Barbie owner Mattel and Forever 21 have incorporated AI in their collaborative Roblox activation, launched on May 18. The Roblox game coincides with the launch of a physical Forever 21 x Barbie capsule collection available on Forever 21’s mobile app, e-commerce site and select stores. The digital counterpart is available on Roblox.
Both the physical and digital collections feature 76 pieces, including dresses and tops in pink and blue. This is the second phygital collection from Mattel’s Barbie and Forever 21. The first, which featured Barbie-themed fashion, beauty, accessories and home decor, was released in June 2022.
The Forever 21 x Barbie digital collection was designed in collaboration with the Virtual Brand Group. VBG was also behind the viral success of Forever 21’s Roblox hat in December 2022. Forever 21 later sold a physical version of the style.
“Beyond social games, we’ve been able to use Roblox as a testing ground to better understand what our customer wants in products,” said Jacob Hawkins, chief marketing, digital and omnichannel officer at Forever 21, last year. The Forever 21 Shop City world in Roblox has so far hosted 260,000 visits.
“[Digital worlds] provide more cost-effective access to more consumer data, for testing ideas, compared to the physical world,” said Justin Hochberg, CEO and founder of VBG.
The digital Forever 21 x Barbie collection is exclusively available in Forever 21’s Shop City experience on Roblox. Limited item drops will roll out over the next month. Some of the digital items will be given away for free to Roblox users — Forever 21 will promote the offer to lure its shoppers to the platform.
Digital fashion continues to be a bigger focus for the gaming industry. In fact, Fortnite parent company Epic Games invested in digital fashion creator company CLO last week.
The Forever 21 x Barbie collection is the first in Roblox that was created using generative AI. The end designs were based on elements of both the physical Forever 21 x Barbie collection and the signature Barbie aesthetic. “AI is a tool that our creators use, and it inspires them to look at digital fashion in new ways,” said Hochberg. “The No. 1 design factor is HI, or human intelligence, and that is supplemented by other tools like artificial intelligence.” The AI is being used to design the collection.
“Millions of users on Roblox are expressing themselves on the platform and updating their avatars daily. We know from our research that they are looking for styles that are trending in the physical world and represent their favorite brands’ latest IRL collections,” said Winnie Burke, head of fashion and beauty partnerships at Roblox. “This is certainly the case with Barbie-themed styles that are on trend this summer, given this cultural moment for the franchise. The community appreciates timely content and items that represent an authentic extension of the brands innovating in this space.”
The digital collection also features Forever 21’s first auras. Auras, which float around one’s avatar in Roblox, have been in demand with users. The Barbie Roblox collection ranges from 65 Robux to 400 Robux, with the Barbie auras at a premium. “Generally, as a creator of items, you can put an item on sale on Roblox for one or a billion Robux. That’s up to you,” said Hochberg. “But auras are so popular, Roblox requires that they be no less than 100 Robux.”
In January 2022, Mattel president and chief operating officer Richard Dickson outlined the plan for the future of Barbie collaborations. It is also by far the company’s most recognizable brand, making it a fit for global collaborations.
So far, Mattel has integrated Barbie, Polly Pocket and He-Man into Roblox, and it’s building out a variety of fashion collaborations leading up to the “Barbie” film launch in late June. Last month, it teamed up with Gap on a new apparel collaboration inspired by Mattel’s portfolio of brands. In New York, it also opened a pop-up Malibu Barbie Café that’s running until September 15 and is expected to launch more collaborations leading up to the opening of the film.