Can you stay stylish while catching ‘em all? Natalie Hughes investigates…
Despite my affinity with all things digital, I don’t ‘do’ video games. My brief affair with the 2D variety (Super Mario Bros on the original NES, if you must know) came to a halt when they assumed a third dimension. Spatial awareness isn’t one of my strong points.
Needless to say, when Nintendo unveiled Pokémon GO, I remained stubborn as an ox (or a Charizard). I tweeted ‘Pokémon GO away’, avoided the app store and rolled my eyes at any mention of (Pikachu). But alas, I am a sucker for marketing. I’m ashamed to admit that I religiously stocked up on Starbucks drinks – even when I was optimally caffeinated – simply to achieve ‘gold’ status. I bought not one but three pairs of Isabel Marant wedged trainers (soon making their way to Vestiaire Collective). I promptly purchased Benefit’s Lash mascara after seeing a slew of sponsored YouTube videos (NB: not worth it; Eyeko is better).
And so, on July 31st 2016, I succumbed. I downloaded Pokémon GO, sheepishly adding it to the last page on my iPhone next to other such guilty pleasures, including Urban Massage and SpellMania. I anxiously awaited the start-up screen. I chose my avatar. ‘Ooh, you get to choose her clothes!’ I exclaimed (to my cat, the only one privy to my dirty secret), reminiscing about my favourite ‘90s board game, Fashion Wheel. I recoiled in horror as the garment options presented themselves: functional separates in rudimentary shades of orange, purple and blue; the kinds of baseball caps you find in mountainwear shops; sporty, multi-coloured trainers (not the normcore kind); and – horror of horrors – low-slung belts. Where was the athleisure? The directional sportswear? The technical accessories? I looked at the cat despairingly; she gave me a knowing nod.
Nintendo developers, I implore you, expand the avatar wardrobe. There’s no reason why our Pokémon GO counterpart can’t be totally chic while remaining agile enough to catch ‘em all; in fact, athleisure seems to have been designed for this sole purpose. I’m thinking Lucas Hugh leggings, a Vetements tracksuit and the Yeezy kicks I couldn’t get hold of IRL. If I can’t live out my alternative reality of being a Y-3 sportswear-wearing hipster in a virtual world, then where can I? I want an outfit that Raf Simons would design, M.I.A. would wear and Hypebeast would write about. Why deny our avatars good style? Where is the sartorial justice?
Seriously though, Pokémon GO offers an untapped opportunity for fashion brands to capture the attention of the elusive millennial and moreover, mysterious Gen Z. It worked for Kendall and Kylie, trend arbiters for (a significant portion of) Generation Z; leather label Nour Hammour designed a virtual capsule collection for the sisters’ app as way to engage with an aspirational customer.
If Tiffany’s recent sponsored Snapchat Lens is anything to go by, luxury brands are becoming increasingly willing to spend money on millennial marketing. The Lens was sponsored for an undisclosed amount, though estimates are in the region of $700k. Just like the messaging app, Pokémon GO boasts enough power and universal pull to attract luxury powerhouses – as well as the data to justify that all-important ROI. And the very nature of virtual reality means the options are endless. Brands could sponsor an item in the avatar wardrobe, or even stage a virtual fashion show to coincide with fashion week, with show venues doubling as Pokémon Gyms. Pokémon GO fashion week – imagine that.
Conversely IRL, there’s an abundance of (admittedly questionable) Pokémon GO-inspired clothing and wearables. Nike has created trainers inspired by P characters, wholesalers have populated eBay with all manner of themed (and, one would assume, unofficial) merchandise and Nintendo are due to release the distinctly unsexy ‘Pokémon GO Plus’ smartwatch, an unsightly wristband that vibrates when one is nearing a Pokémon. I won’t be investing in one – unless that is, if it’s redesigned by Hermes as a Collier de Chien cuff, or, I dunno, if Alexa Chung wears one. I’m powerless to marketing, remember.
Words: Natalie Hughes
Image via Paper Blog