As part of their Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection, Balenciaga has recently released its collaboration with PlayStation. The PlayStation 5 was made available for purchase in November 2020, and the collection includes two shirts and hoodie featuring its logo alongside its release date and the Balenciaga logo. These products come, in true high fashion style, with a steep price tag: the t-shirts retail at $675 and the hoodie $875.
Due to the pandemic, Balenciaga was unable to hold a traditional runway show for this collection, which would have been in December 2020. This did not stop the company from holding a show. Instead, they partnered with Unreal Engine to create an interactive video game runway. Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow was first available as a VR experience for specific customers, then opened up to the general public in the form of a short game playable on Balenciaga’s website. While it did technically have an overarching plot, the beautifully rendered game was clearly intended to act as a different form of the runway. Unfortunately, this game is no longer playable, and the link on the website only leads to a video that showcases the game’s highlights.
This game was the idea of fashion designer Demna Gvasalia, who believes in the use of multiple medias to market and to innovate the future of clothes. The emergence of interactivity and use of video games in the fashion industry marks a turn into more accessible and consumer focused practices. When talking about his inspiration, Gvasalia says, “Today’s customer does gaming. It’s an important luxury customer base. They project so much onto their character. It’s a parallel world.”
This marketing strategy, however, is not without its controversies. Many have been quick to point out that the Balenciaga PlayStation clothes cost more than the actual console, which retails at $499. Currently, PlayStations are in high demand around the globe, and have been sold out at many stores. The potential accessibility provided by the medium of video games remains unfulfilled by the products released by the industry. The future of fashion and gaming as partners is not set in stone, as proven by the allegorically rich ending of Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow.