The Fashion Game: An Interview with “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” Clothing Designer

Illustration+by+H+Beck+

H Beck

Illustration by H Beck

Sophie Dziak, Contributing Director

Writing by Sophie Dziak
Illustration by H. Beck

As technology continues to advance we are seeing more and more of it overlapping in many, if not all industries. Now with the Metaverse pushing virtual fashion, we at DAMchic understand the importance of spotlighting creatives in the online video game space that have been expressing themselves through fashion decades before Facebook. 

Nintendo released Animal Crossing: New Horizons in March of 2020 and it quickly took the world by storm. You couldn’t log in to any social media site without seeing or hearing something about the gameplay; whether it was creating friendships with the in-game characters or the ability to customize your own personal island. With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading in the states, it allowed for people to escape from real life and give themselves some well-needed self-care. 

With the extensive customization features the game allowed, of course came inspiration and creatives of all kinds started creating one-of-a-kind fashion items for people to use in-game. 

One of those creatives is Sakao or @acnh.skdesigns on Instagram, a 27-year-old from Thailand, who I had the pleasure of interviewing to explore the world of video game fashion.

Tell me about yourself, what you do, and how you got into video games?
I’m Sakao, 27 years old from Thailand. I worked for my family business after graduating in real estate. I haven’t played video games since I was very young and only play simple mobile games to pass time. Then just before Covid and the first lockdown, wanting to exercise at home, I looked into Ring Fit Adventure. That’s how I got introduced to Nintendo Switch, and then Animal Crossing.

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A post shared by Sakao (@acnh.skdesigns)


What does animal crossing/ digital fashion mean to you?
Animal Crossing has become my virtual home, and now my atelier. As the game was built so that you play the game with others, we create communities that include people around the World. I have also met a close group of friends who have been a great support of what I do in Animal Crossing and life in general. I also found love in designing clothes and other custom designs, it’s all I do in the game now. It’s very special because you can see how creative people can get with the limitations (in the game) and because of those limitations designs, in Animal Crossing, can be quite unique and certain designs would look better in-game than in real life.
 

What are the limitations of the grid you use in the game to customization? How do you work around it?
There are different sizes depending on the Silhouette. A custom design grid is 32×32 and a Balloon-hem dress is 32×42 (excluding the arms and the back) and a much bigger grid for a hat, for example. The number of grids is not very large so it can be challenging to put in fine details. Sometimes all we can do is try to make what it would look like from afar and sometimes we end up just putting dots to make illusions, or just simplify the design. Also unlike normal pixel art, the colors between pixels in the game tool can bleed into each other. So you have to try and see how each color works with another, it can be challenging but makes a seamless blending. The most challenging thing about the design tool would be the limited color slots that you can use of 15 colors. To make a design realistic or detailed you need shade and highlight so we need a lot of colors. It’s a real challenge to make colorful designs!

 

Where do you draw inspiration from? Tell me about that process for you?
I mostly get my inspiration from real-life designs, but many times the inspiration also comes from elements of nature, animals, characters, and seasons. I make a lot of designs based on seasons and events such as Christmas and Halloween. I also joined a collaboration project where we made designs based on a Sanrio character to celebrate the Sanrio update. Just like real-life designers, we can get inspiration from basically anything!

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A post shared by Sakao (@acnh.skdesigns)

How do the game’s fashion elements create community?
Other than how it brings fellow designers together to share our experiences and design together, a lot of people also take interest in dressing themselves up with custom designs. Most designers would share their work publicly for everyone to use and some answer to requests. A lot of people also ask designers to visit their island to display their designs. These interactions of sharing designs became a big part of the community where a lot of people post in-game pictures on social media.

What came first your interest in fashion or in animal crossing?

I have always had an interest in fashion but never so big that it became an actual hobby or a job. I got into designing in Animal Crossing simply by searching for something to do and never stopped. I find myself having more interest in the details of it through researching for Animal Crossing designs.

Where do you see the world of virtual fashion moving in the future?
I see people taking more interest not only in video games but also in bringing them onto social media. We can eventually sell designs on digital platforms as a fashion item and as an art. Like digital painting, virtual fashion will be another large platform for designers with the tool being more accessible and easier to use than traditional clothes making.

Do you think video games are influencing designers today?
To an extent, definitely. Video games create a lot of characters and many designers utilize them. It is also a huge market. I’ve already seen a lot of designer brands and even smaller brands tap into Animal Crossing including Gucci beauty, Valentino, H&M, and many more.

What do you believe the metaverse’s impact on this industry is?
The transition of real life into the virtual world. That includes fashion! The platform can easily allow transactions that create a market for virtual fashion.

I would like to thank Sakao for taking the time to sit down and interview with me, as it allows for a better understanding of how powerful the internet can be for people exploring and finding their passions, as well as sharing those passions with us all. Please be sure to check her out on Instagram, so you get to experience firsthand her hard work and creative designs that have left me and many others in awe. 

The Metaverse has faced criticism since its announcement last year, as big-name companies continue to profit off the internet, and yet fail to understand its essence and the people who use it. Now more than ever it is critical to shine a light on communities of creatives who have been using this platform as outlets and a safe space for their designs. As often it’s large corporations that label themselves as the standard setters when in actuality it’s these creatives who are not given credit for being the trailblazers that they are.