They’re gangly, pale, and a little awkward. They call themselves “plebs” and “randoms”. They’re the last people you’d think you would see sitting front row of a fashion show.
Yet that’s exactly where members of Fnatic, the world’s leading eSports organisation, found themselves in January, courtesy of Gucci. The fashion brand had invited them to its Fall/Winter 2020 menswear show — making them the first gamers to attend Milan Fashion Week. Now, they’re the first gamers to design their own Gucci watch.
But the new “Gucci Dive”, marked by Fnatic’s logo on the dial, isn’t meant to appeal to your typical luxury watch collector; it was made for Fnatic fans. Over 15 million of them tune in to watch the matches played by Martin Larsson, Zdravets Galabov, Tim Lipovsek, Gabriel Rau and Oskar Boderek, whose ages range between 20 and 25.
In the world of competitive gaming, these European lads form something of a League of Legends — which happens to be the game they play. That wouldn’t have mattered much a decade ago, but now that the eSports industry is becoming a billion-dollar one, fashion is finally taking notice.
Take Team Vitality, for example. The French eSports organisation forged a multi-year partnership with fashion giant, Adidas, in 2017. The two have since collaborated on a pair of sneakers, today’s currency of cool.
So has Fortnite player Tyler Blevins, AKA “Ninja”. Last year, Adidas added the 29-year-old American gamer to its ranks of famous ambassadors, alongside Beyoncé, Kanye West, Kylie and Kendall Jenner. His specially designed Nite Jogger sneakers sold out in less than an hour.
Nike has been on the same track. It inked a four-year sponsorship with China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in 2019, which includes designing outfits and footwear for all five of its competing teams: Edward Gaming, Fun Plus Phoenix, Invictus Gaming, Royal Never Give Up and Top Esports. Puma has also signed a similar deal with Cloud9, creating official uniforms for the California-based gaming team.
The connection between sportswear brands and eSports ones is obvious enough: both are focused on gearing players up for competition. But what about luxury fashion brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, who released an in-game collection and a trophy case for League of Legends last year?
In a word, clout. The world of eSports is growing fast: it’s projected to reach an audience of 500 million people by 2021. Like the professional players themselves, many of these eSports enthusiasts are young, aged between 18 and 34.
Youth culture has often been the secret of success for many fashion brands. Sneakers and streetwear, once the uniform of skateboarders, are now sported by stylish celebrities. K-Pop, with its massive, international teen fanbase, has had brands scrambling to collaborate with groups like BTS and Blackpink. These days, many of them are trying their hand at TikTok, the digital home of Gen Zers.
Gaming, once a niche pastime, is now infiltrating the mainstream — and with it comes a new brand of influencers. These players boast follower counts in the millions across social media, but especially on Twitch, Amazon’s streaming platform for gamers. Ninja is the most famous of the lot, having amassed 14.7 million fans on the website. Adidas has shown us how well his online star status translates into offline sales.
Luxury fashion, then, is just using its own tried-and-tested recipe: tap into today’s cool kids — even if they look nothing like they did a decade ago.
Header photo credit: @Fnatic/Twitter