Epic Games announced that a new fashion collaboration with Balenciaga is coming to Fortnite, its hugely popular battle royale game. The new drop dresses four Fortnite original characters in new Balenciaga clothing. However, the timing appears to be a little strange given Balenciaga’s current cultural appropriation controversy and Fortnite‘s recent Martin Luther King Jr. event.
Fortnite is well-known for bringing any and everything that it can into its metaverse. From Ferraris and Ariana Grande to Thanos and Superman, it’s not surprising to see a major fashion brand pop up in the item. The collaboration features new outfits, back bling, and cosmetics based on the brand. Fortnite has added a community-made hub where players can enter a virtual Balenciaga store.
The Balenciaga collaboration comes only weeks after the game’s Martin Luther King Jr. March Through Time event, which smacks of poor timing. Balenciaga recently came under fire for releasing a pair of sweatpants that spurred accusations of cultural appropriation. Marquita Gammage, professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Northridge, told CNN that these pants, modeled after the sagging trend, are an exploitation of “Black culture, with the hopes of securing major profits.”
Sagging pants have often been used to criminalize Black Americans. The fact that the item was sold at $1,190 and dubbed “high-end fashion” drew wide criticism from those who saw it as an act of cultural appropriation.
Fortnite heavily promoted its March Through Time event, which strove to educate its young players about the Civil Rights Movement. However, hard decisions have to be made if corporations are going to take steps to show support for POC communities. Those decisions can include reassessing relationships with brands like Balenciaga.
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