As the pandemic has forced fashion companies to rethink how they launch their new designs, Balenciaga decided to tackle the challenge head-on, and not just wait for the runway to open again.
Instead of simply trying to capture a realistic runway show, they translate the essence and feeling of their Fall 2021 collection into an experience. What they came up with was nothing short of magic. The futuristic game called “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow” not only showcases the futuristic fashion apparel but actually places the player into a world not limited by “traditional” constraints so they can immerse themselves into the spirit of the collection.
Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director, invited players to go through a hero’s journey, set in the near future of 2031. During the 20 min game, the player walks through five different environments, starting in a store and ending up in salvation. Along the way, the player is introduced to countless volumetrically captured models wearing different looks from the collection and different messages that convey a future in which we have a healthier balance between nature and industry.
Gaming and Volumetric – Blending cutting edge technology with a modern medium
Fashion brands need to stay modern to stay relevant. Brands need to meet their customer on the platform of the customer’s choosing, but that’s not enough, brands should adopt the same technologies that their trend-setting customers do.
Balenciaga excelled at just that by choosing to build the experience as a game. Gaming has moved from the fringes to the main stage, becoming an essential part of many of our lives. We’re used to projecting ourselves into the digital world, so entering the world Balenciaga built feels natural.
What we’re not used to is the technology that was used, which makes the experience so novel.
The game doesn’t rely solely on 3d avatars but uses volumetric video and photogrammetry to capture real-life representations, or holograms, of the subject. In other words, Balenciaga didn’t create digital avatars of the models and clothes but used real 3D photos and videos.
In a statement, the Spanish label said that Afterworld was the “largest volumetric video project ever undertaken,” which was combined with photogrammetry and the latest computer technology to allow next-to-reality visuals and rendering with impressive detail.
Storytelling at the Center
It’s easy to feel tempted to put the product at the center of your message, but should we do that? Focusing too much on the product can take away from the experience, losing the spirit of the story you’re telling your customers?
Society has never been as volatile as it is now. On top of environmental issues, we are faced with a global pandemic, that has made us afraid of physically meeting each other. It’s no wonder that we’re looking for new ways to interpret the world. As consumers, we’re looking for companies to produce more than just products.
Brands can create meaning and purpose. Every time a brand interacts with a customer, there’s a chance of leaving a message that will slowly build a preferable future, an opportunity to inspire and guide consumers towards more sustainable choices. Afterworld captured this potential perfectly. By setting the game in a not-so-dystopian, not-so-far-away future makes the experience more relatable, and more inspiring. Because the portrayed future has its roots in our present, we can easily identify ways, as individuals, to create the desired future.
To tell the inspirational story, the Spanish label combined mythology and timeless elements with the near future.
In the game, you can see billboards depicting both honeybees and their robotic counter-parts pollinating. You can also see timeless, sustainable, and durable fashion, where clothes can be worn and repurposed over and over again until there is nothing left.
Once we finish the game we’re rewarded by a peaceful breathing exercise, literally, reminding us of what is essential and primordial, focusing us on what we should prioritize.
The Choice of Technology To Tell Your Story
Technology, as we know, is just the tool, not the message. A powerful story can be told in any shape and form, and it will still be strong enough to circle the world.
Yet, the technology we choose to tell our stories does have an impact. Our attention spans are getting shorter while the competition for those few, valuable seconds are getting fiercer. To put it bluntly, if brands don’t make it engaging and entertaining, their stories won’t be heard.
Just imagine how Balenciaga’s story would have spread if it was told in written form or even as a standard 2D video. The story might be the same, but the impact definitely wouldn’t.
Holographic immersive experiences are the newest, most impactful, and engaging format to tell a story. The true-to-life visuals paired with the interactivity of XR will help grab consumers’ valuable attention, and that’s already a huge win for any brand.