During New York Fashion Week, Tommy Hilfiger, Collina Strada, Karl Lagerfeld and Rebecca Minkoff zeroed in on digital activations. Their focus was on Roblox, avatars and NFTs, which have become cornerstones for how fashion brands engage in digital worlds. Gaming platforms like Roblox allow for easy brand onboarding and dedicated creation studios. Other novel plays on digital marketing that were present included 3D billboards and projection mapping, the latter of which facilitated sustainability messaging.
Online gaming platform Roblox made a big appearance at NYFW this season. The platform, which has become a key platform for brands looking to engage with digital audiences, had not been included in traditional runway shows until this fashion week. On September 11, Tommy Hilfiger brought together his phygital fall 2022 show with a Roblox activation that featured co-created digital garments available to buy or win on the gaming platform.
A screen in Brooklyn, New York showed a copy of the IRL catwalk within the Tommy Play Roblox game. Gamers could watch the show and see their favorite Superplastic avatars walk within a digital map of NYC wearing the new co-created Tommy Hilfiger collection. Previously, collectible brand Superplastic partnered on NFT collectibles with Gucci.
The brand is focusing on Gen Z with the activation. “The Gen Z consumer lives in the digital space. We want to meet them where they are, whether that be in person at our runway show, through our social media channels or hanging out in a virtual environment,” said Tommy Hilfiger, the brand’s founder and principal designer. “We want to build meaningful connections and give democratized access and accessibility across all platforms, with the ultimate goal of providing a fully engaging brand experience IRL and in the URL.”
The Tommy event allowed the online community to be part of an immersive runway experience by mingling with its virtual models. “This past weekend’s event was not just about showcasing new fashion to our global community, but it also allowed people anywhere in the world to access the looks immediately off the digital runway and feel a part of this unique moment,” said Winnie Burke, head of fashion and beauty partnerships at Roblox.
Consumers could also immediately shop the see-now, buy-now collection, which the brand has facilitated since 2016.
According to Burke, Tommy Hilfiger is focusing on collaboration, specifically opening the floor to creators, like those on Roblox, to reinvent and subvert the brand’s logos and identity. “We welcome innovation from our creator community that includes some of the world’s top brands bringing bespoke high-quality experiences to Roblox,” she said. “Brands like Tommy Hilfiger push the boundaries of creativity on the platform.”
Avatars and 3D spatial marketing
While brands like Tommy Hilfiger are putting their focus on digital clothing, others are looking to replicate celebrities and fashion personalities in their marketing at fashion weeks.
The Karl Lagerfeld brand introduced an avatar collaboration between the deceased designer and model Cara Delevingne, titled Cara Loves Karl. Karl Lagerfeld CEO Pier Paolo Righi told Glossy, “It is our most significant collaboration to date and reflects our passion for digital innovation.” The collection will be sold in a dedicated pop-up in NYC’s Soho neighborhood. It will host fourteen additional pop-ups in global cities from Milan to Shanghai.
The activation was promoted in NYC’s Times Square via 3D billboards. Brands including Balenciaga, Loewe and Louis Vuitton have shown capsule collections on these screens, as a way to drum up interest in their collections. In an interview with Glossy in July, Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency, said, “We’ve always believed that digital screens are going to play a critical role in the emergence of a physical metaverse. The idea is that you could begin to create spaces that are so immersive that it feels like you’re part of an experience.”
Projection mapping for brand messaging
For some designers like Rebecca Minkoff, sustainability in the digital space was top of mind. Minkoff, a long-time player in web3, used projection mapping in her first show featuring a sustainable collection. Projection mapping is a technique that wraps digital images and video around objects. In this case, it allowed the imagery to be integrated into the brand’s show.
“Being the brand that’s always experimenting and using technology to enhance an experience or add dimension to it, the projection mapping was [a fit],” Minkoff said. “It brought this collection from the concrete jungle into this physical jungle with the message that everything from this line was sustainably sourced and created.”
The future of NFTs
As the hype for NFTs has died down, the remaining NFT community is still interested in exclusive events and access to fashion shows. Rebecca Minkoff gave access to her show to holders of the brand’s NFTs. However, Minkoff has shifted her strategy to be more inclusive of women in the NFT community, who are her main NFT holders.
“We found from the [NFT] drop we did in June that more women need time to open a wallet and get verified [before they can make an NFT purchase],” said Minkoff. On October 12, Rebecca Minkoff is launching a co-creation project as part of an NFT drop with NFT brand Mavion. NFT holders will be able to choose the color and hardware of a new bag that will be released in a limited run.
Tommy Hilfiger also did not miss the opportunity to give out NFT mementos at its show. In-person guests could grab NFTs for their digital wallets from posters plastered outside the venue in Brooklyn, courtesy of new app based web3 entertainment launchpad Rove. Other designers, like Hillary Taymour, creative director of Collina Strada, gave out MoonPay NFTs, as well as digital copies of the brand’s new garments accessible via QR codes in the show notes. The digital looks allow showgoers to take home garments from AI fashion company HeartDub before they are available to buy IRL.
Sneaker brand Puma released its first NFT collection, Black Station, at a dedicated event and catwalk, a first at NYFW for the brand. The NFTs can be redeemed for physical sneakers, which have become the most popular type of NFT-redeemable product.