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Wear It Loud and Proud: Video Games Are the Next In-Thing For Streetwear in Southeast Asia

Street fashion has been popular for quite some time now. This fashion trend includes oversized T-shirts, jackets, hoodies, beanies, jeans, sweatpants, and shoes from popular streetwear brands such as Nike, Adidas, Superdry, Supreme, and the like.

Streetwear is basically simple and fashionable clothes that we saw in the ’90s and incorporates elements from graffiti, skateboarding, hip-hop, and surfing. What started off as a trend of comfort and self-expression turned into a multi-billion dollar business and nowadays, we see many top-tier brands incorporating streetwear trends into their collections.

This trend targets youths mainly under the age of 25. However, we can see that it is being adopted by those in their 30s as well. The same demographic can be seen in the gaming and esports demography, giving rise to a brand new branch of streetwear that incorporates both gaming and esports.

Brands have quickly noticed this trend and have been incorporating gaming and esports themes into their apparel. Nike was one of the pioneers with the release of its Nike PG-2 Playstation Colourway back in 2018 and last year, the Nike Airmax 97 sneakers inspired by the Nintendo 64.

So, how do these brands bring in their gaming/esports apparel to regions like Southeast Asia? Enter Culture Group, the creative and commercial force behind a number of leading brands that leveraged the power of popular culture, including Riot Games in China and Globe Telecom in Southeast Asia.

We spoke to Michael Patent, the founder and president of Culture Group, who has created a new kind of marketing agency that pairs brands with popular culture.

Gaming was previously something people did to pass the time but has since evolved into a lifestyle. As Patent puts it, “gaming is a thriving passion globally that has moved from cult to culture”.

“Much in the way rock stars and sporting heroes led the way in determining what was cool in the past, games, and esports are now the new platform for creating cultural relevance. Fashion and apparel are an outcome of where fan attention is being paid,” he said.

This is especially true since casual gamers can recognize iconic gaming characters like Mario and Pikachu, thanks to their prevalence in the media and global icon status.

Besides video games, the multi-billion dollar esports industry has also made significant inroads in the fashion industry to cater to the legions of esports fans worldwide.

Recently, Nike announced a gaming collection in conjunction with the League of Legends Worlds Championship. This comes as no surprise as Nike is one of the sponsors of the event and will continue to until 2022. This collection includes a special version of the Air Jordan 1 High Zoom CMFT, which features the colours from the LoL World Championship trophy.

In addition, the collaboration also gave birth to the “Good Game” Nike Blazer Mid ’77 style, the Air Max 90, the low- and high-top versions of the Air Force 1, Air Max 270 React, Air Max 2X, and the Joyride Dual Run 2. There’s also a collection of “Good Game” T-shirts, hoodies, and sweaters as well.

While gamers in the past shied away from their made-up identities in video games, Patent said youth today often viewed games and esports as a primary form of entertainment.

“Professional games are the new global celebrities, oftentimes carrying more cultural cachet than mainstream celebrities.”

So, imagine yourself walking down the street and running into someone wearing a Sonic the Hedgehog T-shirt. The feeling of solidarity between gamers when they see others wearing video games apparel can create an unspoken connection between each other.

These apparel may be expensive, but Patent said streetwear and hype culture have proven that low prices is not a determining factor in the success of apparel drops.

“In fact, the adverse is often true. The higher the price, the more desire is generated.”

It is, therefore, not unusual to see consumers queueing in front of stores at midnight just to be one of the first to purchase a drop here in Southeast Asia.

Thanks to this surge of interest in streetwear, Patent predicts that the intersection of streetwear and esports in massive markets like China will lead to a ‘cultural moment’.

With China being one of the largest markets in the world for streetwear and gaming, it is no surprise that Nike decided to drop the Good Game collection there first. And things are only starting to heat up.

“Games and esports are the new battlegrounds for the hearts and minds of consumers – expect brands to rush to secure the best talent with the biggest commercial impact,” Patent noted.

He said the boom is already underway, and the next phase will see product drops (product releases) of physical items taking place within the games.

“These ‘phygital’ releases will blur the lines of the real and virtual worlds, though with real economic impact to brands and games.”

This concept isn’t entirely new; Samsung ran a similar campaign when they offered a Galaxy skin for Fortnite players who purchased the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 smartphone.

So, it’s not too far-fetched an idea for brands to employ a similar method in the future whereby consumers can redeem in-game versions of an actual product they bought. Now wouldn’t that be cool?

Article adapted from IGN Southeast Asia