Animation Nation - Benjamin Bellwether Fashion Trends

Animation Nation

A Bellwether Insight

Photo: Gensa Hub
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Alright we are gonna pitch you something, and hear us out: let’s all get in a room and film some ads. Wait… maybe that’s not such a good idea. Which is probably why we will see the trend of animation grow in the next couple of years. This trend has a solid foundation, with many musical artists using it for videos, visual snippets on their Spotify songs and more. Not to mention the slew of fashion start-ups aiming to disrupt the traditional runway show. Let’s dive into how we see it playing out in the market…

The (new) fashion week show

While some shows managed to drum up a socially distant audience for the fashion weeks over the past few months, many did not. Some opted for masked-up presentations and outdoor runways, but others went the animation route. Production house RYOT teamed up with several fashion-minded institutions, along with three designers, to create a virtual runway show called The Fabric of Reality.

Hanifa, who was set to have their first runway show during NYFW, staged a 3D show over Instagram Live. The clothes walked up and down a virtual catwalk as if filled by invisible people, creating an engaging and beautifully body-inclusive show.

Patrick McDowell opted for a gaming-animation influenced fashion show in a digitized take on Vatican City. He was part of the Helsinki Fashion Week, run by Digital Village, where attendees were avatars that witnessed a digital-only clothing experience of 20 designers. The sustainability-focused event allowed people to pre-order physical garments and also buy a limited edition digital version to be “dressed” on their avatar and used on social media and the Digital Village platform. One of the events animators, ScotomaLab, is even taking looks from traditional runway shows and digitizing them to flex their skillz on Instagram.

We are also seeing the use of animation for product launches. Converse recently used a CGI-type video to launch their Converse CX shoe, while Prada used a similar approach for another limited-edition Time Capsule launch. Louis Vuitton just posted a cartoon animated video to hype Virgil Abloh’s traveling LV collection.

The video game influence

The gaming industry has been the one to watch for a number of years. Even in COVID-19, there stocks continued to rise, investments continued to come in and innovation still presented itself. Fashion’s early adopters used game figures as prints in their clothing and even their ads. Remember Louis Vuitton’s Final Fantasy model? From there, Nicolas Ghesquiere designed a range of ‘skins’ for the game League of Legends. Covet Fashion has nabbed up many designers, including Peter Som and Lizzy Gee, to design clothing for in-game avatars. Last year, Travis Scott has an entire concert within Fortnite, with a ton of promotion within the game leading up to the virtual event.

The musical influence

In music, animation has long been used to supplement the high costs of live production and create a more engaging world around an artist. But, we see a bit of an uptick in this trend over the last few months. Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia album was released with several animated snippets on Spotify; and, her remixed Club Future Nostalgia was released with a full visual album, with a mix of live action, classic animation and 3d-look moments.

Troye Sivan’s recent single featured an animated version of him that looked like old Final Fantasy characters. (He actually sourced his animator on Instagram.) BLACKPINK’s new song with Selena Gomez couldn’t round out their usual live dance performance music videos alongside the official music video release, so they animated the entire thing.

A look at the data

When we looked into the data, we found that while there is some buzz, not a huge amount of people are actually searching for animation companies. Both ‘digital fashion’ and ‘digital fashion shows’ have had consistent searches over the past 5 years. What has had a big uptick since the beginning of the pandemic is the term ‘virtual fashion,’ specifically around the terms ‘fashion games,’ ‘virtual fashion show’ and ‘virtual fashion designers.’ The latter of those search terms has Clo and Virtuality Fashion on the front page, two software companies that will create your clothing in 3D for prototyping, fittings and virtual showrooms.

A look at our intuition

The fashion industry is certainly gearing up to use more digital platforms to animate their designs, accelerated by COVID-19 and concerns around sustainability of the fashion cycle. We do see early adopters of animation and other digital skin ideas picking up, so the two will most likely meet in the middle in the next 10 years. The rise of Gen-Z gaming shows no sign of slowing down, either, so expect more and more collaborations with fashion brands for ‘skins.’

Our gut check says, if you have the resources, get ahead of the game and invest in sample and buying infrastructure that can be adapted to the end consumer. Look for companies like Clo and The Fabricant to help you streamline these processes. Another is Bigthinx, backed by Prada Group, who is hoping to provide you with an avatar (to your exact specs) while you shop on a brand’s website to virtually “try-on” the clothes. You can expect more and more companies to start specializing in these concepts, while 3d fit modeling companies like Clo and Optitex may start jumping into the consumer-facing side of the industry.

For fashion-centric ad agencies, maybe it’s time to find some dedicated animators that can provide your clients with options for this growing trend.

Animation nation Trend Curve

Marketing advice

In general, video leads to overall better engagement. It also provides an easier (and quicker) opportunity to really explain who you are as a brand. But that includes real life human beings, too (what are those?). So will animated ads and social content get you a good ROI? It depends. One study notes that while it may not lead to more direct purchases, it will absolutely help you increase engagement and click-thru rates.

Engagements? Click Thru Rate? Where am I? Don’t worry, download our free digital marketing metric glossary here.

We think that the animation trend will complement two trends: the nostalgia of looking at the 90’s and early 2000’s and the need for a ‘future’ sunnier outlook. The cartoon and vintage feelz of animation will lend to the 90’s, while the 3D and CGI lewks will lend itself to the future aesthetic.

The big focus will be on inclusivity and expression. Create a diverse cast of characters in your animated ads; in skin color, religious garb, body types and more.

Remember also, that while animated ads can be cheaper, they require much more planning and changes will not be easy or cheap. Make a solid plan, get storyboards approved early and make sure to think through the whole release schedule first so you can align everything. Take a cue from The Fabric of Reality show, where you could enter with an avatar and talk to other guests and the designers at the show, all virtually. Imagine scaling that to a (virtual) in-store experience, or an influencer event, or purchasing directly from your digital animated experience.

The digital world is your virtual oyster my friend. Now go forth, and create.