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Digital clothing creators talk designing for Roblox’s metaverse world and virtual fashion's future

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: Vivian Arellano for Roblox

Virtual fashion has become a flourishing industry over the past year, with many brands climbing over one another to dip their toes into the industry’s new metaverse presence. Roblox is one platform that has particularly caught the attention of brands, boasting a community of 49 million active users that take to its virtual world daily to play games, socialise and customise their own avatar.

The platform has increasingly become a metaverse entryway for fashion brands, many of which have been high-fashion design houses making their first move into the digital market. Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci and Ralph Lauren are among those that have taken to the Roblox world, either in the form of exclusive events or digital clothing drops.

Purchasing fashion items through the platform has become so popular, in fact, that the company said in 2021 over 25 million virtual items had been created with 5.8 billion items bought throughout the year.

While big designers regularly test the waters of the online platform, Roblox has continued to set out encouraging indie creators to also explore their creativity. Its faction of nine million strong indie developers are supported through initiatives like Roblox’s user-generated content (UGC) programme, which enables creators to develop new designs that can be bought and worn by its players.

Additionally, the site recently launched new avatar technology, Layered Clothing, that enables virtual designs to be worn on any avatar, essentially acting as the digital version of ‘one size fits all’ clothing. The new feature hopes to further encourage self-expression through the platform, offering more options for creativity when it comes to metaverse fashion.

While big name brands continue to jump on the bandwagon of virtual design, for Roblox it is indie designers that play an important role in defining fashion’s space in the game. FashionUnited spoke with two leading designers from the platform on how Roblox has aided their careers, the importance of digital fashion and what is in store for the future of virtual reality creation.

Image: Vivian Arellano for Roblox x Lil Nas X, Montero

Vivian Arellano, 21

Vivian Arellano, a US-based developer and UGC creator, based in San Mateo, California, is among those making big moves in the digital design world. She has previously partnered with a number of brands and record labels on virtual designs and has worked with music artists like Lil Nas X and Zara Larsson on bringing to life their fashion through Roblox.

Can you tell me a little bit about your design concepts/newest collection?

In general, I like designing fashion items that are cute and a little quirky, often combining two semi-random things together: like a gadget or an article of clothing. It’s great because on Roblox you can dress however you’d like to, so I lean towards making things that you wouldn’t usually see in person; a witch hat resembling a strawberry crepe, a coin purse resembling a bottle of cherry cola or a giant backpack of fries ready to eat.

One of my recent projects was creating a set of lotus-inspired items. They work together to create a magical water fairy outfit. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve made so far. Currently, these sets are all pieces that need to be bought individually, but with the new technology behind Layered Clothing, my next set could be transformed into a single item that moves based on the avatar’s body type. I’ve got so many collections planned and coming.

How did you start getting into digital design?

In 2014, I started sharing artwork of people’s avatars that I looked up to on Twitter, and soon enough people started commissioning me to draw them. That led to getting other kinds of jobs relating to digital artwork, like game design, concepts and icons. It wasn’t until 2019 that I began 3D modelling my own concepts. During the pandemic, my career in making digital fashion items really took off. With the income I earned through Roblox’s Developer Exchange Programme, I was able to support my family financially and even buy my mom a car.

Who are your products typically aimed at?

I would like to think that my products are aimed towards younger and older players alike who don’t want to look like everyone else. To those that have a vision for a centrepiece, with every other worn article revolving around that centrepiece. I want my items to be their centrepiece. Players make outfits based around my items now.

Image: Vivian Arellano for Roblox

In what ways does Roblox help you to explore your creativity?

During a marketing internship at Roblox, I would stay behind in the office and watch tutorials for how to model different items. I’ve really loved learning how to 3D model; the process of going from 2D concepting, prototyping, 3D modelling to Roblox Studio gives me such a rush, and Roblox makes it fast and easy to do this all by myself. The next step for me is continuing my dive into Layered Clothing technology. I’m able to bring my designs to even more avatars.

Besides boosting my own creative work, I also get to work with brands and musical artists who come to Roblox. I’ve worked with Lil Nas X, Zara Larsson, and The Grammys among others so far; conceptualising clothing based on their brand and bringing it to the platform for their fans to wear and express themselves beautifully.

Do you think digital fashion is the future of the industry?

The digital avatar is a boundless reflection of our true identity. TV shows, movies and brands are getting into the digital space, and we get to experience the fun of it through avatar merch and games. Imagine being able to have your own Met Gala every year.

Creators get to join these brands to fulfil their needs and reach this space. Then they get the experience and funds to create their own designs. It’s not just the future of another industry, it’s the start of a new one.

