London-based fashion game developer Drest shifted into beauty mode on Friday, releasing an array of virtual makeup from Gucci Beauty in the app for a limited time thanks to an exclusive partnership with the brand.
Ushering in the game’s new “Beauty Mode,” players will be able to experiment with 29 assets representing products such as Rouge de Beauté Brillant lipstick, Vernis à Ongles Nail Polish, Palette Beauté des Yeux Floral eye shadow and others.
The range of color options, combinations and even application intensity make for more than 40 looks that players can experiment with in the game. The app also allows them to purchase the real-world products.
The update kicks off a new beauty-oriented gameplay feature that challenges users to make over a model avatar and offers a new set of poses to place them in. It’s similar to Drest’s more fashion-oriented photo shoot challenge, except that it features the avatar in a close-up to focus on the face and upper body, instead of pulling back to show the full-body look.
Beauty isn’t entirely new to Drest. The company developed a set of looks for the game with celebrity makeup artist Mary Greenwell. But those were pre-set looks for users to complement the core styling features of the game. The Gucci effort allows players to try different products, apply them as they see fit and participate in the close-up challenges or add them to the game’s mood boards.
The catch is that there’s only a limited time to work with them. Similar to exclusive drops in fashion, the Gucci-themed challenge and digital makeup will be available for just 72 hours. After that users will still have some access, but only through looks that other players have made using Gucci Beauty.
This latest initiative returns Drest to its launch partner, Gucci, which joined forces with the start-up for its 2019 debut. Since then the app’s partnership roster has been expanding to include names like Valentino, Christian Louboutin, Oscar de la Renta and, as of last month, Cartier, in a similar project for fine jewelry and watches.
For Drest founder Lucy Yeomans, beauty represented a challenge compared to outfitting digital models with fashion, accessories and shoes.
Representing the look of cosmetics on different skin tones and with different sorts of applications is a more complex affair than placing a shoe or blouse on a digital model. It’s a challenge beauty companies have faced as well in virtual reality. But Yeomans believes Drest’s avatar-driven approach offers some advantages over beauty AR.
“I think, in AR, you can either kind of have a full look or you can have a lip,” she told WWD, “but it’s very difficult for you to have the agency to go in and kind of mix collections, and mix products and experiment.”
Right now, the Gucci Beauty launch is a single branded effort, but Yeomans is in talks to bring more beauty brands into the game.
It’s more than an appeal for creativity – it’s a business decision.
Functionally, Drest is a digital version of a dress-up game, with the same spirit of play as one may remember from childhood, but geared for a more grown-up sensibility and peppered with e-commerce. That’s powerful, because, according to Yeomans, the gameplay itself creates a closer feeling of connection to certain products or brands.
“It’s kind of the opposite of how one might view traditional advertising — they want more advertising, they want more partnerships, not less, because they feel like it’s a moment to really get close to the brand,” Yeomans explained.
“It taps into that whole idea of co-creation: They’re creating something with the brand for the brand. Thus they feel very invested in it and so, interestingly, they love having these brand moments in game, which is really exciting because it turns the whole advertising piece on its head.”
The approach also seems to fly in the face of typical tech priorities that lionize “frictionless” experiences that view easier, faster and simpler as better. Here, with the user’s time, energy and creativity, their investment is the point.
Of course, Drest wants to make the e-commerce piece of the experience as seamless as possible, Yeomans added, including work to build more product discovery into the app. She also has grand plans for the core game as well.
The company — which brought on a new chief technology officer, Martin Robaszewski, in June — is now working on bringing in new poses, animations and more avatar development.
Right now, the range of avatars spans 20 characters, including realistic likenesses of five supermodels: Natalia Vodianova, Precious Lee, Irina Shayk, Imaan Hammam and Candice Huffine. Now it wants to help players see themselves inside the game.
“There’s a huge amount of work that’s going in on a sort of create-your-own/selfie avatar. Because of the very realistic way that we’ve approached our avatars — they have different hairlines, different hair textures, different face shapes — it makes it very difficult to do anything too generic, particularly when it comes to applying beauty assets,” Yeomans explained.
“So we’re working at the moment on a really game-changing project that will allow people to create someone that’s much closer to themselves in-game.”