Real-world fashion shows (and in some cases, fashion in general) aren’t options during a pandemic, so how do labels get the word out? In 2020, they flock to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. As Elle and Kotaku have noticed, designers like Marc Jacobs, Sandy Liang and Valentino have been showcasing their latest styles in Nintendo’s village-building game, complete with download codes for those who want to rep brands. Liang even brought the concept of the exclusive pop-up store to the game, with people waiting up to two hours to get virtual threads.
The apparel is sometimes the result of collaborations with others, like Marc Jacobs’ team-up with the Animal Crossing Fashion Archive.
It’s an unusual move, but makes sense given the nature of the game and the cultural zeitgeist. It’s relatively easy to import custom art into the game. And when ACNH is wildly popular among people eager to escape the stress of pandemic lockdowns, it presents a large potential audience. This keeps the brands in the public eye where the runway and lavish galas just aren’t options.
The designs are free, of course, but they could also fuel the rise of digital-only fashion. There’s already a desire to make a good first impression online, whether it’s in a game, social media or a virtual chat session. A viral outbreak just makes digital fashion all the more important — it might be the best way to express yourself when you can’t add real haute couture to your closet.