At first glance, Animal Crossing (the impossibly cute open-ended role-playing game) is an unlikely place to find high fashion. It’s a place where you collect furniture, fossils, and bugs, build and design your home, and befriend animal villagers, to list just a few of the game-play possibilities, but thanks to the game’s ability to create outfits from scratch, it’s unexpectedly become a virtual haven for fashion fanatics. Unlike real life, the access to style is pretty egalitarian (you can pay for some stuff, but a lot of it is free), but like real life, designers, musicians, and stylists are getting in on the game.
There’s entire archival Instagram feeds devoted to Animal Crossing ’fit pics, where devoted fans have created approximations of Dior sweaters, Carhartt basics, and bright green Issey Miyake pleated dresses inside the game, thanks to a feature that lets you build custom outfits from scratch. People are re-creating exact looks from the runway, like this colorblocked Jacquemus sweater, or this Craig Green poncho, and they’re memorializing their work in virtual photoshoots. The high fashion in the game mostly exists in the counterfeit market at the moment, but it’s only a matter of time. Designer Sandy Liang hosted a pop-up in the game this past weekend (so if you’ve ever coveted one of her popular fleeces, you could try on one virtually). Meanwhile, the musician Yaeji and her stylist Monica Kim are releasing exclusive merch in the game. Yes, there’s now merch in virtual reality.
Yaeji’s been playing Animal Crossing since an earlier iteration was released in 2005. “It’s everything I want in a role-playing game—relaxed, loosely goal-oriented—you can choose what the main objective of the game will be for yourself—aesthetically adorable with vast options of outfits and furniture to choose from,” Yaeji says. It’s precisely the game’s communal, gentle spirit that’s making it so popular right now, plus the fact that it’s online, so you can meet up with your IRL friends in the game.
This past weekend, Yaeji livestreamed herself playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the gamer-centric streaming platform Twitch. Rendered as a rosy-cheeked, glasses-wearing avatar in the game, Yaeji showed off her live recording studio, her café, and her closet full of brightly colored virtual clothes (she said her baby pink bear suit was one of her favorite pieces). Then, with a virtual version of Kim at her side, Yaeji’s Animal Crossing avatar found a secret waterfall where her new merch line was revealed: Yaeji and Kim translated some of her IRL merch, like the kiwi green Yaeji Guild sweatshirt that she wears in her recent “What We Drew” music video, into clothes that you can unlock in the game.
Given the overall aesthetically driven nature of the game, clothing’s always played an important role, and there’s already a lot of options for self-expression built-in. “You can open your closet and choose what outfit you want to put on every day, ranging from Crocs to sticky rice bits on your face (it’s an accessory),” Yaeji says.
Yaeji and Kim’s idea to make official Animal Crossing merch is novel, though, even with the game’s open-ended customization capabilities. They first started talking about the merch in an Animal Crossing–based group chat that they’re both in. “A few weeks ago, our friend Brandon shared a photo of a custom hoodie from the [New York City] label RVNG that someone had made in-game,” Kim says. Since this type of clothing customization is possible in the game itself, Kim thought it would be a fun challenge to reinterpret Yaeji’s actual merch within the Animal Crossing universe.
Kim says she spent most of her time translating Yaeji’s green tie-dye album cover into a virtual T-shirt (the tie-dye effect was especially hard to render in the game), while Yaeji suggested they make add some pieces that would be available in Animal Crossing only. The Animal Crossing–exclusive merch pulls characters from Yaeji’s animated music video, “Waking Up Down,” onto virtual garments: There’s Woofa, the bass music-loving dog, and Eggman, a chef, both of which appear on a hoodie and a top hat, respectively. To access the new Animal Crossing merch, you need to have a Nintendo Switch membership and unlock the Able Sisters store. Then, you can download the clothes by logging onto the custom design portal and inputting the design codes, which are available in Yaeji’s online store (the clothes, in the game, are free to download).
For Kim, the process of putting an outfit together virtually is starting to supersede the tangible everyday ritual of getting dressed. “I don’t have a reason to shop IRL at the moment, but I spend nearly all of my in-game money on clothes,” she says. “Also, as a stylist on semi-hiatus, I have been doing a lot of virtual styling via AC and it’s giving me a lot of ideas for real life. I’ve been on a bit of a school uniform kick, so I’ve been wearing a lot of pleated skirts, knee socks, and loafers.” She was particularly excited when she found a Korean hanbok. “I think right now, when so many of us no longer have a reason to dress up and are living in our sweatpants day after day (at least I am), it has become particularly fun to dress up in Animal Crossing.” If you’re feeling similarly fatigued by your IRL sweatpants, give one of Yaeji’s game-play onion hats or tie-dye T-shirts a virtual spin—it will surely impress all of your animal villager friends.
Originally Appeared on Vogue