June 14, 2006
Burlingame, Calif. - American Apparel, the self-proclaimed socially conscious, anti-sweatshop clothing line, has sprouted 43 new stores in nine countries over the past year. But none of those is anything like its newest store. The new store doesn't really exist--except in the online game Second Life.
American Apparel, based in Los Angeles, isn't the first company to discover Second Life--Warner Bros. threw a virtual record release party online earlier this month for anti-folk artist Regina Spektor, and Twentieth Century Fox broadcast the red carpet premiere of X-Men 3: The Last Stand from Cannes into Second Life's world in May. But the Saturday opening will be the first time a real-world retailer has set up shop in virtual space for virtual people.
"Part of the fun of the game is creating characters to look like a model of yourself or to become something fantastic, like monsters or robots or pixies," says Raz Schionning, American Apparel's Web director. "People like us for what we stand for, so they'll have the chance to dress their characters in our clothes."
The game's nearly 200,000 "residents" use a game currency known as Lindens to rent space, build businesses and offer services. Players can also purchase Lindens with real-world money, which has created an exchange market.
Schionning says that it's just an experiment and that the company is not trying to make money with the venture. A token sum will be charged for clothing, but the prices are not yet set. This is "not a profit-making venture," he says.
Its real-life retail outlets typically feature racy, disco-era photographs of scantily clad girls and have been at the center of controversy over the kitschy decor, which has used 1970s Penthouse magazine covers. The 6,000-square foot virtual store is modeled after the hipster brand's bi-level Tokyo outlet.
The initial fashion selection will offer 20 styles of American Apparel's signature logo-free casual wear: basic T-shirts, tank tops, undergarments and swimwear. Second Life residents may be privy to real-world promotions and discounts from American Apparel, and the marketing tactic may boost actual sales with a link to the online store, the company said.
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