Karlie Kloss thinks Roblox is the future of fashion
You may know Karlie Kloss as a supermodel who has graced the cover of Vogue 42 times, walked hundreds of global runways, and played muse to the most distinguished design minds in the world. But for the better part of the last two years the 30-year-old investor and mom has been focused on the potential of Roblox, a social platform best known for being beloved by children.
With 60 million daily active users and “billions of dollars of commerce happening on the platform every day,” Kloss understands its global influence. “This is not just some kids game [or] cute little metaverse thing, it’s a real business,” she tells Mashable. And it’s where she thinks the future of fashion could thrive.
Last Wednesday, Kloss launched Klossette, a Roblox world where players can create and style their own looks and climb the fashion ranks from intern to editor-in-chief as their designs are upvoted by fellows players. In less than a week, an astounding 7 million users have visited the game.
The game’s success supports Kloss’ belief that tech and fashion can create new opportunities for young people, especially women, to learn and express themselves. She wants to open the industry up to a new generation of talent and share the “surreal” learning experiences she had growing up in the world’s most elite ateliers. “I’m a girl from Missouri!” she laughs.
“How did I end up in these spaces? And how do I share that access? That’s where I see the potential; democratizing these experiences, tools, and opportunities. This game is reaching a demographic and audience that is very real,” she says. “And if you build it, they will come.”
Learning to love Roblox
Like most millennials, Kloss initially heard about Roblox from younger family members and her friends’ children. “When I started to really pay attention and think about where I thought the [fashion] industry should be going… I literally got on the phone with a bunch of strangers and I was like, how can you tell me about what you’re doing, how you design, and how it works?” says Kloss. Those strangers were Roblox’s top designers, “and they’re superstars!” Kloss says. “It’s like getting on the phone with Marc Jacobs.”
I’m sitting with the multi-hyphenate in a plush hotel on the West side of lower Manhattan. On the couch next to her is Rush Bogin, a 17-year-old wunderkind with a shock of red hair who started designing on Roblox under the username Rush_X(Opens in a new tab) about four years ago. Since then, Bogin has built a multimillion-dollar business selling avatar hairstyles, among other things, that have become about as aesthetically synonymous with the platform as its blocky default avatar.
“A lot of brands stay away from kids and teens,” says Bogin, who is dressed the part of a fashion trendsetter in a crisp Alexander McQueen button-up, Thom Browne knit, and teal Gucci sneakers. “I even told Karlie on [our first] call, ‘You’re the first person ever that has reached out to me.'”
Kloss on the left, walking in the Carolina Herrera Spring 2023 show in September 2022. In the middle, the dress in the Roblox catalog and on a Roblox avatar on the right.
Credit: Mashable composite; Roblox, Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Kloss is a serial early adopter. For example, she was one of the first celebrities to post vlogs and other video content to YouTube in 2015, before a crowd of recognizable names adopted the platform years later. That same year she founded the Kode With Klossy(Opens in a new tab) foundation, which hosts free summer coding camps for young women and non-binary people to help close tech’s chasmal gender gap.
Now, with Roblox, “I feel like there’s kind of nothing to lose,” she says, “I’m just an insatiably curious person. I’m not afraid to say that I don’t get something. I think that’s part of why people in the fashion industry have not necessarily jumped in. Because they don’t get it. It’s natural and normal to be scared of change, but I don’t see it at all as a replacement.”
Bogin, she notes, has sold 40 million items on the platform. “That’s insane!” she exclaims, “The top designers in the world, and certainly New York Fashion Week or CFDA, will never reach that sort of distribution. That’s what’s so interesting about [Roblox]: the limitless potential and scale of this space to create and share.”
Kloss’ first foray into creating experiences on Roblox was a limited-time experience called Fashion Klossette Designer Showcase, and she used her deep industry ties to bridge her two words. In September 2022, she wore a floral Carolina Herrera gown on the runway, then tapped a Roblox creator to bring the dress to digital life. The item was a hit on the platform, and is now reselling for about 860,000 Robux, approximately $10,700 USD (the dress cannot be traded for actual money).
Kloss’ genuine interest in the community has set her apart, says Bogin. “I’ve seen a lot of branded experiences launch, and they advertise it everywhere. [But] you only see a couple hundred people playing,” he says.
