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Balenciaga Joins Fortnite in the Metaverse

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When Kim Kardashian appeared at the Met Gala last Monday night sheathed in an all-black gown by Balenciaga, she inspired a number of memes and comparisons—​​including, as a number of Twitter users pointed out, a likeness to an unlocked character in a video game, inaccessible and shrouded in gray until a player reaches a certain level.

Now, at least theoretically, the Balenciaga and video game connection is fully unlocked. On Monday, the French luxury house and Epic Games, the developer behind Fortnite, announced a collaboration that brings the brand’s clothing and signatures into the game. This is the launch of an ambitious push into fashion for Fortnite, and the partnership includes a number of components that exist both inside and outside the game, foremost among them a “fit set” that puts four beloved Fortnite characters in looks from previous Balenciaga collections—dressing Doggo with a Balenciaga x Fortnite hoodie yanked over his head and a pair of the brand’s futuristic cat-eye sunglasses, for example, and Knight in the armor boots from the Fall 2021 collection. (Examining the uncanny renderings of the looks, it’s hard to imagine that designer Demna Gvasalia didn’t have these virtual characters in mind as much as the flesh and blood Kardashians and Biebers of the world.)

Four fan favorite characters dressed in Balenciaga.Courtesy of Epic Games.

“Our partnership with Epic didn’t start with Fortnite, actually,” Demna Gvasalia, artistic director at Balenciaga, said in a statement. “It started with our own first video game, Afterworld, which we built using Unreal Engine to debut our Fall 2021 collection. From there, we have continued to be inspired by the creativity of Unreal and Fortnite communities. It made total sense, to me, that we collaborate further by creating these authentic Balenciaga looks for Fortnite and a new physical Fortnite clothing series for our stores.”

That history made Balenciaga a natural choice for Epic’s first luxury fashion collaboration; the company has partnered with brands like Nike before. “We were very inspired by how Balenciaga has leaned so heavily into pushing the boundaries of tech in fashion, innovation in fashion,” Epic Games’s Senior Manager of Partnerships, Emily Levy, explained. Levy was quick to point out that fashion already has a natural home in the game. This is the year of the “creator economy,” with everyone from Facebook to Snapchat announcing initiatives intended to encourage their users to monetize content, and Fortnite is starting to emphasize the community side of the game, rather than the solo Battle Royale mode that made it a phenomenon.



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