” or outfits simply for the purpose of looking cool. As Karol Severin, analyst for media and tech analysis firm Midia, told The Verge, “Today, consumers’ personal image is in much larger part defined in the virtual world”—a departure from a time not too long ago when people looked to fashion, books, music and movies to more intentionally signal their taste and craft their identity.
At the Fashion Tech Forum in New York City on Friday, Marjorie Hernandez de Vogelsteller referenced Fortnite as one of the “signals” that could indicate a tipping point for the advent of a broad transition into a digital ecosystem—that is, blockchain. Together with husband and co-founder Fabian Vogelsteller, the Venezuelan native founded Lukso, not yet active, in 2017 to be a blockchain platform designed for fashion and lifestyle brands.
People need secure digital identities in order to participate fully in and benefit from a digital-first world. But it’s when objects have their own digital twin that things get really interesting. Hernandez de Vogelsteller believes that the idea of what makes something valuable is in flux and that the way that fashion is created and consumed could be in for significant disruption. Just last fall Scandinavian multi-brand retailer Carlings sold its first digital collection of clothing created to be mapped virtually onto the image of the purchaser’s body, Hernandez de Vogelsteller explained. A second collection is forthcoming this spring, according to the Carlings website.
Fashion designed to exist digitally in a mixed-reality mashup—real photo of a real person plus virtual vestments—might seem strange but to the digital natives of Gen Z, the distinction between the physical and digital worlds is all but disappearing.
When it comes to Fornite, people “want outfits that represent their personality,” said Hernandez de Vogelsteller, who believes that when you take the rise of digital CGI influencers like Lil Miquela into consideration, “digital-only fashion product is on the cusp of a revolution.”
Whether it really goes “digital-only” or only partly, fashion will continue to be influenced by bytes as much as it is bricks—and blockchain in particular is generating interest in the luxury arena, largely for its potential to authenticate a product’s end-to-end journey through the supply chain. Blockchain software developer ConsenSyns confirmed last month that’s it building a blockchain platform for LVMH while executives from brands including Chanel, Burberry, Highsnobiety, Instagram and Nike are represented on LUKSO’s advisory board. (Lukso’s website points out that board members serve out of personal interest and not at the behest of their employers.)
Beyond blockchain, digital fashion has one clear advantage over its cut-and-sew counterpart: its production uses no water, produces no emissions and consumes no resources (and as of now, there’s no reports of forced labor involved in making virtual). Society’s embrace of garments designed exclusively for the online would “could make fashion more sustainable,” Hernandez de Vogelsteller said.