Inside the Animal Crossing fashion community turning out looks

In an era of social distancing the game has become the best way to turn a look — and engage with community while you're at it.

by Lia Savillo
|
02 April 2020, 7:40am

Images by Animal Crossing Fashion Archive

While social distancing is still the norm and people are kept away from each other IRL, they’ve obviously found new ways to connect online. Whether it’s tuning into your friend’s Instagram Live, having a drinking session over Zoom, or quick games on House Party — you can't deny the internet has never been this alive.

The latest online community born during these trying times is a group of fashion enthusiasts in the soothing virtual world of Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Since they can’t cop a new piece due to movement restrictions, they’ve turned to recreating designer clothing digitally. From Carhartt and Supreme to designer brands like Chanel and Dior, users have found new ways to turn a look while they’re at home still sitting around in their pyjamas.

Aside from the vibrant scenery offered in the game, perfect for dissociating from the four walls of your room, the virtual world also offers a form of escapism unlike any other game: it has no goals. You can do whatever you want, live a life however you’d like while still connected to your friends and family. And it seems creatives are taking advantage of the game’s premise by building spaces that feed their interests.

What started as a group of friends in the Philippines showing off their creations on Instagram, the page Animal Crossing Fashion Archive has grown to become a lookbook for players around the globe. We spoke to page founder and photographer, Kara Chung to find out how this global community of fashionable gamers took off. And to surprise us Kara had the group make a room based on i-D magazine covers, which you can see below!

How did you get into Animal Crossing ?
I got into the game during the lockdown here in Manila. A lot of people I knew were buying it, and even if it was a far cry from the games I usually play which are story-heavy and ringing with urgency, I wanted to play it and hang out digitally with my friends.

The game's kind of having a global moment right now, how do you feel about that?
People need a way to connect while identifying with their character. In a way video games can be a form of social media, where we can express ourselves through the decisions and appearance of our in-game character. Because what is gaming but an alternate lived story? Just as I feel nostalgic for certain places in the physical world, the experience of reopening a childhood game is akin to roaming an old playground. The variables that create a home in the physical world may be the walls, the scent, the ambient noises — but video game players may often find that signifiers like heavy 8-bit music and a specific colour palette will immediately bring a sensation of comfort. Fitting into the mould of your game character is a big key to integrating yourself as a player, immersing into the stakes of the adventure.

Honestly, I think it was released at the perfect time.
100%. Due to the sudden lockdown in many cities, people havenʼt been able to connect with partners, friends, and loved ones.

What led you to start an Instagram page for the characterʼs outfits?
It was supposed to be a humorous, casual space where I posted my friends' outfits. We have a group chat where we would send each other images. I was taking a spin on my job as a photographer, and playing on the way that outfits are presented.

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How do you feel about the page getting recognition?
Pleasantly surprised. It is like a Black Mirror episode, with everyone uniting in a simulation. As Jorge Wieneke (aka Similarobjects), who founded club Matryoshka, said in a recent talk he gave, “If the space doesn't exist, create it”.

I didnʼt think that the page would be incredibly meaningful beyond a group of small friends who were designing outfits, but everyday Iʼve seen people message me saying that itʼs brightened their day and given them a reason to smile amid the current events. There are a lot of people stuck in their room, unable to leave, and so this gives them a way out so to speak.

What are some of your favourite looks on the page?
I really enjoy seeing the local Manila brands like Toqa, Carl Jan Cruz, Fortune WWD. And fits by people like art director Isai Araneta, Una & RA and Jason Roberto.

Do you have any idea why people started replicating real-world pieces instead of creating their own designs?
Streetwear is all about community. In the limited real estate we have designing on the 8-bit, pixelated in-game editor, some of the easiest graphics to communicate include symbols that define certain brands. The power of a logo in streetwear is akin to the mark of a team, almost, and seeing another person resonate with the same brand story is comforting.

Aside from fashion, what other significant things have connected gamers in the AC:NH community during a time of social distancing?
My cousin celebrated her birthday a week ago to characters in the game throwing her a party. A few friends and I got to see her digitally and give her items, our way of greeting her.In game, players can essentially mail written letters and gifts to others that appear in a mailbox. Playing with other people you know means that you wake up to well-wishes and digital gift packages.I know couples who havenʼt seen each other in a long time who have used the game to virtually hang out. The game offers different mechanisms for photo opportunities - having an in-game camera with filters.The memories and connections we maintain online almost evaporate the idea of a long-distance relationship, bridging physical holes with emotional signifiers.

That’s cool! Do you have any other creative pursuits you plan to do on the page? Where does it go from here?
I noticed that a lot of people were replicating brands that have already established themselves. Iʼve been working with open-minded artists to translate their real work in-game and create virtual lookbooks, showrooms and galleries.

How do you think this game, or video games in general, help people cope with whatʼs happening in the world now?
Back in the age of the previous PlayStation consoles, my brother and I, along with two cousins would each bring a controller and compete in Chocobo Racing. We each played one of the characters on a communal screen. In the early days we had to worry about dusty memory cards and whether or not our hardware would register. The appeal of online, real-time gaming brings me back to these moments in my childhood, feeling the ripple effect of instinctive decisions made at every turn. Itʼs a valuable way to stay tethered to a form of society.

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