Hello, and welcome to the year 2021, where fashion brand Balenciaga is selling hoodies on a dog in a video game, and you can buy the same hoodie in real life for $US725 ($1,002).
You’ve seen this kind of thing play out before, of course, like back in 2019 when Louis Vuitton launched a line based on League of Legends. And just like then, this has no interest in being any kind of meaningful collaboration, it’s just two companies flexing their advertising budgets in the most banal and predictable way possible. We want to sell to the kids (or, in this case, expose the brand to the kids). Where are the kids? Ah, they are in Fortnite.
Aside from a $US725 ($1,002) hoodie that looks just like the one on the dog up top, there is also a $US425 ($587) t-shirt that looks like it fell off a clearance rack in the kid’s section at Target:
Maybe my brain has been rotted by collecting sneakers for too long, but there absolutely can and have been countless examples of collaborations between two companies in these spaces that make sense, and are well received — even embraced — by people. PlayStation and sneakers go very well together, as do rappers and sneakers. Korean pop artists and McDonalds Happy Meals are another example. A successful collaboration can be an instance where fans can recognise that, OK, of course this is about advertising and making money, but within those parameters there are things that can still be brought together and it means something, taps into something they feel about both even if they can’t understand or articulate it, and they dig it.
But this? Fortnite exists in 2021 simply as a means of pulling the entirety of popular culture into its gaping maw. It is Ready Player One without the literary aspirations. The “Avengers Assemble” moment, only it’s Rambo, an NFL player, Travis Scott and Master Chief stepping through the portals. Fortnite has no culture, it has no theme, it has no feeling, it is just a platform. An app store with guns.
It’s fitting, then, that this is a collaboration featuring the most thoughtless products imaginable. At a time when fashion brands, once famed for their exquisite tastes and unique flavours, are ditching their legacies in pursuit of uniformity and mass appeal, a label releasing a hoodie that looks like a 15 year-old made it with a screenpress, in an enormous ad platform masquerading as a video game, is one of the most depressingly 2021 things I have yet to see in this lap around the sun
It may not be what anyone wants, or even could have been if more than a minimum of effort had been applied, but it’s also exactly what the game deserves.