In a recent presentation in New York, Parsons School of Design students showed off clothes they’d created over the course of a semester. Looks include a pale pink neckline top and pants with deep-sea-inspired patterns, a strapless mini dress made of shimmering gold feathers, and a gown patterned with strands of gravity-defying water droplets swirling in its orbit. But none of the clothes were designed by humans. It does not even exist in the physical world.
The nine looks were made by students in Parsons’ class Roblox, the sprawling world of online gaming that millions of parents can’t get their kids to stop talking about. These kids will soon be able to buy and wear Parsons designs — or at least their digital counterparts can.
The final show is the culmination of a semester-long course presented by Parsons in collaboration with Roblox for the first time this year. It was conceived as a way to give students hands-on experience with tools that could become increasingly relevant to their future careers, says Kyle Lee, the associate professor of Communications Design and Technology who teaches the course.
“We as a university wanted to work on this project because we wanted to know what skill sets students would need to succeed on this platform,” Lee says. “[Roblox is] Also interested in converting their audience from 12 and younger to 17 to 24. And I thought, “We’ve got the perfect sample to test all this stuff.”
Although some of the students who have applied and been accepted to the course come from a traditional background in the garment industry, the class has a range of experiences from game design to architecture.
Yoshi Lee (no relation to Kyle Lee) never played Roblox before joining the course but compares the digital clothing in the game by choosing the outfit animal crossingwhere digital dressing is clearly an extension of self-expression.
“It’s funny that when it rains, we go home and put on raincoats,” Lee says of the play. animal crossing. “It’s very similar when I was playing Roblox with my friends. We went to this The game scene, and we changed the clothes to match this game scene. And we go to that one, and then we have to love the change for that.”
Zhenyu Yang, a Parsons student with a background in fashion, says he was amazed at how easy it was to create clothes digitally and how many options the medium opened up. In one project, he digitally recreated a physical gown he had made in the past. Only this time, he didn’t need to run around the Garment District in New York looking for a piece of cloth that was the right size. The weight of the clothes does not matter either – there is no need to wear them physically.
“Working in the digital space gives you a lot of freedom in terms of the structures you want,” says Yang. For another project, he and a partner made a silver and green cyborg costume with separate chest, leg, and shoulder armor inspired by the anime he grew up with. “[The cyborg armor] It won’t work in real life. [It could be made] Of metals or other things – it is not possible for people to wear them.”
But digital fashion comes with its own set of limitations. Lea Melendez is part of a team that created an asymmetrical jacket that looks like it’s made of elongated, voluminous disco balls, as well as a black bodysuit with corkscrew wraps hanging down one leg. Melendez’s costume, with its reflective sides on each part of the jacket, was initially too detailed to be run-down. Roblox, which has its own set of requirements for items for sale in the market. Melendez and her partner had to lower the level of three-dimensional detail that digital design had.
Although Roblox has teamed up with Parsons for this course, digital fashion is out there. Fortnite Players have an ever-changing selection of limited edition in-game versions to purchase and apply to their avatars, including looks like celebrities or star Wars Characters. When Meta launched a clothing and accessory store for her avatar, designer jackets and suits were among the first items to sell. The promise of the so-called metaverse is that people will be able to take their stuff with them wherever they go in digital spaces. But for platforms like Roblox It is the primary ecosystem in which these goods are made and used – and one of the few that has an audience willing to pay money for it.
Yang was the only student in the class who was about 20 years old Roblox Before he took the course, he rarely played, he says. Even Coach Lee didn’t play Roblox before starting his studies. On the other hand, his young son completes household chores for money to buy Robux, the in-game currency used to buy clothes and other digital goods. Yang envisions the audience for the cyborg suit to be children who like the same things he did when he was younger.
This is one of the main tensions that exist for Roblox – No matter how you slice it, demographics are small. The company has worked to appeal to slightly older users by offering features like age-restricted games, ad revenue sharing, and fewer language restrictions (older kids can use swear words!). last week, Roblox Founder and CEO David Paszuki has hinted that more mature experiences like dating, movie premieres or news could be the future of the platform. Parsons course is an extension of Roblox Trying to prove that it is a viable and legitimate tool for adult life.
For Parsons students in the classroom, the other truth is that Roblox It’s not primarily a gaming platform because hardly any of them use it that way. It is a potential way to make money from their work and a place where jobs can develop in the future. Digital clothing can be very profitable for companies like Roblox – Epic Games, for example, It made nearly $50 million Only on a set of in-game NFL skins that players have purchased.
Roblox needs developers like Parsons students for its platform. For the most part, the company doesn’t create its own games or “experiences,” but rather relies on a sea of developers to create content, from novice gamers, including kids, to more established studios with staff. Roblox representatives joined the class for guest lectures and discussions and provided technical support and troubleshooting to the students as they created their digital designs. Clothes from the session, which are in the process of being uploaded for sale at roblox, It ranges from 70 to 100 Robux, or about 88 cents to $1.25 (Roblox takes part of the sales for market purchases).
“If you stop creating content, people will forget about you after a month or two.”
To developers promise Roblox They, too, might hit it big and make a living off the game, but success is far from guaranteed. There has been criticism in the past about how this happened Roblox It can be exploitative for young kids who think they will be able to make money on the platform, only to not end up making money. last fall, Roblox He said that the vast majority of people making money on the platform are over the age of 18 and that the top 1,000 developer was making about $32,000 a year.
“There’s a lot of competition, and people are angry,” says Coach Lee. “If you stop creating content, people will forget about you after a month or two.”
Schools like Parsons hope to bridge the gap between what students work on in class and what jobs might look like after graduation. And while tech companies like Epic Games, Roblox, and Meta are pouring resources into creating fashion events and spaces in the metaverse, it’s hard to shake the feeling that brands are still building for a limited audience, and not an everyday part of most people’s lives.
in Meta horizon worldssome users who spend their time in the digital realm are angry at the way the company addresses creator concerns – and even before that, many people are not using horizon in the first place. At the second annual Decentraland Metaverse Fashion Week in April, for example, big-name brands like Coach, Vogue magazine, and Balenciaga in virtual spaces to display (and sell) digital goods. Despite this, attendance was minimal, and the exhibits ranged from dreamlike to sloppy and dull. What’s the point of walking around a dead digital mall when you can do the same in person and Grab a soft cookie while you’re at it?
All of the students I spoke with said they intended to use the technical skills they learned in class—some just for fun as a creative outlet, others to incorporate digital clothing elements into their existing work. Yoshe Li, also a singer-songwriter, envisions a project collaborating with other artists recreating digital versions of their most iconic appearances. Can the skills developed in the course lead to earning money in this way?
“I hope the answer is yes,” she says. For now, Li is happy to create for fun and for free.