Gaming in fashion is growing incredibly fast. To get a handle on this white hot industry, SFFT spoke with Lauren Miller, a Fashion Content Designer at 50Cubes about what it means to operate at the intersection of fashion and technology.
Lauren works for 50Cubes, a gaming company focused on fashion games played by millions of people everyday on Facebook, Zynga, and most recently Tencent (Chinese platform). 50Cubes might be most famous for MallWorld, but the company has several titles and millions of engaged fans. Lauren sat down with SFFT to talk about her unique role as a Fashion Content Designer in the gaming industry. An industry that is only set to grow in leaps and bounds.
1. Lets start with a bit of background: you work for a tech gaming company, but your background is pure fashion. Can you tell us about your education and start in the fashion industry?
Since I was young, I knew that I would work in the creative design space in some regard. I’ve always followed and engaged in fashion but first fell into design during a sewing class in college. I knew right away that fashion was the perfect outlet for my creative expression.
I went on to receive a BA in Theatre with a Costume Design Concentration and an MFA in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art. At my current role at 50Cubes, I elevated those academic experiences by refining my research abilities and perfecting my presentation skills. As with any start-up — like the fashion world itself — it is imperative to be flexible and adept to a constantly evolving atmosphere. I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to manifest my love for fashion through inventive and inspirational content for Facebook game’s MallWorld and Fashion Designer.
2. Why was 50 Cubes looking for someone with your background?
They were looking for an individual who was not only interested in fashion but also who fully understood design elements. Costume design, like fashion, is about telling a story. I cultivate these same narratives by curating fashion content at 50Cubes. MallWorld themes reference current fashion, celebrity, pop culture trends, and Fashion Designer enables players to create their own designer masterpiece from an array of silhouettes, colors and patterns.
MallWorld alone releases about 80 pieces of content a week; therefore, a strong knowledge of fashion history as well as a hand on the current market pulse is crucial for producing fresh, relevant content. My wide-ranging cultural knowledge base — not only in terms of fashion but also art history, film, and textiles — influence the content created at 50Cubes.
Because the content is presented in 2D illustration, having a strong sense of color and experience drawing a variety of fabric qualities has provided a real advantage. My goal is to choose silhouettes, colors and textures that make an immediate and powerful visual statement to our audience, while keeping in mind the technical limitations for my vision. That said, having a fabulous team of illustrators is undeniably a significant contributor to the quality of the fashion content produced for our games.
3. So what exactly do you do what you do and what makes your background well suited for it?
My job is comparable to a fashion editor in the sense that I present players with up-and-coming styles — similar to what would be found in a popular, high fashion monthly magazine. I am continuously probing the Internet, researching the latest trends and exploring endless fashion sources to find inspiration for our next concept. Within MallWorld, each store is a thematic capsule collection reflecting an overarching popular fashion trend. Users engage with the games to discover what is happening on the global fashion runways as well as on the streets. Having a strongly rooted background in fashion design, I am able to cohesively convey a powerful point of view that keeps our users participating within our games on a daily basis.
*Switching gears a bit, lets talk about your work at the intersection of fashion and gaming.
4. 50Cubes owns MallWorld, which has a huge amount of player engagement (e.g. 4.4M Facebook Likes). How has 50 Cubes grown its user base?
We’re lucky to have cultivated such a loyal fan community and we couldn’t be more grateful for their feedback. We’ve continued to evolve the game based on user interests and continuously adapt the content and game play based on their likes and dislikes. Through this engagement, and having our game advocates share their love of our content with their friends, we have successfully grown our user base.
In my opinion, fresh, exciting content is what makes our games unique and rather addicting. The game motivates players to login everyday because they know that they are going to see new content.
More broadly, I believe MallWorld and Fashion Designer are the ultimate dress-up games since players can utilize these platforms to make their ultimate fashion fantasy come to life. It’s all about taking those same impulses we experience — to try new combinations, to explore new looks — and translating that feeling into an easy-to-use and user-friendly engagement platform such as Facebook.
