PARIS — Fashion has been making growing inroads into gaming in the hope of connecting with younger customers, but its efforts will be successful only when the people conceiving these online experiences become gamers themselves, said Benoit Pagotto, cofounder of RTFKT and senior director, brand and partnerships, at Nike Inc.
In his presentation at the WWD Metaverse Symposium held here, titled “Can Fashion Get It Right in a Web3 World?,” Pagotto derided the rush into gaming that took place after hip-hop artist Travis Scott’s history-making concert on publisher Epic Games Inc.’s “Fortnite” game in April 2020, which drew a record 12 million live viewers.
“To me it was the moment a lot of the people in this room woke up to something that was actually brewing since a very, very long time,” Pagotto said. “A lot of the fashion industry never really cared about video games, and they cared recently out of an intention that was purely driven by FOMO, which is a big sentiment you have in the NFT world as well.”
Subsequently, a lot of people contacted Pagotto, who founded RTFKT in January 2020 with Chris Le and Steven Vasilev, for advice on how to launch their own virtual event with gaming platforms. The start-up, best known for its digital sneakers and collectibles, was acquired by Nike last December.
“They all had the impression you could pull up an interactive experience in ‘Fortnite’ in a month, which is totally nonsense, because this took nine months for Epic and ‘Fortnite’ to do together,” Pagotto said.
“You can’t do it from one day to the other, and you need to actually put in the work and actually speak to the right people to really understand that even this for the video game industry was years in the making, to be able to make such a live event in so many different servers, experienced by millions of kids around the world,” he added.
To say that Pagotto was unimpressed with the inaugural Metaverse Fashion Week, held in the blockchain-based virtual world of Decentraland in March, is putting it mildly. Participating brands spanned virtual fashion trailblazers like DressX and Auroboros to marquee maisons such as Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab and Etro.
“I picked a bad example on purpose just to make fun of you, but two years later, you do a bulls–t Metaverse Fashion Week in Decentraland, which is really not what you should be doing in a place where there’s no one, and then after you’re happy and you tell your boss you did something in the metaverse, but that’s clearly not it. You need to go a lot deeper than that,” he admonished attendees.
“The biggest challenge on fashion and Web3 is who are they really targeting?” he added. “I think a lot of things that are being done are targeting their colleagues instead of actual real people.”
Pagotto is convinced that video game culture is poised to overtake mainstream culture, meaning that participation will no longer be an option. “The best thing to actually understand all of this is not to read your McKinsey reports,” he continued. “It’s really to play some games.”
He advised participants to go beyond popular video games like “FIFA” and “Fortnite” and explore the world of independent games, citing the examples of “Inside” and “The Witness,” as well as elaborately designed adventure games like “Detroit: Become Human,” “God of War” or “The Last of Us.”
“The video game industry has been brewing since a very long time and spawned a lot of different interesting things on the tech side, on the storytelling side, on the community side, that you will only learn if you actually go deep and actually play, because if you don’t, you’re going to get even more lost,” Pagotto argued. “It’s never too late to get interested in video games and understand the future.”