Fashion Diary: Designers look to the virtual world

Fashion Diary: Designers look to the virtual world
Nicola Formichetti’s New York pop-up store resembles a mirrored fun house. (Evan Joseph)

For all the Beyoncè, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake sightings, and all the peppy clothes in acid-bright colors and arty prints, what really blew my mind at New York Fashion Week was watching Rico the Zombie in a virtual fashion show.

The digitized version of the tout-tattooed model-muse strutting the catwalk was just one of the visual delights at Nicola's, a temporary concept store curated by Nicola Formichetti, the magazine stylist-editor, Mugler designer and frequent Lady Gaga collaborator.

Although Gaga is the one with 12 million Twitter followers, her visual architect, Formichetti, also sits at the nexus of fashion and entertainment, the real world and the virtual one. Stepping inside his 1,300-square-foot pop-up shop is like entering a mirrored fun house. You aren't sure what's up and what's down, what's real and what's a reflection.

"The way Nicola treats Lady Gaga is as a three-dimensional version of magazine culture," explained Mark Gage, who with Marc Clemenceau Bailly shaped the Soho space where the pop-up is to be open through Wednesday. "We wanted to take that idea to the next stage and create an environment that reflects fashion infinitely, giving a spatial, architectural dimension to something he is already doing."

Several of Formichetti's costumes for Lady Gaga are displayed in the store in all their weird glory, including her machine gun bra and telephone receiver headpiece. There are vintage Versace pieces for sale — Formichetti has been instrumental in engineering the Versace renaissance by dressing Gaga in the Italian house's vintage baroque prints. There are also T-shirts and rings with Formichetti's personal logo — a panda — and skateboard decks designed by Rico the Zombie.

For the virtual fashion show, Formichetti partnered with video game producer CCP Games, working with a digital pattern cutter to design Rico the Zombie's strappy black leather look, which will be available for users to purchase for their characters to wear in the popular Eve Online video game.

Technology has already had a profound impact on the consumption of fashion. You have only to witness the phenomenon of young bloggers being whisked around fashion week in limousines (true) to know that. Or realize that all the major runway shows are now webcast live, giving the world at large the power to critique.

This season, a new members-only website, is giving users the chance to shop looks straight from the runway mere hours after they are shown. Members preorder the designs they want, not the ones chosen by intermediary store buyers, and put down a 50% deposit upfront.

Norma Kamali launched an eight-minute 3-D film of her spring looks, giving guests stylish anaglyphic cat-eye glasses with which to watch the models shimmying in fringe. The film can be viewed at, along with 3-D shopping pages and an embedded 3-D fashion game. Glasses can be requested through Kamali's Facebook page; nearly 20,000 pairs have already been requested, Kamali said.

There is also a huge market for virtual fashion, according to Yohei Ishii, senior director of business development for CCP Games, which has previously partnered with lesser-known fashion designers on limited-edition avatar outfits, sold for about $70. "The industry refers to it as virtual goods, and billions of dollars are already being spent buying them on Facebook. This is just the beginning," Ishii says.

CCP Games has gone so far as to hire a fashion editor, Mary Lee, who is now working with online fashion illustrators styling looks for the upcoming World of Darkness video game, which will feature clothes aimed at the "Twilight" set.

The concept of virtual clothing could have all kinds of practical and psychological implications, not to mention environmental advantages. (Or video games could become just another entertainment vehicle, like television and film, for selling tangible stuff.)

"All these virtual worlds are aspirational," Ishii said. "As a designer, you can create clothes that you wouldn't be able to in the real world because of physics or economics. As a gamer, you can be whomever you want to be."

And I might finally have a chance of fitting into a sample size.