Balenciaga blurs the real with the unreal in Fortnite
It may be over 50 years since Cristóbal Balenciaga held the needle that sewed together designs that defined the era, but the same spirit of innovation and creative leadership lives on in the brand that bears his name, with Creative Director Demna Gvasalia at the helm.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since he plunged into virtual worlds with the Unreal Engine The afterlife: the era of tomorrow, Balenciaga has embraced cutting edge technology like few other fashion houses have.
A new partnership that blurs physical and virtual realities like never before Fortnite players and characters move between the two realms in a breathtaking multi-point touch experience. With reused 3D models for the game, 3D billboards, traditional promotional materials and the
Fortnite “Strange Times Featured Hub,” Balenciaga has built a true transmedia pipeline, providing insight into the reality-leap experiences enabled by the Metaverse. The end result is an exciting new way to engage in fashion and a new way of self-expression.
“Our partnership with Epic didn’t start with Fortnite, actually,” says Demna Gvasalia, artistic director of Balenciaga. “It all started with our own first video game, Afterworld, which we built using Unreal Engine to launch our Fall 2021 collection. From there, we continued to draw inspiration from Unreal’s creativity and Fortnite communities. It made perfect sense to me that we would collaborate more by creating these authentic Balenciaga looks for
Fortnite and a new physique
Fortnite clothing series for our stores.
Exquisite craftsmanship and innovative designs are the hallmarks of Balenciaga. These references extend to the virtual world as well, and so naturally the fashion house was keen to make sure that the digital replicas of their clothes do justice to the real versions.
Create Balenciaga outfits for Fortnite was a collaborative creative effort between teams at all levels of production. The process involved several artists from various disciplines working together towards a very specific visual goal: to recreate the quality of the stunning real-life clothing chosen by Balenciaga in the stylized world of
With access to 3D scans of Balenciaga’s designs, the Fortnite team replicated the clothes and put on a Fortnite turn on it. The modeling process and set of tools used to create the Balenciaga outfits has been established
To begin with, an artist produced concept art that defined the character’s outfit, attitude, and overall appearance. Then the Fortnite The team created a 3D “proto-model” using concept art as a guide. A proto-model is a crude but functional approximation of the figure and volumes of the character. This proto-model was handed over to a technical artist, who then created a virtual skeleton to drive the character’s movements. Once the technical animation validated the functionality of the proto mesh, it moved on to the high polygon modeling phase using ZBrush digital sculpting software. During this phase, the team polished and refined the rough shapes established during the proto phase, creating a complex and detailed 3D sculpture.
After the approval of this high-poly model, the team used Maya to create the low-poly model that would be used in Fortnite. This model is lighter and more efficient than the high polygon model. The efficiency of the mesh allows it to be rendered in real time in Unreal Engine, whether the player is on a mobile device or a high-end game console, a key consideration for enabling cross-platform play.
The team used Marmoset Toolbag to transfer surface detail and lighting information from the high polygon model to the low polygon model. Image files rendered from Marmoset are the basis of the texturing process.
Finally, to recreate the material properties of Balenciaga’s real-world clothing in 3D, the team used Substance Painter to paint the low-polygon model, defining the character’s color, specularity, and fine patterns.
The big challenge was to create realistic materials and textures that matched the benchmark of real-world fabric while staying true to the Fortnite style. The most important considerations were to stay true to the weaves of the fabrics and the qualities of the materials.
The scan data and CAD models provided by Balenciaga were critical to accurately recreating digital versions of Balenciaga garments from the real world. These assets have enabled the fortniteThe team to quickly replicate the complex construction of real-world elements for the
Fortnite Outfits. This was especially true for Doggo’s shoes: the team took CAD data from the Triple S sneaker provided by Balenciaga and were able to go straight to low poly, baking and UV.
The team also referenced photographs and videos of the materials used to build Balenciaga garments in the real world to create identical digital versions. Special care was taken to find weaves and fabric grains that not only closely matched the benchmark provided, but also lived in the world of Fortnite. The team was able to develop a procedure-based glitter pattern that allowed them to maintain a high level of texture fidelity regardless of the existing texel density. From there, they developed the textures and materials in neutralized and controlled lighting environments to make sure everything was working properly.
