E-sports organization Gen.G is hoping to expand its reach with the signing of designer Heron Preston as executive brand adviser.
Preston, who has collaborated with the New York City Department of Sanitation and NASA, adds Gen.G to his mix of unexpected partners. Gen.G is one of the leading e-sports organizations bridging the U.S. and Asia, and owns and operates teams for League of Legends, Overwatch, Valorant, NBA 2K and the first and only all-female Fortnite team in the U.S., Team Bumble, started in partnership with the Bumble app.
In the new role, he will design two limited-edition products for the organization and provide general creative counsel and advisement. The first of two designs will launch later this year for League of Legends, the online game that is one of the most popular global e-sports tournaments, which Gen.G, under the Samsung Galaxy banner at the time, were named World Champions in 2014 and 2017.
“I’m so excited that we are able to work with him, because he thinks outside of the box,” said Gina Chung Lee, vice president of brand for Gen.G. “Being able to work with him during this time will be great for us. Since we’ve started to work with him, he’s really tried to immerse himself in our culture and work with the gamers. It’s a small community so it shows so much respect for someone [like Heron] to want to know the intent.”
Preston said he was drawn to Gen.G for its different approach to e-sports and gaming. Gen.G has introduced educational programs and initiatives within the organization, and is making efforts to attract female gamers through summer programs and teams.
The organization founded, owns and operates Gen.G Esports Academy, Asia’s first fully integrated academic e-sports academy in Seoul, where students learn traditional subjects for half of the day and train the other half. In the States, they company has partnered with the Eastern Michigan University and the University of Kentucky, and with the University of Pennsylvania on the Penn Relays.
“We were supposed to do a gaming lounge to engage runners when they weren’t running, but due to COVID-19, we took the entire Penn Relay digital on Minecraft,” said Chung Lee. “We had people enter a track meet online and set up traps, fireballs shooting up, and an ice luge. We broadcast the event on Twitch and had people from the University and people that love the relays speak about it.”
Chung Lee said that although gaming tends to be male-dominated, nothing inhibits women to achieve at the highest level. This inspired Gen.G to seek the top female players in the country to create the first all-female Fortnite team. One of the top Fortnite players in the world, Gen.G Moqii, is only 13 years old and on Gen.G’s Fortnite team though she is not on Team Bumble.
Chung Lee added that the company recently finished the Gamer Girls Getting It Done summer camp, a mentorship program with Eastern Michigan where students met pro players, content creators and women executives in gaming.
“We want to make sure that Gen.G is correctly positioned to grow a broader audience,” she said. “We’re excited to get Heron’s perspective on how to propel forward. He’s done an amazing job on his own collections and initiatives. We saw that and thought this would be the perfect way to join forces as Gen.G grows bigger, broader and better.”
“Fashion design and e-sports isn’t so much of a thing, so it felt new and innovative to me,” Preston said.
The fashion and gaming tie-up is still fairly new. FaZe Clan has teamed with Champion and Kappa among others on apparel collections, Doug Barber, formerly of Reigning Champ, joined 100 Thieves to design, and this year, Jeff Staple created uniforms for the 2020 Overwatch League season.
In addition, two-time CFDA Award-winning designer Maxwell Osborne of Public School was one of the first designers to tie up with an e-sports or gaming organization when he joined Andbox as a creative director of consumer products. And Nicholas Ghesquiere of Louis Vuitton in 2019 unveiled a trophy case and character skins for League of Legends, as well as a capsule collection inspired by the game.
There is synergy between fashion and gaming beyond apparel, and Preston sees opportunity in bridging the two worlds. “I think this is only the beginning of the growth,” he said. “I think existing audiences are growing bigger. This whole world of e-sports is just the beginning. We’re starting to scratch the surface with what’s possible with e-sports. Growing up was about going to the arcade, gathering around the Street Fighter arcade, but it would only be five of us. Now it’s blown up to a scale I never would’ve imagined.”