The phrase “it’s called fashion, look it up” is typically a meme, but the official Fortnite Twitter account meant it literally when announcing its new collaboration with Balenciaga on Monday. The number of people who can say they’re fully familiar with both companies is apparently a select set—and perhaps the most perplexed of all. Let’s start with the basics: Balenciaga is a storied maison with roots in luxury fashion and couture stretching back to 1919. Fortnite is a shooter-survival video game that’s amassed a cult following since launching in 2017, thanks in large part to people whose only expendable income comes from their allowance. And yet, Fortnite’s developer, Epic Games, and Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, have endeavored to have those two entirely disparate audiences intersect.
The IRL portion of the collab is straightforward—at least if you’re a Balenciaga fan. If you’re in the Fortnite camp, though, the physical luxury Fortnite merch now for sale at Balenciaga stores is the confusing part. Prices start at $395 for a baseball cap, and stretch all the way up to $1,290 for jackets made of Japanese denim. Of course, you don’t have to be a gamer to buy one, which might be why it took only a few hours for many sizes to sell out. Meanwhile, many of those in the Fortnite camp are still trying to wrap their heads around the price tags for hoodies they could print themselves for a fraction of the cost. Dive into the replies on Twitter and you’ll find reactions like “My mom says I have to go to Target to buy my Fortnite clothes.” (And comparatively, that’s a tame one.)
The clientele crossover might not make sense at the first, but the thinking behind the collaboration actually isn’t out of left field. While you can definitely battle your heart out on Fortnite, gamers spend just about as much time roleplaying and customizing their environments and looks, or “skins.” Gvasalia is not only familiar with that vocabulary, but he’s also created skins before: The 40-year-old Georgian designer presented Balenciaga’s fall 2021 collection via custom (and occasionally glitchy) video game. This time around, there are four “fit sets,” meaning head-to-toe Balenciaga looks for four fan-favorite characters like the aptly named Doggo. And if your choice of, say, a tiger-print bodysuit isn’t just for show, you can pick up some battle accessories. The Hourglass Bag is now a chic method of transportation, allowing users to glide on into battle, and the Speed 3.0 sneaker is apparently a pickaxe. Put them to use, or just hang onto them for clout.
It’s also not the first collaboration between a massively popular video game and a high-end designer house. Louis Vuitton has made skins for League of Legends, while Gucci has collaborated with Pokémon Go. Marc Jacobs and Valentino both made exclusive digital items for Animal Crossing. Apparently, your in-game avatars are not expected to have just as much flex as fashion week style stars.