The digital designers making millions from in-game fashion

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When 22-year-old Samuel Jordan, from Florida, began designing virtual accessories for Roblox three years ago, it was just a hobby — he had always enjoyed designing games and characters as a teenager. But as demand for his intricate virtual earrings, headdresses, hats and garments surged, Jordan turned digital design into a thriving virtual fashion business. Cut to 2022 and he’s one of Roblox’s top sellers, selling 24 million units to date, racking up $1 million in sales for 2021 and working with brands including Stella McCartney and Forever 21 to help them enter Web3.

A similar success story is Mishi McDuff, a US-based digital fashion designer who founded her virtual fashion house Blueberry eight years ago after online users took note of the virtual outfits she was making for herself to wear in the Second Life metaverse. In response, McDuff started creating pieces for various platforms including Roblox. “The first year I did it as a hobby, I made about $60,000. So, I went full time on Blueberry and the next year we made a million dollars.” Mishi focuses on her own designs but has collaborated with luxury brand Jonathan Simkhai on a collection for Metaverse Fashion Week.

Blueberry sales plateaued for a number of years after its launch, with revenues steady at around $1 million annually, McDuff says. Now, as user-generated content platforms such as Roblox have become more mainstream, it’s become much easier to monetise digital fashion. Blueberry is expected to hit $1.8 million in sales this year as the company designs in-game fashion across multiple titles, including Roblox, Fortnite and Spatial.

The number of gamers worldwide is expected to surpass three billion in 2022, representing over a third of the world’s population, according to market research firm Emarketer. As fashion interest surges across games, digital fashion houses are primed for growth on the back of the unique looks they are creating for people’s avatars.

One such startup is Republiqe, a UK-based digital fashion house that designs its own virtual collections for fashion brands such as Coach, Adidas, Axel Arigato and Ester Manas to help them enter gaming, NFTs and Web3. Before launching his virtual fashion house, Republiqe founder James Gaubert had a career as a stylist and designer, working with the likes of Bulgari and Louis Vuitton. He switched to virtual design after spending time in Southeast Asia where he witnessed the environmental and social impact of physical fashion manufacturing, while simultaneously observing his teenage son glued to games like Fortnite.