Gucci goes digital

Gucci just launched its first digital-only sneaker, for you to wear in your social media photos, and on your VR Chat and Roblox avatars. It’s an early signal of a potential generational shift.

Avatars, identity, digital fashion, and generational change

Gucci just launched its first digital-only sneaker. The Virtual 25 cost £11.99 through the Gucci app, and you can wear them in your social media photos, and on your VR Chat and Roblox avatars.

Lots of brands have been experimenting with digital fashion and cosmetics, like L’Oreal’s Signature Faces, but to date it’s mostly been stunts and experimentation. Now they’re taking their first steps into earning money from them; you can buy Puma in Zepeto, Adidas in Aglet, and Oscar de la Renta in Drest.

It’s very easy to dismiss all this, but as we spend more time in virtual spaces we want to represent ourselves in the same ways we do in physical spaces:

Virtual [makeup and fashion] are the result of the same occasion-based merchandising and product development motivations that have influenced retailers for many years now — they’re just focused on virtual occasions and contexts since these are where we’re spending so much more of our time.

Neil Redding, The End of Distance

A few fashion brands, notably Gucci and Louis Vuitton, have been planning the move into digital for a little while, but for many brands it’s taken the pandemic to really understand this shift:

Legacy luxury brands had a hard time diving into ‘digital’ because they thought of it as technical and put it in a corner. But human beings were just changing behaviour. If you reframe it as ‘culture’, it makes sense.

Ian Rogers

The next iteration of ‘direct to avatar’ e-commerce will be the ‘digital twin‘: Snapchat just bought Fit Analytics, which uses your phone camera to help you find the right size of apparel for you, and is looking at a system which would match physical fashion items with a Bitmoji version.

And again, you may dismiss all this; you may not get it, or you may think it’s a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes; but to a generation raised on Fortnite, Roblox, and Snapchat it’s entirely natural to spend on digital assets that help you express your identity through screens. The price of a Fortnite skin is roughly 1,200 to 2,000 V-Bucks—that’s a starting price of around £7 (it varies) in sterling.

In Matthew Ball’s Twitter thread about the ‘iPad generation’ becoming the ‘Roblox generation’, he made this point:

The past decade has continuously reduced all sorts of barriers to expression. Tools for creation and distribution are the most obvious. But less obvious and more important are the mindset changes.

Matthew Ball

This isn’t the first post I’ve written about digital fashion and virtual identity; it’s been a slight obsession of mine for a few years. But the combination of a generational change and a global pandemic is providing the opportunity for it to go mainstream. Maybe it will.

Also published on Medium.

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