Do you have any future plans to grow your concept/business?

I’m experimenting a lot with the new Layered Clothing feature to bring more sets and outfits to millions of avatars. I’m on track to launch my first in-real-life (IRL) merch line based on my digital work as well, which should come out mid-May. Besides working on my personal brand, my game development team and I are working towards our 2022 plans for Mermaid Life, which is a roleplay-fashion game set underwater. It currently has over 50 million visits.

Image: Samuel Jordan for Roblox

Samuel Jordan, 21

Florida-based Samuel Jordan is another highly successful designer in the digital fashion space, garnering over 23 million sales in total since joining Roblox’s UGC programme. Jordan has worked with a range of big name brands on their metaverse debuts, including Stella McCartney and Forever, who each released digital fashion items for the platform over the past year.

Can you tell me a little bit about your design concepts/newest collection?

On Roblox, I've designed a wide range of 3D avatar fashion accessories across a variety of styles under my alias ‘Builder_Boy’. My collection takes inspiration from high end luxury, streetwear, and organic internet Roblox culture. Some of my most popular creations include hats and jewellery, and my collaborations with Forever 21 and luxury fashion company Stella McCartney.

Since the launch of Layered Clothing last month, I’ve been busy at work on my latest collection of 3D clothing that can be worn by any avatar on the platform. Layered Clothing mimics the way clothing drapes and forms on a body, so I can add a lot of modern textures and silhouettes that push the boundaries of what’s popular in fashion today. My best selling Layered Clothing piece is a Pink High Waist Puffer Jacket.

How did you start getting into digital design?

I first got into digital design because I wanted to enable people to customise their avatars in a way that felt authentic to who they are. Designing one's avatar is the highest form of self expression. I want to design items that enable people to express themselves as honestly and authentically as they can.

I first started playing Roblox with my brother in 2011. We were homeschooled, so Roblox was one of our main ways of making friends and socialising. Because I grew up playing on the platform, I feel I have a good understanding of what players want, as well as the ins and outs of the emerging metaverse fashion industry. I started developing in 2015, meeting with other developers in groups on the platform.

Image: Samuel Jordan for Roblox

I worked on many games learning level design, character design, world building, but in the end I was drawn to digital fashion. It gave me the widest range of creativity. I was the first creator on the platform to design earrings and purses, I always look for what hasn't been done yet. My original content didn't take off at first but I loved seeing others wear and enjoy my creations. In a nutshell, I got into digital design because I love creating content that makes people smile and allows them to express themselves in a meaningful way.

Who are your products typically aimed at? Who generally buys them?

When designing new items I try to look inwards. I ask myself questions like; ‘what would I want to wear on my avatar?’ or ‘is there any look or feeling I want to convey that I’m not using in my current collection?’. My audience are people who are native to Roblox and native to the internet. They are people who get my bad jokes and enjoy playing the same blocky games. Roblox has created a space and a culture that is hard to define when outside of it, but inside, my fashion designs thrive.

In what ways does Roblox help you to explore your creativity?

Playing Roblox is what first inspired me to start creating, and it’s also where I learned digital design. When I first started there were no tutorials online and no money to be made. It was just me and my friends creating the games we wanted to play together. I joined the Roblox Accelerator Programme in 2019 and then went on to join the UGC programme. Since then, I’ve worked closely with Roblox for many years, and I certainly think that they give you the tools and space to foster your creativity. There’s a good symbiotic relationship between Roblox and the developers and designers on the platform.

Image: Forever 21 x Roblox

Surrounding myself with other developers on Roblox, as well as talking to other players to find out what they need, has really helped to boost that flow of creativity over the years. In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to partner with brands as they seek to enter the metaverse. Working closely with those in the physical fashion industry is inspiring, and it really helps you think about the broader applications of virtual designs and how they can both reflect real-world fashion trends and influence them. You can learn something impactful from everyone you meet. Learning to listen and being open to learn from everyone has really enabled me to explore so many different realms of creativity.

Do you think digital fashion is the future of the industry?

Definitely. The metaverse is evolving, and platforms like Roblox are changing the way people communicate and spend their time. People are making memories with their friends in Roblox that rival physical experiences, and digital fashion – the way people express themselves and design or dress their avatars – is a major part of this.

Do you have any future plans to grow your concept/business?

I have so many innovative ways I plan to expand my business, many that I can't announce publicly just yet. The recent launch of Layered Clothing has been a giant new area of growth and enabled me to create so many new types of pieces. Digital design intersects so many areas in the digital space that there is never a shortage of new things to create.

Digital Fashion