Virtual fashion has been around for a long time, so it's no surprise that Metaverse fashion exists. While early games may not have had the technology to let players customize their characters, nearly every game release that comes out now does. On top of that, there are some games where customizing what you wear is a core part of the experience.
That’s what most people think about when it comes to the fashion industry and gaming. However, there’s actually a thriving industry that blurs the lines between reality and digital. I was invited to attend a virtual fashion show from House of Blueberry, and the experience was incredible. It inspired me to look into the digital fashion industry, and I was surprised by the thriving industry I found.
House of Blueberry's Digital Presence
House of Blueberry was started in 2012 by Mishi McDuff on Second Life, and it’s grown to be an entire company that creates digital designs for games like The Sims and Roblox. Now, they’re running fashion shows in the Metaverse through Roblox. While the brand might sounds like a Burberry pun, it's got its own unique designs that sets it apart in the Metaverse.
Chief Creative Officer Ashley Hopkins explained that House of Blueberry is a trend-setter in the world of digital fashion. While digital fashion can, and does to an extent, follow fashion trends in real life, it's in a unique position to do anything. Want a pair of wings on your cute new crop top? It might not be practical to stroll down the street in, but there's no issues with having wings in games like Roblox.
This fashion-forward mindset has proven to be successful, and House of Blueberry's Roblox group page has over 30k members. In fact, the entire fashion show had to be held on a private server because of how busy the group's digital clothing store is.
The House of Blueberry Fashion Show: My Experience
I have to admit, I had to create a Roblox account specifically for the event. As such, my character did not look ready to take on a fashion show, but it didn’t feel exclusive in any way whatsoever.
After logging into the private server, I was greeted by a runway that was set up with chairs surrounding it. I arrived pretty early, and all of the models were sitting in chairs before running backstage for a test run like models would in a real-world show. Additionally, House of Blueberry sent attendees DoorDash gift cards to order food for the event, just like a real-life event would have food -- Shake Shack has never tasted so good.
Because of the all-chat system, I got to see the models ask questions, interact, and practice poses while taking on the runway. It was a bit surprising; I didn’t expect a virtual fashion show to feel so much like a real one. There was chatter among the models about walking straight, and they had so much charm that it was a really fun experience.
They interacted with us, too. One of the models and I shared a love for Mumford and Sons, and they welcomed me to Roblox and complimented my very vanilla character.
It wasn’t just the models and the environment either – the clothes were just as great.
The Fashion Show was specifically for the Spring '23 digital line, and COO Katherine Manuel explained the development that goes into the designs and the quality of them. She also explained that virtual fashion shows let the models use the clothes to create designs that they specifically love – it’s a “celebration of creativity” that made me want to be a part of it all.
The clothes are all available to be purchased in Roblox to be worn in the game. The models were given the freedom to create looks with all of the designs from House of Blueberry's newest collection, which is part of that "celebration of creativity" discussed above. Each model had their own take on the brand, ranging from relaxed boho to goth-girl dreams. There were even athleisure pieces. These designs and the looks created for them were unique to Roblox and the digital space – it's very clear that these designs were expressing models' aesthetics in a digital space.
In order to show the looks they created, models walked up and down the runway, just like any other fashion show. However, because it was Roblox, models were able to do anything they wanted, like pose with anything they had available. In fact, one model literally flew through the air like Scarlet Witch. While there weren't more than a dozen people in attendance, the group was lively as some in the crowd cheered on the models through the chat system.
Overall, the experience was unexpected and way more exciting and fun than I imagined. It opened up my world to the idea of the intersection between gaming and fashion, which actually has a rich history and a promising future.
The History of Fashion and Gaming Industries
The fashion and gaming industry coming together isn’t something new. You can walk into nearly any major department store and see some kind of video-gaming merchandise.
Physically, crossovers and collaborations happen regularly. Puma, the sneaker brand, is notorious for releasing stellar gaming shoes. The drops range from games like Final Fantasy XIV to Animal Crossing, and classics like Pokémon have been honored as well.
High-fashion brands like Louis Vuitton have even joined the party with collaborations like its League of Legends line. Additionally, GIANTS (one of the many bands created with Champions from League) featured skins and outfits created by Louis Vuitton.
These skins weren’t the first adventure fashion companies have taken digitally. According to The Guardian, fashion brands have been intertwining themselves with video games since at least 2015.
Between brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, and even H&M, games of all genres had pieces from industry-leading brands. While Fortnite and The Sims are obvious choices, Need for Speed isn’t, yet Balmain collaborated with the racing game.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic made this much more common. With the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons at the start of the worldwide health crisis, brands from all over the world began creating in-game items using the game’s creation tools. This wasn’t limited to the fashion industry, but it definitively spurred things on. Balenciaga even had a virtual fashion show at the height of it all.
There’s also the case for Snapchat’s virtual design offers. Brands like Nike, Carhartt, Converse, Levi's, and even Off-White have collaborated with the social media platform to create designs for users to wear on their virtual avatars. This has been around for years at this point, and it looks like plenty of other brands are following this course.
How and Why Fashion Brands Succeed in the Metaverse
It may be shocking to hear that there are full companies and brands like House of Blueberry that exist within the Metaverse. However, a quick Q&A with the company’s employees revealed that it’s actually a thriving business.
Players both young and old are willing to spend some serious cash on clothes. However, in a similar vein that microtransactions exist, a little bit of money can go a long way. Being able to make their dollar stretch gives people a plethora of options to choose from when customizing their character, and it leads them to spend regularly.
While it may be financially lucrative for brands, it also seems to be fulfilling. CCO Ashley Hopkins explained that digital fashion trends don’t just follow real-life trends, they take them to an entirely different level. While one style may be on the up-and-coming, it can have digital effects attached in an online environment that players get thrilled about.
Players can also change their aesthetics whenever they want, something that’s also impossible to do in real life. Because of this, there’s even more freedom to really create designs and hone in on various aesthetics. It also gives players an identity and true passion for their online persona while giving designers the ability and freedom to truly set trends.
The sense of creativity and passion was overflowing from the entirety of the House of Blueberry team, and it doesn’t end there. Other brands are planning for long-term investments into the gray area between fashion and gaming.
Metaverse Fashion Week 2023
House of Blueberry is not the only group that’s in the digital fashion space. In fact, more and more major fashion names are creating a presence in the Metaverse. There was even a Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 that showed off digital designs alongside real-life designs in spaces created by brands.
High-fashion and well-established brands were part of the Metaverse Fashion Week, as well. Here’s a list of some of the most prominent ones in attendance:
- Tommy Hilfiger
The Metaverse as a Shopping Center
One popular idea is that the Metaverse is going to redefine online shopping by giving people a way to try on clothes virtually. This would do away with traditional models and being forced to gamble on how something will fit before buying it online.
While the fashion industry continues to grow more and more within the Metaverse, this idea could come to fruition sooner rather than later. However, it’s a stepping stone that could easily lead brands to offer pieces in games. Fashion, at its core, is about expressing who you are and what you want to show the world. As more and more people do that digitally, it’s not going to be easy for fashion brands to ignore the space.
The Future of Fashion and Gaming
Metaverse fashion isn’t some fad. Brands are investing in it, and games like Roblox only continue to grow (while Roblox itself grows larger and larger). Brands like Gucci are teaming up with online developers to create digital spaces for their designs already.
People are turning more and more toward digital spaces where they can relax, have fun, and even work. And people are going to want a way to express themself, which is where the fashion and gaming industries really come together. Digital fashion already exists and has for years, and major fashion brands are only planning on it growing.
TechRaptor attended the private fashion show from House of Blueberry via invitation.