5. The fashion space is dynamic and changes continually. How do changes in the industry impact your designs for MallWorld?
A significant part of my job is perfecting and streamlining our quick content creation process. A couture gown off the Paris runway or Lady Gaga’s latest costume can appear in the game within weeks. If the Oscars airs on Sunday Night, we can create and release a MallWorld store the following Friday filled with all the celebrity red carpet looks. In this celebrity-obsessed world, the unattainable is somehow attainable through our games. Thousand dollar designer masterpieces worn by celebrities come to life on your perfectly stylized avatar.
I also receive and review several sources of fashion content on a daily basis. I subscribe to all the traditional top fashion magazines: Vogue, Elle, W, InStyle, Lucky, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire. Additionally, I leverage quite a few online sources to highlight the season’s must haves. For example, I research all the current runway shows on Style.com and also receive Polyvore Intelligence Reports and Refinery29 daily emails. I follow the latest celebrities style through sites such as MSN Wonderwall, Go Fug Yourself, and People Style Watch.
I take what I see trending from all these sources and create my own interpretation for our players. Each MallWorld store is an expanded version of an editorial spread you would see in Elle. Our content directly mirrors what’s relevant and hot in the fashion industry in real time. In the past few months, we have featured prevalent themes such as Art Deco, neon and tribal.
6. Does your work allow you to engage with consumers to identify fashion trends? And if so, how to you engage or track player fashion interests?
We have a large, extremely dedicated and engaged fan base that we communicate with on a regular basis. We consistently run detailed surveys and contests to gauge our players’ interest in the fashion content they would like to see. We love crafting new, exciting initiatives by crowd-sourcing the opinions of our loyal fans. A few months ago, we ran a player-generated store contest to plan our upcoming summer content calendar. Players submitted Polyvore-inspired design boards of current themes/trends they would like to see as a MallWorld Store. The top 30 with the most ‘likes’ were than voted on again, and the top 15 had stores created directly around the players’ inspiration.
Our latest contest was inspired by Vogue’s famous September issue. We provided a template and our players styled a modeled avatar for the cover. We were blown away with more than 1,400 entries within 2 weeks. Our players absolutely cherish contests like these, and we tap that enthusiasm to generate new content. One of my favorite community groups within our game, ‘MallWorld for Smarties,’ posts pictures of the real world and MallWorld references side by side.
7. You build digital goods everyday, an area of rapid growth, where do you see the digital goods industry going? For example, are there any opportunities you’re excited about?
The digital goods industry is moving towards driving traffic to accessible retail stores. Social media shopping is revolutionizing online sourcing and purchasing, as online shoppers are reaping the benefits for discovering and sharing merchandise online. This movement is ideal for small, local boutique owners who need to get exposure and customers in their door. There is overwhelming knowledge illustrating that individuals are much more likely to purchase something that a friend recommends. That’s why a platform like Pinterest is so powerful. When your friend endorses an item by sharing it online, others are more likely to find these new items and purchase it either online or in stores.
There are several companies that are pushing forward the same theme and it’s only going grow. Juxtapost is a similar moodboard-based site that offers an added function for sending links and descriptions to friends or clients. Lyst allows users to follow their favorite boutiques, bloggers and designers, with an added benefit for instant sales alerts. Through the rise of the visual web, people are discovering new ways to discover fashion content, shop, and share information with their friends.
8. Where are some trends that you are excited about in the fashion-gaming space?
The gamification of fashion is providing more complex and innovative ways to engage customers and drive sales. Part store, part blog, part magazine and part wish list, Fancy offers moodboards images and curated collections from other users as well as the chance to earn promotions and unlock deals. Stylmee allows users to create 3-D virtual boutiques with the potential to earn points and rewards from fashion brands through themed ‘Fashion Challenges’ and ‘Secret Style’ incentives. Available on the iPad, this site encourages users through social gaming and integration with Twitter and Facebook. I believe this new reward system technology is the future of the fashion-gaming space.