When you combine fashion with gaming, the results aren’t always guaranteed to be pretty. Unless, of course, you’re Nook Street Market (@nookstreetmarket).
Dreamt up and designed by New York City-based graphic designer/photographer Vivian Loh, DJ/designer Michele Yue, and model Fernanda Ly, the account curates wardrobes for popular Nintendo Switch video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. From Lirika Matoshi’s viral strawberry dress, to Simone Rocha‘s ethereal dresses, the Instagram account has caught the eye of fashion-lovers looking to dress their online avatars in the latest runway pieces, and the eye of the brands themselves, who have increasingly tapped the trio to recreate their collections for the game.
“We were simply having fun and exploring the “Pro Design” app within the game. We actually thought it was quite funny how closely we could make our designs resemble some real life garments,” Loh tells us of their inspiration to start the account. “It felt like the game had given us a tool with endless possibilities, and we’ve spent more hours than we’d like to admit on custom designs.”
Good thing that they came across that function—with over 36.5 thousand followers on Instagram, to say the account has become a phenomenon is an understatement. Collaborations with fashion labels such as Emilio Pucci, and makeup brands such as Givenchy Beauty, prove that the trio are on to something much more than a passing fad.
Vogue talks to the creative minds behind the popular Instagram account making the virtual world more fashionable, one avatar at a time.
Why did you choose Animal Crossing New Horizons as your creative outlet?
Michele Yue (MY): New York City entered quarantine around the same time New Horizons launched, so I was desperate for something new to fill my time. As soon as I realised we could design clothes in the game, I knew I had to put my avatar in cuter options than what was offered.
Vivian Loh (VL): Michele was actually the one who convinced me to buy the game! Once I discovered the clothing customisation feature, I was hooked. I paid more attention to designing outfits than my own island!
Fernanda Ly (FL): Like most games, the starter clothing and items in Animal Crossing are quite basic in design. I also knew the Able Sisters shop took time to unlock, so my options were limited. After seeing Vivian and Michele’s custom designs, I was inspired to create my own and us three quickly joined forces. Even after unlocking the store, I couldn’t stop making my own clothes.
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What is the ethos of Nook Street Market?
MY: We seek to make revered and underground fashion designs accessible to all. We are part of a community that meets at the intersection of Animal Crossing and real world fashion. We hope to inspire, educate, and bring joy to those who play the game.
In this age of COVID-19, we see that more people are moving online to express themselves sartorially. What are your thoughts on this shift to digital fashion?
MY: I see it as a natural progression, since we already live in a social media-fueled world. It makes sense that we would find ways to express ourselves not only in real life, but virtually. In virtual reality, we are less restricted by cultural norms or limited finances. We can express ourselves however we like with little repercussions on our real lives.
Where do you feel that this trend towards digital dressing is heading? Is this the future of fashion?
VL: As someone who’s participated in and consumes fashion content on a daily basis, I don’t see the industry being taken over by digital dressing or digital fashion. Rather, I see these digital elements enhancing what already exists, and pushing this industry to be even more creative.
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With the future of fashion shows unknown, do you feel that digital fashion is the way to go?
VL: Over the years, we’ve seen fashion become more and more accessible through technology. Exclusive runway shows are now being live-streamed, street style icons are now social media stars, and fashion media has largely gone digital. While all these things can be exciting, it still centres around an original source: real clothes. The intimate act of connecting with a designer’s work, trying on clothing, and enjoying fashion as a form of self-expression will always be a real-life experience that cannot be replaced.
FL: The few minutes of a fashion show are almost magical, but can never accurately be relayed through a screen. To watch a show in person is an experience that invokes all human senses that select few will ever know. Perhaps virtual reality technology will advance to the point where it can replicate reality? But then the ‘virtual’ component will not be necessary and we then come full circle to ‘reality’.
What are the benefits of dressing characters digitally?
MY: The process in Animal Crossing is incredibly quick! With a variety of skin tones, hair styles, eyes, noses, and lips available, on top of vast amounts of clothing options, you can change your whole identity at the click of a button. Other than the price of the console and the game itself, there are no future costs attached to switching up your look. If anything, Animal Crossing encourages players to make spontaneous, creative changes towards their appearance.
On the flip side, what are some of the limitations?
MY: You’re still yourself. You look into a mirror, and you’re not your avatar. Virtual fashion exists to be an escape, to allow us to live our sartorial fantasy, but at the end of the day, we have to return to the real world.
Would you ever consider creating a collection designed in-house by Nook Street Market?
VL: Not at this time, but never say never!
What new projects are you working on for the future?
VL: In May, we launched a monthly contest called “New To Market”, where we invite our community to submit their favourite designer looks for us to recreate. Out of hundreds of submissions, our team selects six finalists, and we invite our community to vote on their favourites until we reach the top three. It was so much fun to host this contest and it really felt like a coming-together moment for our community. We hope to continue creating fun activities that keeps bringing us closer together.