Balenciaga’s Collaboration With Fortnite Raises Eyebrows

The partnership with the luxury brand is its latest since the video game’s team-up with Ferrari


When Fortnite, one of the most popular video games in the world, revealed its partnership with high-end fashion house Balenciaga last month, the collaboration left a lot of people scratching their heads. Why would a fashion company offering clothes with prices in the thousands join forces with a free-to-play video game enjoyed mainly by teens and young adults?

New Skins and $725 Hoodies

Last month, Balenciaga Fortnite skins, cosmetic items that change a player’s character or outfit without giving them a competitive advantage, became available for 1,200 and 1,500 “V-Bucks,” Fortnite’s in-game currency. Players can buy 2,800 V-Bucks for $19.99 in Fortnite’s in-game store, putting the price of these skins at around $10.

The skins have varied aesthetics. “Unchained Ramirez” dons a scaly top that changes from silver to gold, complete with baggy black jeans with large jagged sections torn out. “Game Knight” includes a helmet and gauntlets to give an otherwise tame techwear outfit a unique Fortnite feel. For gamers with an aversion to avant-garde fashion, Balenciaga offers “Shady Doggo,” a sartorially safe skin whose hoodie and black tech pants make it the most minimalistic ensemble in the collection.

Balenciaga’s Fortnite merchandise for the real world is much more expensive. The Fortnite hoodies were originally available for $725, but as of Oct. 25, the Balenciaga online store had both of them out of stock. The hoodie contains the words “Fortnite” and “Balenciaga” on the front and “Retail Row” on the back — a reference to an in-game location on the Fortnite Battle Royale map. The hoodie also comes in white and is a replica of the one worn by Balenciaga’s “Shaddy Doggo” skin in Fortnite.

The resale market for these hoodies has turned a profit for some people.

The resale market for these hoodies has turned a profit for some people. Search results from eBay show completed sales of Fortnite Balenciaga hoodies for up to $1,100. Another Fortnite hoodie sold for $900.

A History of Disruption

The house of Cristóbal Balenciaga has always been one to make a splash, and its collaboration with Fortnite comes as one of many unconventional moves made by the fashion house in recent years. 

In the early 2000s, when no self-respecting “it girl” was seen without a designer bag, Balenciaga released its iconic “Classic City” bag. The City bag set itself apart from its contemporaries by veering away from the typical glamour associated with luxury fashion at the time and into street-style territory. Though its slouchy form and heavy hardware initially kept it from being mass-produced, rejected prototypes were seen gracing the arms of models and celebrities alike. It soon cemented itself as a must-have accessory of the era.

Now, with creative director Demna Gvasalia at the helm, the brand’s rebellious streak is underscored by unlikely collaborations, including a ready-to-wear line featuring the Sony PlayStation 5 and, most recently, a cameo in an episode of “The Simpsons” that premiered in this year’s Paris Fashion Week. 

Avant-Garde, or Cheapening Its Image?

Balenciaga has doubled down on collaborations since Gvasalia assumed his position and began working toward his vision of the brand as “an unexplored mode of creative freedom and a platform for innovation.” However, for many longtime fans, the creative risks do more to harm Balenciaga’s image than to help it. 

So what does Balenciaga hope to gain from its collaboration with Fortnite? Aside from appealing to its growing Gen-Z consumer base, virtual, in-game versions of real designs render haute couture more accessible.

However, most of Fortnite’s crossovers are with brands that thrive on mass production.

High-fashion enthusiasts aren’t too thrilled at this choice, as luxury brands like Balenciaga have built their reputations on a spirit of exclusivity. According to critics, collaborations such as that with Fortnite, while certainly subversive, serve to “cheapen” Balenciaga’s image.

The newly released “Sneakerhead Bag,” a top-handle handbag modeled after gym shoes and priced at $2,150, is another example of this “cheapening.” While certainly indicative of Balenciaga’s trademark boldness in its deviation from what is typically associated with luxury styles, many within the fashion industry have come to view it as a desperate attempt to rekindle popularity with the younger generation.

Just Another Collab for Fortnite

The Balenciaga partnership is just a drop in the ocean for Fortnite, a game that has thrived on collaborations with the likes of Marvel, the National Football League and Ariana Grande

Fortnite seems like it will continue to expand its repertoire of collaborators in the future.

Fortnite uses these partnerships to create content like new game modes, skins and in-game music concerts. However, most of Fortnite’s crossovers are with brands that thrive on mass production. Balenciaga doesn’t fit that mold.

Ferrari is another luxury brand that partnered with Fortnite. In July, the Ferrari 296 GTB was placed in the game, and players could drive it for a limited time at no cost. Fortnite also released Ferrari skins that could be purchased in the item shop.

Data from Google Trends shows that searches for “Ferrari” saw a slight increase when the car was introduced in the game, only to return to normal levels in the following months. Similarly, Balenciaga showed a spike in Google searches during the week that its skins were in the Fortnite item shop. Though the skins have cycled out of the shop, there is potential for them to eventually return to the game. 

While the lasting effects of Balenciaga’s experiment with Fortnite remain to be seen, Fortnite seems like it will continue to expand its repertoire of collaborators in the future.