Credit Left, Michael Kovac/Getty Images for ELLE; right, Nowfashion
You wonder how fashion designers keep up: fall, spring, resort, cruise, couture, pre-fall. All this while trying to navigate the shifting sands of the industry. Soon designers may be tasked with creating yet another collection â for Bitmoji. Some already are.
Last fall, the popular app, which allows users to create a personalized emoji avatar, introduced runway looks to its virtual closet. Labels whose clothes were made available free through partnerships with Bergdorf Goodman and W magazine included Michael Kors, Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg. Women can buy a wrap dress and outfit their pixilated selves in the same one.
It was great news for Bitmoji fans, who were long stuck with basic T-shirts and drab monochrome dresses. Now their avatar can step out (on a runway, even) in a fur-trimmed parka paired with a miniskirt by Rodarte, even if they couldnât afford the ensemble in real life.
But what about the designers whose carefully crafted wares were reduced to silly cartoons on a phone screen?
Tanya Taylor, a Canadian designer whose vibrant print dresses are available on Bitmoji, said she had initial concerns about appearing too youthful or unserious. But she spoke to intelligent women she knew, many of whom use the app, and decided that Bitmoji is really âa way to express fun and emotion.â
Ms. Taylor added: âWe have had such an incredible reaction and broadened the audience that knows about the brand. It shows weâre taking a risk and being playful.â
Designing for Bitmoji, however, was more complicated than she anticipated. She chose three past looks that exemplified her brand, including a best-selling (in real life) red-and-white knit top. Then she worked with Bitmojiâs programmers to digitize the clothes, a process that took almost three months.
âIt honestly felt like we were going through actual fittings,â Ms. Taylor said. âThey would send a PDF, and we would draw on the little avatars: âShorten the hem.ââ
As Bitmoji fans know, the avatars are pictured in hundreds of situations, and the clothes had to look wearable in each one. Ms. Taylor found that miniskirts work best (a lot of the scenarios, like a suggestion of coffee or âmwahâ kiss, are not full body images), as do bright, punchy prints.
So what outfits have been most popular on the app so far?
In Bergdorfâs fashion packet, Rodarteâs fur parka has been a winner, said Mallory Andrews, senior vice president for sales promotion, marketing and public relations for the retailer. âThat was interesting and exciting to seeâ because the label is so fashion forward, she said.
But Jacob Blackstock, the founder of Bitmoji, cited a âvery, very, very simple gray topâ by Joie as one of the most popular pieces over all.
âIt speaks to the idea that for a lot of people, simplicity is their ideal,â he said.
As in real life, there are fewer Bitmoji fashion options for men: flannels, hoodies, T-shirts, a few âblack labelâ suits and, for the edgier guy, a Kenzo lion-print sweater in three available colors.
Mr. Blackstock wants to expand the menâs offerings, but the limited wardrobe suits some users just fine. Jonathan Adler, the founder of the namesake home design company, is a big fan of the app (âBefore Bitmoji, I was living life in black and white,â he said), and dresses his avatar as simply as himself.
âI just wear white jeans every day, usually with a blue shirt,â he said. âMy Bitmoji used to have white jeans and a blue shirt. It was unmistakably moi.â
Around the holidays, Mr. Adler switched to a Hanukkah sweater with a Star of David.
While some Bitmoji users switch outfits regularly (Ms. Taylor has workweek and weekend ensembles), Mr. Adler suggests men find a look that works and stick with it. And, he added, both sexes should create avatars that reflect (and dress) the way they really are.
âA personâs level of honesty in their character is revealed by their Bitmoji,â he said. âI have a friend who Iâve always felt was slightly narcissistic. Her Bitmoji makes her look like a supermodel. Itâs like a personal reckoning, being your avatar.â
Itâs that kind of insight into how consumers portray themselves through fashion that could turn Bitmoji into a valuable tool for designers. One can envision them previewing looks on the app, using it as a sales forecaster or even charging a tiny fee for the Bitmoji version of luxury goods that in real life would retail for thousands of dollars.
âWe have three more outfits in the works,â Ms. Taylor said.
Before any of that happens, though, Mr. Blackstock and his team have to catch up. No new runway looks have debuted on the app since last fall, though he promised them soon, now that his programmers (So Busy, as the Bitmoji might say) are âgetting into a regular rhythm.â
It turns out even avatars canât keep up with the pace of fashion.