Luxury and Digital Technology: Geek is Chic!

We’ve noticed luxury brands are collaborating more and more with video game publishers and other digital entertainment companies. Is this a passing trend or are we witnessing something genuine? Well, the pandemic has accelerated the use of virtual technology as a tool for broadcasting and communication. Digital experiences have become a new way of attracting and retaining customers. Brands are offered new ways of expressing themselves and create new links with their customer bases. At the same time, the public is empowered and are able to become more conscious and informed consumers.

Let’s explore a few cases of phygital and virtual technology in the luxury goods industry!

Luxury and Digital Technology: a long-standing affair

Luxury and Digital Technology: a long-standing affair

Major brands in the luxury sector have been using phygital and virtual technology for some time now. Back in 2015, Dior launched an “ultra-immersive” virtual reality headset. The system was designed to provide customers an experience of total immersion in a virtual world. One of the things you can do is explore the backstage of the latest Dior fashion shows. The luxury brand is investing in virtual and especially phygital technology to optimize its customer experience, since these headsets are available in-store. 

A year later, Jean-Paul Gaultier also got in on the act with an immersive 360° VR advertising campaign: BeTheBottle. This creation allowed its audience to become a bottle of perfume as part of an innovative digital experience. The idea was adopted by Prada the following year and adapted to their needs.

How is the luxury goods industry innovating today?

Virtual Fashion Shows

When it comes to luxury, it’s all about fashion, catwalks and glitz. The luxury fashion industry is using virtual technology to preserve its heritage and identity when adapting fashion shows for the future. This can be done without abandoning its traditions and by adapting to new environments.

Last year, Chanel took the plunge and surprised everyone with a digital fashion show thematically centered around cruises, which is accessible online and free for all.

As for Balenciaga, they pushed the envelope even further, by organizing a 100% virtual fashion show, something Demna Gvasalia, the brand’s artistic director, had planned for some time.

After receiving an earth-scented invitation and putting on an Oculus Rift, a handful of privileged guests were able to enjoy the first 100% Virtual Fashion Show.

Luxury brands can offer new in-store customer experiences thanks to Digital Technology

More than half of luxury fashion houses are meeting consumers’ expectations in terms of digital experience innovation. If at first glance the exclusivity of luxury goods seems contradictory with mass digital commerce, the inclusion of digital technology in the world of luxury now seems inevitable. One just has to look at the proliferation of new concept-stores, and personalized customer experiences, before, during and after purchases to witness this industry-wide transformation. Burberry, a brand known for its avant-gardism, was an early adopter of offering experiences to its customers in its flagship London store back in 2012.


What with virtual fitting rooms and 3D body scans, the use of augmented reality is rapidly growing in popularity. One of the more ambitious in-store experiences to use virtual reality has to be Canada Goose’s “Cold Room”. Complex polar weather conditions, which included a constant cabin temperature of -12°C and sounds of footsteps in the snow, were reproduced in the Cold Room for users to test out Canada Goose parkas. The entire phygital experience was carried out in-store, but virtual reality technology has also been used by other luxury brands, like IWC Schaffhausen, on other platforms such as websites, social media and dedicated applications.

Fashion and Gaming: an overview

Another industry that’s vying for the attention of marketing executives is the Gaming world. Many luxury brands have collaborated with video game publishers for the clothing or “skins” of video game characters. In 2021, Balenciaga developed its own virtual fashion collection on Fortnite, and Niantic’s Pokémon Go offered The North Face and Gucci collections. Louis Vuitton will continue to offer League of Legends collector items following their official partnership with Riot Games in 2019 and Moschino is outfitting The Sims 4, The Sims Mobile and FreePlay. A final example of many is The Reference Festival who hosted a virtual avatar fashion show in the Animal Crossing New Horizon video game.

The future of digital luxury

The main question isn’t so much about finding whether the partnership of luxury and digital tech is successful, we know for a fact that it is. It’s more about knowing if there are limits to this unexpected but innovative partnership. At first glance the values surrounding digital, virtual and connected technologies may seem contradictory with those of luxury goods: inclusivity and accessibility up against the luxury values of exclusivity and clientelism. 

So, should luxury brands strive to meet all the expectations of the digital market, even if it means overlooking their own brand essence and culture? The answer could lie with phygital technology. It can enrich a brand’s image, revitalize retail stores and offer countless creative, immersive and personalized opportunities. It can also allow brands to keep a certain degree of exclusivity, something the luxury sector simply cannot afford to lose for their retail stores. 

Balenciaga have understood this well. As you may recall, they were the first to produce a 100% Virtual Fashion Show. Even if only a few VIPs and privileged guests were able to witness the experience, they made sure that the general public was not left out of the equation. Balenciaga designed a video game specifically for the event. The plot consists of the player leaving a Balenciaga store, walking out into a crowded street, through a forest, then into a rave party. Along the way, players come across 50 models, each with their respective Balenciaga outfits.

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