Klossette is different. “They love it,” Bogin smiles, glancing at my laptop screen, where players are running around Klossette’s glass-topped gallerie. “There are 4,000 people playing it right now! I think it shows how strong of a community Karlie’s built.”
Klossette’s avatars are infinitely customizable and custom to the game, which means they can’t be found anywhere else on Roblox.
Nurturing the next generation of designers
In Kloss’ vision of the future “you will need to have technical literacy in creative industries,” she says, but right now “in the more traditional fashion industry, there’s a real disconnect” from tech. Designers need to adopt technical advancements and fast. Otherwise, “how do we protect the best of what fashion is in the evolving world that we live in?” Kloss posits.
She points to one of her investments, a digital identities developer named Eon(Opens in a new tab), whose software tracks the manufacturing, sale, resale, and authentication of a garment. “That is an infrastructure innovation that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the couture atelier,” she explains, “It’s more an evolution of problem solving in this industry.”
And that evolution includes opening the often exclusive world of fashion to a global audience. “I really believe so deeply in democratizing access to skills and tools and community to be able to equip individuals, in particular women and gender non-conforming individuals, to be a part of building that tech, part of that conversation.”
That’s where Roblox comes in. “What we’re really hoping to do is kind of act as a curated space that can both elevate and invest the design talent on the platform, like Rush.” (In fact, Kloss believes in Bogin so much that she wrote him a letter of recommendation when he applied to college.)
“A fashion publication used to play that curation role, and I think still does, but the next generation is going other places for that influence, that taste-making.” She reminisces about now-closed Colette, a storied Parisian concept store that debuted the Apple iWatch(Opens in a new tab) and hosted a month-long pop-up of Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel(Opens in a new tab) while amplifying the work of unknown designers.
“It was so inspirational to me… a curated space that both elevated next gen and curated the best of the industry. That is the kind of experiential space we’ve wanted to create: a living, breathing ecosystem.”
Items in Klossette can be customized in a nearly infinite number of color and texture combinations.
Two in five of Roblox’s Gen Z users say expressing themselves with clothing and accessories in the digital world is more important than in the physical world. More than 43 percent of users say that styling their avatars allows them to showcase their individuality and feel good about themselves, and 40 percent of monthly users update their avatars once a month. Eighteen percent of the more than 60 million daily users update their avatar every day.
Roblox users are already quite fashion-forward. Real-life trends are reflected in the digital clothes and accessories available for purchase. The iPod shuffles that Gen Z have repurposed as hair clips(Opens in a new tab), for example, are in the catalog alongside Squid Game costumes and Vivienne Westwood-inspired jewelry.
Klossette is a new home for that kind of self-expression. “I wanted to create something that didn’t exist on the platform,” says Kloss, “where you can just kind of get lost in creativity.”
Pushing the technical boundaries with Klossette
Kloss hopes Klossette will hasten the next evolution of the fashion industry, but it has already revolutionized Roblox itself. Kloss worked with developers at Sawhorse Interactive to reimagine what was possible on the platform to make Klossette a “premium” experience with more dimension than the 2D games that preceded it.
They replaced Roblox’s default “blocky” avatars with anthropomorphic designs and its clunky default avatar styling catalog with an intuitive, immensely customizable experience. Players can choose the exact color and texture of clothing, hair, and accessories. When applying make-up, highlighter hugs the curves of the face to create layered looks. Fabric shadows shift to accommodate different lighting options in a player’s design studio.
“These are all very complex technical innovations that nobody else needs to know about,” says Kloss, “but we really wanted to be intentional in creating a space that was different than other things on the platform… I’m not in this for a quick buck,” she adds.
In the long term, Kloss hopes Klossette can push the technical prowess of the industry forward, too. “I envision a future where a designer could present their collection on the Fashion Klossette and have hundreds of thousands of people engage, say what they love or what they will buy, and [for the brand to] be able to take that real-time data to actually influence decisions about what gets made.” That could also reduce the waste associated with overproduction by helping designers understand the demand for their work.
“It’s an evolution, and I want to continue to bring more people into the conversation,” says Kloss. “Fashion should be for everyone and also by everyone.”