When is digital fashion not just digital fashion? The answer might lie in the way designers like Rebecca Minkoff use virtual technology as a way to echo and strengthen the real-world brand.
Now she’s at it again.
In an exclusive with WWD, the New York-based designer revealed her latest collaboration, a new 20-piece collection of avatar-wear set to debut in Roblox on Thursday. The line features both familiar looks and entirely new designs created specifically for the gaming platform.
The collection, which primarily comprises bags, is based on the spring 2023 collection that’s available now, said the founder-turned-chief creative officer, since the company’s sale to Sunrise Brands last year.
According to Minkoff, who still leads design for the brand, the project “focused mainly on our core bag, our most popular bag, The G. You’ll see a lot of iterations — some with punk studs, some not, a bunch of colors.” To ensure people could have a complete head-to-toe Rebecca Minkoff look, she also included apparel.
“Then we wanted to make a couple of exclusive Roblox-only designs that were riffs on what we showed for spring, just to give it that special feel for people who are using Roblox,” she said.
When it comes to tech, the brand tends to reach for innovation with both hands, often pushing into new terrain. Projects range from early entry into smartwatches to photogrammetry-powered augmented reality, NFTs, a previous takeover of an earlier Roblox game and the use of projection technology to cast the New York City skyline onto runway models.
The latter literally loomed on the Roblox line.
“The inspiration for this collection was twofold: It was leaning in and giving a nod to sort of the punk trend you see out there,” Minkoff said, adding that it includes a callback to one of her real-life fashion shows. “We had the whole [physical] collection made in white and then at the show, we projected this incredible interactive video that projected on the models and the walls to really bring that immersive experience to life.”
Roblox avatars will be able to wear select items from Rebecca Minkoff’s spring 2023 collection or others created exclusively for Roblox.
The Roblox collection includes white items that “just to talk back to that,” she explained, in addition to black and other colorways. The line features the G Small Punk Shoulder Bag; G Shoulder Bag with Studded Guitar Strap; RM Dog-Clip and G-Lock earrings; Kick Him to the Curb Punk Bag; Julian Croissant, Backpack and Crossbody bags; Spike Bucket Hat, Hoodie and Bandeau, and the Open Knit Sweater.
Samuel Jordan, a digital designer who came up through the platform’s creator community, helped curate and tweak the designs to suit this gamer audience. The design collaboration is a first for Minkoff, though it’s not her first foray into Roblox. In 2022, the brand hosted a pop-up and temporary takeover of a game called High Heel Obby.
Last year’s effort proved popular, nabbing more than 40 million plays. But 2022 was a different time.
It was just months after Facebook morphed into Meta in 2021. Shortly after, in the following January, reports like the Obsess-Kantar study, “The Mindset: Consumer Shopping Insights,” pointed to high sales demand in the virtual world and gaming environments. The researchers found that 70 percent of virtual store visitors ended up purchasing. That paved the way for Decentraland’s first Fashion Week, which drew some 70 brands and 108,000 attendees.
At the second installment, which took place last week, fashion’s virtual universe appeared to contract. This time around, 63 brands showed up and traffic amounted to less than 50,000 users.
The smaller showing wasn’t for lack of spectacle.
From Minkoff’s spring 2023 show from the fall, which inspired the Roblox collection.
Courtesy of Jason Crowley, BFA
Artists collective Vueltta held its Vivienne Westwood tribute, while Dundas showcased NFT versions of its Paris Fashion Week looks. Tommy Hilfiger introduced an interoperable, multi-metaverse hub spanning Decentraland, Roblox, Spatial, DressX and Ready Player Me. For its MVFW debut, Adidas unleashed a popular metaverse collection of wearables and NFTs and Coach, another first-time participant, floated a glossy pink signature Tabby bag. Meanwhile returning brands Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY, Perry Ellis and others hit the runways, luxury district and other zones to set up shop. On Friday, MVFW cohost Over beamed AR fashions into Milan’s very real Piazza del Duomo.
The event focused on interoperability — perhaps, in part, as a survival instinct. A more cohesive metaverse fanning out across platforms would certainly boost exposure and accessibility amid waning interest.
