Balenciaga Partners With Fortnite For In-Game Looks and Real Life Merchandise
Balenciaga’s reputation as a brand has undergone an overhaul thanks to the efforts of Vetements co-founder Demna Gvasalia, whose work with Balenciaga has seen pieces like stiletto crocs and the $2,000 leather Ikea-inspired shopping tote come about to undermine and subvert expectations of street fashion. Balenciaga’s campaign for Fall 2021 “Afterworld” showcases its collection in a virtual environment rendered in Unreal Engine 4, and utilizes the visuals and mechanics of gaming to express themes of virtual-real sublimation and detachment while exploring a semi-open world space. The looks from this collection draw visual inspiration from series like Yakuza and Dark Souls and prior streetwear campaigns from the brand and Gvasalia’s time at Vetements. Now, Balenciaga has partnered with Fortnite to bring their flair for exaggeration and tongue-in-cheek design to Fortnite’s skins, cosmetics, and more, which is a logical destination in Balenciaga’s exploration of how the virtual world and real world intersect.
Fortnite’s Balenciaga Skins, Cosmetics, and More
In a blog post published today, Fortnite announced new outfits “inspired by authentic archival looks from luxury fashion house Balenciaga.” These inspired looks include the Unchained Ramirez, Shady Doggo, Fashion Banshee, and Game Knight outfits. Game Knight seems specifically inspired by this upcoming look from Balenciaga’s Afterworld collection. Unchained Ramirez’s look also takes inspiration from Afterworld while the Fashion Banshee outfit recalls the catsuit/pantashoe combo from Balenciaga’s 2020 Spring/Summer collection, as well as other Balenciaga catsuit looks that we’ve seen recently.
The collaboration also brings a new glider, new back bling, wraps, and a pickaxe inspired by Balenciaga’s Triple S sneaker. The rest of the collaboration doesn’t veer too far from the new merchandise collaboration between Fortnite and Balenciaga, but the inclusion of the Triple S sneaker, Balenciaga’s most iconic footwear piece to date, as a pickaxe speaks to the fashion brand’s insistence on absurdity and exaggeration when promoting their apparel.
The event will also include a new, featured hub in Creative Mode titled “Strange Times” where players can hang out, play in different combat modes, and exhibit their virtual looks in front of a virtual Balenciaga storefront modeled to similar, already existing stores.
The hub will also featured billboards that showcase images taken in-game for Fortnite’s Fortography contest. Details on how to enter the contest can be found on Fortnite’s Fortgraphy blog post
Overall, for a digital collaboration, the Balenciaga-inspired outfits and cosmetics don’t exactly recall pieces from Balenciaga’s archive, neglecting the influence of designers like Alexander Wang or Nicholas Ghesquière, whose 2007 Spring/Summer collection helped pave the way for modern Balenciaga’s fixation with armored motifs, as can be seen with these “robotic” inspired looks and armored leggings.
The collaboration with Fortnite also includes physical merchandise that will be available in physical Balenciaga stores as well as their online storefront. The Fortnite | Balenciaga series relies heavily on Fortnite fans’ recognition of the game’s typography for a series that resembles band or musical artist merchandise, which makes sense considering the success of Fortnite’s partnerships with musical artists.
The Fortnite and Balenciaga collaboration isn’t the first time video games and high fashion have interacted. Gucci partnered with Roblox for the Gucci Garden experience earlier this summer, and Saint Laurent created a vanity Dance Dance Revolution arcade cabinet for their New York store back in 2019. Fortnite partnered with Nike for their Fortnite x Jumpman event in 2019.
As Fortnite closely approaches the culmination of its “metaverse” concept, we can only expect for more non-endemic brands to approach Epic with ideas for collaborative events. The collaboration between Fortnite and Balenciaga makes sense with how closely gaming influencers follow streetwear trends and brands, and Balenciaga has cemented their presence in the streetwear industry with their outlandish design and endorsement from popular figures like Playboi Carti. The key figures to watch in this collaboration are sales of goods. Seeing which good outperforms the other will tell whether Fortnite’s influence and accessibility are enough to translate to purchases for physical goods. However, it may be Balenciaga’s goal to see whether their branded, digital merchandise can succeed within the “metaverse” concept.