This week Bits + Pixels visited Pure London Fashion show, to get clued up on forthcoming trends in 2017 and beyond. Whilst cropped velvet trousers, ruffles or indeed strong eyebrows are not currently in the pipeline for the gaming brands we represent, it’s important to consider fashion trends when it comes to gaming apparel.

Video games are playful and innovative with strong visual identities - giving them plenty of reason to be more adventurous with licensed apparel by harnessing the latest in fabrics, printing methods, shapes and design themes. Let’s not forget that gamers are recognised as everyone now, males, females, young, old and everything in-between - each with their own sense of style and attitude and when it comes to apparel, it can no longer be a ‘one t-shirt fits all’ process.

There’s no denying that the humble t-shirt is the undisputed king of branded apparel - if you like something, you get the t-shirt. The t-shirt has never been out of fashion, but has it ever been in fashion? Well yes, certain interpretations of the t-shirt come in and out of fashion - the baggy tee, the fitted tee, the ringer, the distressed tee. Yes, the t-shirt can be a fashion item, and not just a billboard on a body.

And, whilst it could be argued that gaming apparel needn’t be ruled by what some may say is the fickle and ever changing nature of the fashion industry - fashion, pop-culture and social trends are perpetually entwined, each being influenced by one another, mashing things up, deconstructing and riding each other’s bandwagon. This isn’t about ‘being fashionable’ if fashionable means being a fad, it’s more about being more consumer conscious, understanding what current themes they find appealing and how attitudes and interests are being expressed through personal style.

With the 80’s trend that has persisted for the last couple of years (and still going strong through 2017- so don’t throw away your off-shoulder tops just yet), I can’t help but notice the love of Stranger Things is all part of this circle of influence keeping that decade alive, with the neon beats of Drive a not too distant memory and buying music on cassettes being ‘a thing’. A couple of years ago, Sandra worked on an 80’s inspired apparel collection for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (set in that decade), with Insert Coin and Lvlp. The collection went down exceptionally well, because not only did the items reference the game with clever design, they were also on-trend, capturing the style appeal of that era.

We have Final Fantasy’s Lightning being the face of Louis Vuitton - its 2016 collection inspired by geek culture (Sailor Moon, Tron) with their models walking down the catwalk to the Minecraft soundtrack, who would have thought! Tron - a film based on an arcade game (which inevitably became an actual video game), has inspired a collection by Opening Ceremony. On a more high street level, we see Nintendo prints on footwear and apparel from Vans - proving once again that video games are as much an inspiration as any other form of art or entertainment. Video games are part of a digital culture and aesthetic that more and more generations are being exposed to and therefore influenced by.

Boutique clothing company DRKN proudly claim to be gamers on their website, their ranges allude to a certain gamer ethos: moody looking hoodies, with minimal slogans referencing the technology generation and the digital society they live in. Whilst it doesn’t represent all gamers, the collection speaks directly to the core of certain type of gamer and enables them to express their style - games aren’t all rainbow colours and loud logos, it’s the muted colours and subtle details of their range that are at work here.

Whilst standard t-shirts will always sell, being the lowest common denominator, safe and dependable, there is also a huge appetite for gaming apparel that is a little more on-trend, stand out and design conscious. Fans are rejecting lazy ‘cut and paste’ designs; the game title emblazoned on the front of a t-shirt will not always be appealing (unless that title is generationally iconic, like Sonic The Hedgehog, which I am eternally a sucker for). We are seeing a lot more intelligent design, in-game references, patterns and textures being used - and fans love it. It opens up gaming apparel to a much wider audience, because they no longer see game apparel as being just product advertising, but actually a way of expressing their own interests and/or tastes in design.

Licensed apparel has come a long way - I remember ordering band t-shirts from the back of music magazines as a teen, only to find that they came in one size only: nightie size (meaning they never saw the light of day). Now I can get a huge selection of gamer garments, in lady sizes no less! (No more sleeping in XXL t-shirts for me). Consumers don’t want their apparel to say ‘buy this game, out now! they want it to say ‘I am a fan of this game’, whilst demonstrating their own personal style. And the latter is always a more appealing, representative and universal message.

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