Skinvaders is a next-generation platform for in-game branded skins and digital clothing. Recently, Skinvaders powered Gen G’s lifestyle collection on ZEPETO with digital customization for avatars and characters in-game.
Retail in Asia had the opportunity to speak with Alexis Arragon, Founder and CEO of Skinvaders, on the role that fashion plays in gaming and what challenges do fashion brands face when entering the metaverse.
RiA: What would you identify to be the main drive for people to purchase branded clothing in games? And how are you targeting that?
Arragon: Games have such a broad audience that it’s gone mainstream, so the full spectrum of people is represented among gamers, including young consumers who care about fashion brands.
Combine that with customizing your avatar as a way to look different from the rest of the online crowd, and you have a powerful driver for purchasing branded outfits in games. Some brands have greater clout in the virtual space than others, but ultimately players care mainly about the experience. As the brand is aligned with the experience containing it, it can be a winner.
RiA: Is the younger generation of gamers driving fashion trends in the gaming industry? How are the trends different in real life as opposed to in-game?
Arragon: Games have technical limitations, so it’s still hard to faithfully reproduce a Tom Ford-directed clip inside a game.
This gave room to a different aesthetic, more digital and virtual in many ways: think exuberant styles and flashy colors, shapes that you could physically reproduce in our world, experimentations with different materials.
3D fashion is still very difficult to produce, so I’m really looking forward to the time when we will have the tools to easily create or customize a garment. This is when we will see the “online” and the “real” trends battle for attention.
RiA: What role does fashion play in gaming? How does that elevate the gaming experience?
Arragon: For the longest time (and in most cases even today) gaming was not interested in consumer fashion. There’s so much to think about in a game that you don’t really overthink the fashion experience.
It’s part of the character design and the clothes characters wear in a game are supposed to support the atmosphere of the game, not being a tradable asset for anything that’s popular on Farfetch.
Fortnite is probably the first game to mash up together so many brands, IPs and styles where it becomes normal to have your character wear a Balenciaga outfit next to Darth Vader and Son Goku from the Dragonball series.
It’s up to the developer or the publisher of the game to make sure that this is relevant for the players and the brands, that this mashup does not feel forced, and that it does not ruin the game experience.
RiA: What challenges do fashion brands face when entering the metaverse?
Arragon: The metaverse is supposed to supersede the games, but today the closest examples of what the metaverse will be are games. We’re talking about online experiences that engage millions of people, and those people have expectations about their experience within that box that we call a game.
Right now, the main challenge a brand faces is relevance: how am I relevant to my audience and to the audience of the game that I want to partner with? That’s why it’s so important to make the virtual space part of a brand’s strategy if they want to be successful there.
Sometimes you won’t be successful on the first try, but everything is so new and the space is evolving so quickly that you really need to commit to it to find what works for you.
There is also a technical expertise component to this challenge. Currently, brands do not possess the tools to create content for the metaverse, just like when social media happened 10 years ago and everyone was figuring out how to be successful on Facebook or Instagram. There are already many companies, just like Skinvaders, who are looking to partner with brands over the long term to help them execute their vision for the metaverse.
RiA: Does the growing population of female gamers contribute to fashion brands’ interest in the metaverse?
Arragon: Yes, absolutely! And as much as the gamer population is getting more balanced in terms of gender with time, the interest in fashion is also spreading among the younger generation, independently of gender.
You just have to look at how teenagers dress up today to understand that this generation is redefining the use of fashion as a way to support self-expression, whether it’s IRL fashion or virtual fashion.
We know that female and male players fulfil different goals when they play games. For example, competition is more important for male players while female players tend to prefer design and cooperation activities. The balance of gender among gamers is creating an opportunity to redefine what makes a game, and ultimately what makes the metaverse, and it’s definitely not only about being n°1 of a leaderboard.
RiA: How is gaming becoming a tool for self-expression?
Arragon: From the moment when games offered players the possibility to customize content (whether it’s a part of the map, an object or even a complete avatar), they allowed people to be creative. And, when you spend hundreds of hours online playing the same game, meeting with more or less the same people, you start to identify yourself with your avatar, and the way you “look” matters.
It’s really part of our social behavior, when you’re placed in an environment with others, you naturally tend to show your individuality, and the easiest way to do that in a game is by looking different.
There’s a great 90s cartoon from the New Yorker that shows a dog telling another dog in front of a computer: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” and that’s exactly it – your avatar conceals your identity as much it reveals it, it’s up to you to decide.
It’s not often in your everyday life that you can switch identities so easily except online and in games.
RiA: What other opportunities apart from outfit design should retail brands explore for their metaverse debut?
Arragon: It’s easy to tie fashion brands to virtual outfits, but ultimately, players enjoy experiences.
While providing virtual outfits is a great first step to dipping your toes in the metaverse, there will be a point where games will be saturated with content, and experiences will still matter most. Think about how fashion brands design retail spaces so that the experience of shopping is as important as the products themselves. Some brands already understood this and commissioned mini-games and other interactive experiences in Zepeto or Roblox.
And then you have web3: the paradigm of digital ownership is very powerful. Brands could take this opportunity to trial new virtual-only collections, and let their audience decide which designs are the most voted for and produce limited quantities. That would be the perfect way to tackle overproduction with technical innovation!
RiA: How can the digitisation of fashion items help alleviate problems associated with overproduction in the industry?
Arragon: Oops, you got me started already! Fashion industry digitisation is long overdue, but everyone knows it will take time.
There will come a time when 3D assets will no longer be produced by Skinvaders anymore, but derived from the assets sent by the brand itself because the design process will happen in 3D. This allows for a different type of product lifecycle, where the brand iterates on and benefits from incremental design. This also shortens production times and bridges to games, activations in Augmented Reality, marketing campaigns using 3D rendered images and clips, and so on.
Unless you order a very basic configuration of a MacBook Pro, you will have to wait for your machine to be assembled the way you want. Why is this not the same for clothes? It’s the perfect way to fight overproduction and be more sustainable. It is the way forward and it will happen, it’s just a question of culture and time.
RiA: Tell us about the inspiration behind the collaboration with PUMA and Gen.G forits latest collection that’s landed in Foot Locker stores in South Korea and on the Foot Locker website, as well as virtually on ZEPETO?
Arragon: PUMA and Gen.G already collaborated on previous physical drops. PUMA has been working with ZEPETO for some time now through Skinvaders, so it was only logical to connect the pieces. This operation is the first of its kind to bring such a wide collab (three brands are involved) in a social metaverse, and to feature a virtual-only, secret item that players will be able to unlock with a code to redeem in stores!
The virtual activation of this collaboration between PUMA, Gen.G, and Foot Locker could only be achieved so smoothly inside ZEPETO, one of the world’s largest metaverses. And while ZEPETO is highly popular in Asia, it’s also growing super fast in other territories such as France, Brazil, India and USA. Bringing esports to a fashion-forward gaming crowd is something quite natural in the end: the millions of players inside ZEPETO are excited to access brands and household names they already know and love. I believe we will see more and more of this kind of project, blurring the lines between fashion brands and the gaming world.