It’s a logical strategy. But not for Roblox.
The platform, an enduringly popular game that hums with 67 million daily active users as of February, isn’t focused on connecting to other spaces. It’s a massive cross-section of groups and zones all on its own. That’s a strength, according to Winnie Burke, the tech company’s head of fashion, beauty, retail and luxury partnerships.
With so many diverse interests, Roblox makes a great test-and-learn environment for brands, she said. That’s likely a draw for fashion houses such as Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Givenchy, Hilfiger, Nike and others that have established a presence there. Another appeal is the platform’s development work.
The company added avatar options beyond the original 2D, squared-off figures, for gamers who prefer smoother, more refined characters. Then to go with it, the company rolled out “Layered Clothing” last year. Burke believes it’s a game-changer for apparel brands.
“The intention behind it was really to ensure that this 3D clothing — not 2D clothing, because that was the old Roblox — could adapt to any body style, whether it’s a humanoid, a classic blocky character or an animal or dinosaur,” she told WWD. “The clothing wraps the body the same way.”
In other words, designers and developers can create the digital clothes once knowing it will fit every type of Roblox avatar automatically. That’s how it works for Rebecca Minkoff’s new collection, as well as any others who use Layered Clothing. Now the company is working on new animations to map an avatar’s face to the player’s speech or voice chat. If it can pull off facial expressions, it’s not hard to see them improving social experiences, from friendly gatherings to fashion shows and even shopping virtual stores. All of that could become more engaging.
Rebecca Minkoff’s Limited Bag in yellow.
That presumes, of course, that consumers really do want to buy virtual goods. That’s not at all clear right now, especially with the plunge in NFT trading. Broadly, global market sales lopped off $10 billion in the first quarter compared the same time last year. The fashion segment saw an eye-watering, year-over-year decline of 88 percent.
Those types of numbers might amount to a severe, but temporary hangover from the crash of crypto exchange FTX and other economic factors. It could also be a sign that digital collectibles are actually over, prompting some critics to call the metaverse the equivalent of an abandoned digital mall.
Whichever way that pans out, Burke asserts it’s of no consequence to Roblox.
“Frankly, we’re not really noticing that. I think we’re in a bit of an advantageous position, because the foundational components of the platform around socialization are more at the forefront,” she said. “This is where people are coming to create, collaborate, experience things together and have these moments with culture. The crypto market is not our business at all…[so] we’re feeling a bit immune to that.”
Virtual fashion may or may not drive revenue, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Take utility NFTs and blockchain tech, for instance. They can support loyalty programs, identification features and luxury authentication, among other uses. Like testing new designs.
At least on Roblox, that seems feasible. In its last digital fashion study, 70 percent said their real-life style inspires their avatar style — and the same 70 percent also said that their avatars impact their IRL wardrobe. “The second half of that fact is super interesting,” Burke added. “I don’t know that we, or that the fashion industry, is [focusing enough] there yet.”
Fancy digital frocks, footwear, accessories and other wearables and collectibles can also support branding and marketing opportunities, in addition to testing. The scenarios add key context to Minkoff’s approach. Her Roblox collection may not net much revenue, considering items will cost less than $2, some for even less than $1. But in one digital collection, she managed to highlight her latest real-world looks, highlight her company’s focus on innovation and test design tweaks with a new audience.
“We’ve always been at the intersection of fashion and technology, even from the very beginnings of Rebecca Minkoff. And so for us, it’s always about experimentation about trial and error, seeing what sticks what doesn’t,” continued the designer. “We don’t mind if something doesn’t work well, because we always learn something from experimentation.”
The feeling carries over, even beyond the virtual world.
“For us, the days of a regular presentation or runway show are kind of done,” Minkoff explained. “And so if we are going to do something, there is always going to be an experiential component to it.”
The information provided in our posts or blogs are for educational and informative purposes only. We do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or suitability of the information. We do not provide financial or investment advice. Readers should always seek professional advice before making any financial or investment decisions based on the information provided in our content. We will not be held responsible for any losses, damages or consequences that may arise from relying on the information provided in our content.