New creatives bringing fashion brands into the virtual world

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To recreate Adidas’ Ozweego sneaker for the company’s new experience in Fortnite, it took BeyondCreative about four days. The studio, which specializes in construction for the popular online game, cannot simply import a 3D model into space, explained Kasper Weber, its co-founder and chief executive. They must assemble the digital replica from an extensive library of simple shapes that Fortnite makes available to players to produce their own environments in its “creative” mode.

“We build them out of circles, triangles, squares, half circles, quarter circles and different things,” Weber said. “It’s a very specialized profession.”

Even in the physical world, brands do not build their images alone. They rely on photographers, stylists, architects and others to help them film their advertising campaigns, organize fashion shows and design stores. But as more brands expand into virtual environments like video games and launch Web3 projects like NFT Collections, they’re relying on a new generation of creatives skilled in areas like 3D design. , games and blockchain to translate their images into these digital spaces. .

“There is a huge opportunity for creativity in this world, not just at the level of technical software, but at a real creative level, especially in our industry which, as we know, has specific tastes and aesthetic codes”, Massimiliano Di Battista, co-founder and chief executive of creative and talent agency MA+ Group, which just launched its own metaverse division, told BoF recently.

Prior to Adidas, BeyondCreative also worked with Balenciaga on the “Strange Times” hub it launched in Fortnite last year. Vans has tapped studio The Gang to build its world in Roblox, while Gucci and Forever21 have partnered with Roblox creators such as Rook Vanguard and cSapphire, winner of the British Fashion Council’s top award for metaverse design. Dior Beauty and Burberry, in partnership with Harrods, both turned to Emperia to produce 3D environments for them, while Nike and 3.1 Phillip Lim collaborated with studio Superficial. The Dematerialised, a digital fashion brand, has produced NFTs for labels such as Karl Lagerfeld, Rebecca Minkoff and MCQ.

MA+ Group and other creative agencies like Highsnobiety have also introduced their own web3 and metaverse divisions to support brands and connect them with the right talent when they want to launch projects.

For fashion brands, the goal is to capitalize on the opportunities that arise in digital spaces. Whether they do this by bringing a physical product to market or racking up NFT sales, they seek support from those with the expertise to bring their concepts to life.

digital craft

Part of what brands expect from these digital talents are their technical abilities, such as mastering 3D design, the ability to create virtual avatars, or knowing how to create NFTs on a blockchain. But they may also need creative direction and guidance on how to create immersive experiences that enrich the stories around their products or image — Superficial Services said its fashion clients seek it out.

There is also artistic talent in the production of digital products or environments. 3D artists don’t just recreate physical spaces and objects, they must also be able to capture what Marjorie Hernandez, co-founder of The Dematerialized, calls a brand’s “intangibles.” That’s perhaps especially true when they’re creating a fantasy that doesn’t exist in the real world, like the dreamscape FutureCorp created in collaboration with Marni to showcase the brand’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection.

“There is digital know-how,” Hernandez said. “It’s no different than you’re using a computer.”

An avatar of a woman in a black and white striped Marni dress leans back and gazes up at the sky in a dreamlike twilight landscape of rolling hills.

Olga Dogadkina, co-founder and CEO of Emperia, said they start each project with a proposal covering what the experience will look like as well as how it will feel for users and what the points of interaction will be. Before starting to build its virtual experience for the Dior Beauty pop-up over the past holiday, Emperia made sure to understand the fundamental attributes of the Dior brand, such as the colors it uses, the look of its website and the various design elements of the pop-ups. The finished space incorporated all of these pieces, including the flowers and trees featured in Dior’s pop-ups, and placed them amidst an astral backdrop that wouldn’t be possible in the physical world.

“It’s a very high level of quality that people expect from these brands, no matter where they live it,” Dogadkina said.

This can sometimes present a challenge. Add too much detail and an online experience can become slow and jerky if the Internet and the user’s computer aren’t fast enough. Some environments, such as the blockchain-based online world Decentraland, have basic graphics that can make it difficult for high-end brands to maintain their appearance within them. It’s a lesson that became clear during the first Metaverse Fashion Week.

While some virtual products and experiences will only be seen by a small number of users, others may be seen by millions. To date, Vans World in Roblox has been viewed over 64 million times.

For a gaming experience like this, having the right gameplay is crucial. According to Marcus Holmström, co-founder and CEO of The Gang, The Gang worked with professional skateboarders to try to figure out how users should feel when skating around the expansive skatepark he helped build for Vans in Roblox. (Vans told BoF that he also asked kids to test the game while it was in development, so they could get feedback.) He and BeyondCreative’s Weber also talked about the importance of s ensure that an experience fits organically into a game and doesn’t come across as intrusive advertising.

Often, in fact, one of the most valuable services digital creatives can provide is guiding brands on what can work in a space. Dogadkina said that when brands approach them, they usually have no experience with 3D environments. Jürgen Alker, head of Highsnobiety’s new NFT studio, said brands often come up to them and ask, “What should I be doing in the metaverse?”

Growing demand

Every designer and agency BoF spoke to said the inquiries they receive from fashion brands, and often businesses in general, continue to increase.

“It’s been very high this year,” Holmström said. “On average, I’d say we probably get almost one a day, not from fashion brands but from companies around the world.” A recent project was a Formula 1 racing experience with McLaren to show off the automaker’s new car, the MCL36.

Belinda Chen and Andrew Kupresanin, creative directors of Superficial, said in an email that fashion’s interest in entering virtual territories has grown exponentially in recent years and is only gaining momentum. Dogadkina said Emperia has seen interest in its services increase, particularly over the past three or four months.

The demand for digital creations is expected to continue as more brands attempt to seize opportunities in the 3D and Web3 spaces. For someone like Weber, that led to a career he said he never expected for himself. He started designing gaming experiences as a teenager playing Minecraft and Counterstrike.

“My interest has always been to develop user-generated content just for me and my friends,” he said.

Now he does it for a living.

Digital mode and decoded avatars

To learn more about the technology, do not miss the BoF Professional Summit: New Frontiers in Fashion and Technology on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Full access to the livestream is included with your BoF Professional membership.

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