Balenciaga 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,
Four of the Fortnite characters are showcased 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.
“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.
“Fortnite is essentially at its core all about fashion and self-expression, agency and fantasy,” Levy said. Fortnite players now spend nearly 50% of their time in the game’s creative mode, where they design their own universes and engage in role-playing games. Last April, a player named Lachlan staged a fashion show in creative mode, in which players showed off their own designs; the video racked up over 11 million YouTube views. “Obviously, as we think about Fortnite expanding into a social entertainment ecosystem, fashion is really at the core of culture,” Levy said, adding that it is “very authentic to our community.”
Balenciaga gave the Fortnite team 3-D scans of each of the garments, which allowed the game’s designers to recreate the clothing with vivid details, from graphics and textures to the way it sits on a character. The Speed 3.0 sneaker is now a pickaxe, and the Hourglass Bag is a glider that players can ride into battle. Players can purchase a dance for their character to perform, set to a track by BFRND, husband and collaborator to Gvasalia.
The Fortnite project will not merely live within the confines of the Fortnite platform. The partnership has physical manifestations, including a campaign that will put, say, Doggo on 3-D animated billboards in New York, London, Tokyo, and Seoul; and a line of merch, which is destined to be at home equally on those parked in front of the TV playing Fortnite for hours and those parked at a chilly booth at Art Basel.
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