Louis Vuitton gets its game face on
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“He’s the most famous man you know nothing about!” exclaims Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke, speaking of the French luxury house’s founder. Over the phone from Paris, amid the hum of couture shows, Burke is taking a pause to discuss 200 Anecdotes, a mobile game being released by the brand in celebration of what would have been Vuitton’s 200th birthday. It follows Vivienne, a monogrammed flower character who traverses the globe unlocking stories about the house’s origins, including the founder’s two-year journey to Paris on foot from his hometown of Anchay, and his rise from an apprentice trunk-maker to the owner of a luxury-goods business. “It’s a coming-of-age story,” says Burke, a vocal gaming enthusiast. “It’s about a kid having to leave home under duress, acquiring skills, taking risks and becoming himself.”
At a time when “hustling” is the rallying verb of a generation, the rags-to-riches story is likely to resonate with young consumers, as is the choice of medium. “The idea is to start in the 21st century and get people interested in a 21st-century way, which means gaming,” says Burke.
The fashion industry has been dipping its toes into gaming for the past few years – no doubt to capitalise on an industry that has 3bn players globally and is valued at $175.8bn, according to Newzoo. In 2019, a partnership between Louis Vuitton and League of Legends saw the house’s women’s artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière design a unique skin for one of the game’s characters, as well as a capsule collection of clothing and accessories. The luxury brand also created a special case for the Summoner’s Cup – the trophy awarded at the League of Legends World Championship – that married high-tech LEDs with traditional artisanship. “We were one of the first to get involved [in gaming] with League of Legends,” Burke says. “That’s when we realised that the next generation of our clients are going to be plugged into gaming.” Also in 2019, Burberry entered the space with B-Bounce, a game fronted by a deer negotiating treacherous weather conditions while donning gilets and jackets, in a clever association with the house’s expertise in protecting customers from the elements; meanwhile Gucci released a range of games within its app, including a buzzing mascot navigating a maze in Gucci Bee and retro arcade-style ping-pong. A slew of virtual dress-up games have also been released, including Ada and Drest, where players can fit out avatars in luxury goods.
The latest fashion gaming releases also accommodate the frenzied excitement for non-fungible tokens. This is part of the luxury industry’s experimentation with the role NFTs can play as product entities in their own right – an interest that has already been piqued by the likes of Gucci, which auctioned off a four-minute NFT film titled Aria for $25,000 in May, and New York-based jeweller Jacob & Co, which sold an NFT SF24 Tourbillion watch for $100,000 in April. Burberry recently announced a partnership with Mythical Games to launch Blankos Block Party, a multiplayer game featuring NFT vinyl toys that can be collected, upgraded and sold.
Louis Vuitton will make 30 NFTs available to collect in 200 Anecdotes, with 10 of them designed by American digital artist Beeple, who collaborated with the house on digital prints for its spring/summer 2019 collection. “It was foresighted of Nicolas when he engaged with Beeple years before his $69m sale at Christie’s,” says Burke. He is quick, though, to point out that the tokens in 200 Anecdotes are not for sale. “We don’t make any money out of it, so this is a non-commercial, almost pedagogical, educational experience that has to be fun, emotional and dynamic.”
In addition to the game, which is available on iOS and Android, the house is celebrating the 200th anniversary with a documentary, novel and a triptych by the American figurative artist Alex Katz. “Everyone will learn about Louis the man,” says Burke, “that he faced the same trials and tribulations we all face and that he overcame them and created something that will last for eternity.”