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Sneak Preview of ‘Next-gen Fashion Gaming’ on Show in Berlin

Berlin-based fashion gamers have been working with German designer Esther Perbandt. A collaboration that will be shown on the sidelines of Berlin Gallery Weekend previews what their next-generation digital fashion game can do.

Sneak Preview of ‘Next-gen Fashion Gaming’ on Show in Berlin

Embroidered birds will rise from Esther Perbandt’s gown in an augmented reality installation in Berlin.

The creators of a mobile-first fashion game called Kutur Runway have collaborated with Berlin-based designer Esther Perbandt to create an “augmented reality” experience that promises to bring fashion, art and technology together. The collaboration will be presented during the German capital’s Gallery Weekend, which starts Friday and runs until Sunday.

Using their phones, visitors to the installation at the city’s new Fotografiska museum of contemporary photography will see one of Perbandt’s dresses come alive. Hand-embroidered birds on the gown, in Perbandt’s signature black and complete with a headpiece made of synthetic hair, will take flight indoors. Visitors will also be able to try the dress on virtually.

The Esther Perbandt X Kutur Runway installation is a side event at Berlin Gallery Weekend, an annual event first launched in 2005. This year, 54 galleries will present new artists and original works to high-powered collectors and museum bosses in town for the event.

Galleries may only participate if they are invited and the focus is mostly on serious art and serious money. But there are also plenty of other side events: Highlights for those interested in the intersection of art and fashion include a party for Berlin’s best-dressed thrown by Gucci, cosponsor of the weekend, an exhibition by German Vogue, another event by streetwear brand Supreme, and plenty of watching the well-heeled.

Perbandt and the creators of Kutur Runway became involved because the game makers approached Perbandt to ask if she would like to see some of her designs inside their game. Kutur Runway won’t be launched until later this year, likely around fall, but in preparation the game’s creator, Nicola Mizon, had already been making connections in the city’s apparel sector.

Sneak Preview of ‘Next-gen Fashion Gaming’ on Show in Berlin

The real Perbandt gown.

A mobile gaming entrepreneur originally from the U.K. who’s been in the sector for a decade now, Mizon says she remembers playing with cardboard dress-up dolls as a child. “And it felt to me like a lot of mobile fashion games had not really evolved a long way from that,” she told WWD. “Now technology has advanced so much that we can not only make something that looks visually stunning but we can also make a game in a style that’s appropriate for adults. That’s what I haven’t liked so much about some of the earlier fashion games,” she noted. “As an adult, you can’t relate to the clothing and everything looks like it was made for kids.”

Recent studies show that women make up around 48 percent of the world’s estimated 2.8 billion mobile gamers, Mizon pointed out. Additionally, as U.S. games distributor Gamehouse discovered in a 2023 poll, “a vast majority of women who spend their downtime playing mobile games (73 percent) fall into the 35 to 44 age bracket.”

To this end, Mizon was approaching fashion brands to ask if she and her team could turn their clothes into 3D looks online in order to include them in Kutur Runway.

Mizon explains that the mobile-only, free-to-play fashion game is inspired by elements in all her favorite fashion games, as well as reality television like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Making The Cut” — the show that originally brought Perbandt global fame when she made it to runner-up during the first season in 2020.

Kutur Runway will pit dueling stylists (the players) against one another. They will be assigned a task, such as creating a fresh outfit for a beach party or for somebody starting a new job, making over an Instagram influencer or putting together a glamorous look for a named celebrity who’s attending a red carpet event.

In keeping with the contemporary nature of such a game, Mizon and her team have made sure that players can choose from a wide range of body types and genderless clothing; they can also turn their hand to crafting or design and will get points for sustainability and for recycling. In regard to the latter, their subjects can even wear the same clothes twice, something often punished in other fashion games.

Sneak Preview of ‘Next-gen Fashion Gaming’ on Show in Berlin

Berlin’s Namilia, famed for their wild clubbing looks, will also feature in the new game.

Perbandt became involved when Mizon approached her to ask if Kutur Runway could turn some of her designs into digital assets for the game. “Then Esther was talking about working on this exhibit and we thought, we already have one of her dresses done, why don’t we build something special to help her showcase her ballgown? She had a lot of digital knowledge already and knew what we were talking about. So it just seemed like a really cool way to preview the different worlds coming together,” Mizon said.

The dramatic Perbandt gown will also eventually appear in the finished game. Mizon says her team is still working on getting other designers involved but Namilia, a digital-first brand that makes attention-getting clubwear, has also signed on. There’s potential for e-commerce too although, as Mizon says, it’s important to carefully consider how and why to commercialize aspects of a game.

“Right now, I just see that there is a great intersection happening where fashion is a lot more open to gaming. It’s not just for nerds anymore and it’s also become a lot more social,” Mizon explains. “This is just right for a project like ours.”