Unreal Engine’s shader system has been particularly useful in recreating these sophisticated materials. Because engine shaders are physically based, they obey the rules for the behavior of light in the real world.
This allowed the team to accurately reproduce real-world materials while allowing for customization of specialized surface properties. For the intricate materials used on Balenciaga items, the team used layers of high-fidelity materials to show detailed weave at a much higher resolution than their usual configurations. The real-time nature of work in Unreal Engine has unlocked fast iterations for immediate artist feedback.
The poses of the characters were also a big part of the visual ideation. The team had to make sure that the characters present the outfits with a fashion theme that accurately represents Balenciaga. From the start, they had detailed conversations with Balenciaga about character tone and unique views on design and aesthetics. It was important to strike the right balance between avoiding traditional fashion poses while capturing the unique abstract nature of Fortnite‘S / Balenciaga’s take on design and fashion.
One of the poses features elements of a famous fashion pose, and one nods to the abstract distortion that is reflected throughout the partnership. It was also important that the poses showcase the material surfaces of the designs, as when rendered they had to be on par with the same actual materials that Balenciaga would use.
The ability to wear Balenciaga clothing digitally is only part of what Fortnite to live. The fashion brand has gone further: in addition to unlocking them in the game, you can visit a virtual store to purchase these outfits in addition to
Inspired by the brutalist look of The afterlife: the era of tomorrow, this virtual store is currently the “featured hub” in
Fortnite Creative. Creative Hubs are playable 3D spaces that serve as a gateway to high-quality community experiences. Outside of the virtual store,
Fortnite and Balenciaga are also launching an actual physical collaboration, with a new collection of merchandise called “Fortnite | Balenciaga Series ”available in selected Balenciaga stores and on Balenciaga.com. Fans who buy the actual clothes will unlock the Balenciaga outfits in Fortnite, further mixing the virtual and the physical.
Immersive 3D visuals in the streets
Bring real-world clothing into the world of Fortnite is one thing, but the fusion of the virtual and the real at Balenciaga does not stop there. The Fortnite characters and outfits were then used to create spectacular real-world immersive 3D billboard experiences that are sure to draw passersby in London, New York, Tokyo and Seoul.
Bask among the skyscrapers, a dressed Balenciaga Fortnite Favorite Doggo looms larger than life on the sidewalks, bringing the Balenciaga x
Fortnite partnering with the physical world in an entertaining and engaging way. In another twist, that same actual billboard has been digitally replicated in the virtual store hosted in Balenciaga’s Creative Hub, as part of an efficient transmedia approach that avoids having to create new assets from it. zero.
The reallocation of existing assets allowed the team to faithfully retain the defined material surfaces that had been designed with Balenciaga for the Fortnite crossover – for example, the materials of Doggo shoes perfectly reflect real-world sneakers. The display panel scene was assembled in Unreal Engine and adjustments were made to shading, lighting, scene layout, and real-time camera positions.
Using real-time ray tracing and physics-based lighting materials helped the team match the lighting for each physical location. This allowed them to anchor the lighting and make Doggo feel like he’s actually in every location. Knowing the position of the sun based on the time of day, as well as where the sun will be in the sky, has helped achieve realistic lighting.
Virtually no limit
Balenciaga’s partnership with Fortnite and the ongoing work with Unreal Engine provides fascinating insight into the kinds of innovative crossover experiences that are now possible, opening up new ways of representing and connecting to each other.
By reusing the same character models for multiple different experiences and communications, the fashion brand has shed light on the opportunities offered by a transmedia approach – a key part of an open metaverse where we can all be part of the digital ecosystem. inclusive of the future. The boundaries between the virtual and the physical worlds are becoming increasingly blurred, offering new ways to seduce and delight. By adopting cutting-edge technologies, Balenciaga has been able to woo a new digital native audience, unconstrained by the limits of either world.