This story is part of our new Future of Gaming series, a three-site look at gaming’s most pioneering technologies, players, and makers.
Video game fashion is often uninspired, Hot Topic-adjacent fare: T-shirts with a game logo ironed on the front, or zip-up sweatshirts with a garish all-over print of an animated character. It’s rare to see a piece of merch that feels like it’s pulled from a game-world (like the Disco Elysium jacket) or one that’s subtle enough you could wear it out to dinner without anyone knowing you’re repping your favorite RPG.
When I first saw “The Lands Between,” the Elden Ring-inspired collection from luxury streetwear brand ARK/8, I felt like I was looking at the future of game-related fashion. Nothing is so high-concept that it’s unwearable (the line is still firmly rooted in a streetwear aesthetic) but the entire collection could easily be worn by someone strutting through SoHo, or captured and posted on Instagram by Watching New York and no one would know it references a video game.
A lush, blood-red faux-fur coat that looks like the lion draped over Godfrey’s shoulder, an oversized, menswear-inspired crisp white button-down with Queen Marika stretched across the back, a few elegantly distressed crewnecks—all if it is so chic and so effortlessly cool that I can’t help but get excited looking at everything.
I was so curious about the person behind the designs that I reached out via email to ARK/8’s creative director, Dimitri van Eetvelde, to learn what inspires him and what he thinks is the future of gaming fashion.
Finding fashion inspiration in Elden Ring
First, van Eetvelde made one thing very clear: ARK/8 isn’t a video game merch company, it’s a “fashion brand with gaming and pop culture as its DNA.” He likened it to how “skate is part of the DNA of brands like Supreme or Vans.” For him, too many pieces of game-related clothing are “very safe” items like “printed basics or pieces that are more suited for cosplay and gaming conventions.”
“The problem is that most of the licensed companies don’t care about gaming, it’s just a business decision. They sell the same T-shirt, whether it’s Jack Daniels or Iron Maiden or Assassin’s Creed,” he said. Van Eetvelde understands this approach, because he’s done it before—his first fashion company, Level Up Wear, was a printed tee and outerwear line started back in 2007, which focused on printing branded content on high-quality t-shirts. For him, Level Up Wear “was the inception of the concept of gaming and quality together,” though he soon reached a creative limit, and wanted to find a way to further explore high-quality garments and game-inspired designs. That’s when ARK/8 was born, fully materializing in 2019 after several iterations (including, briefly, as Italian-made high-end jewelry).
The Lands Between collection marries high-end fashion with gaming, but not reductively—though items like the Boss Door t-shirt or the Queen Marika button-down clearly feature more obvious game references, there’s a sense of evocation at play here, as well. “We wanted to create a collection that didn’t feel like a repeat of the gaming merch template focusing on key characters or iconography, or using heavily illustrated prints,” van Eetvelde said. “Elden Ring was going to be approached not from a traditional asset/graphic perspective, but from a texture, world immersion angle.”
Brilliantly, the design team leaned into “exploration and content discovery” which van Eetvelde noted is a key part of Elden Ring gameplay. From there, two visual themes emerged: maps and the Tarnished aesthetic. “The map is so beautifully made,” van Eetvelde said, “The challenge was a technical one at that point, as getting it to look vibrant and detailed on different fabrics took a few tries.” The resulting “Our Lands Between Bomber Jacket,” however, is pretty wild—a “seemingly infinite print” of the in-game map, swirling colors across the model’s torso. The Tarnished aesthetic shows in the distressed but robust crewnecks, which van Eetvelde suggested mimic how players start out their Elden Ring experiences. “You start at the bottom in the game, your clothes are ragged. It’s rough, like in most FromSoftware experiences, but there’s also that robustness, that persistence of getting up and dusting yourself off, death after death.”
The future of video game fashion
With individual items ranging from $145 to $2500, it’s a gorgeous—albeit pricey—collection that elevates game-related fashion, and according to its chief designer, The Lands Between is just the beginning for ARK/8. The Elden Ring collection is the brand’s “guinea pig,” according to van Eetvelde—he gave me a sneak peek at a cool, splashy Overwatch drop coming soon that features a D.Va bodysuit I simply must have and a very cool Genji-inspired zip-up.
“ARK/8’s mission is to establish a platform to elevate the conversation around gaming and the incredible art, music and narratives that underpin these amazing entertainment creations,” van Eetvelde said. “There’s a constant to it, it’s not just a one-off like most collabs. Fashion is a way to express our passion and show gaming in a new light.”
During our chat, he cited a few other examples of the somewhat dissonant worlds of fashion and gaming meeting and making something incredible. “I liked the Han Kjobenhavn X Diablo IV runway pieces for example, as they did push the envelope. I think the LOEWE X GHIBLI one was also really good because Jonathan Anderson really has a passion for Ghibli movies and it reflects on the whole collection. It’s brimming with details and complex executions. I want to see more of that.”
For game developers and fashion brands, ARK/8’s ethos can and should be mined for future collaborations. I want to see more high-concept runway pieces, more elevated streetwear looks, and less gaudy, ironed-on 1-Up mushrooms and zip-up sweatshirts meant to look like Samus’ power suit. Video games are visual marvels, brimming with color and creativity—lets make more clothes and accessories that speak to that.