On November 9th the social media channels for Final Fantasy XIV announced a new partnership with fashion and accessory designer Chan Luu. The collaboration will produce a line of the designer’s popular hand-made beaded bracelets with a Final Fantasy XIV twist; each piece will be themed after a job class from the popular MMORPG and decorated with a charm depicting the logo of each job’s respective soul crystal. These charm bracelets are a way to subtley show off pride for your chosen class and look good doing it.
Chan Luu may not be a household name for most Final Fantasy fans but her work has been worn by Lady Gaga, Brittney Spears, Emma Watson, and Tom Hanks just to name a few. It might seem odd to some RPG fans for Square to be partnering with a designer whose work you’re more likely to find at Saks Fifth Avenue than GameStop, but it’s certainly not the only time Final Fantasy and fashion have crossed paths. Characters from Final Fantasy XIII were featured models for Prada in 2012 and Lightning returned to the fashion world as a model for Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Final Fantasy XV’s fashion connection is even more a part of it’s DNA – Japanese designer Roen worked on the costumes for the main cast and the mother of punk herself, Vivienne Westwood, designed Lunafreya’s wedding dress.
The XIV charm bracelets are certainly more subtle than, say, Prompto’s asymmetrical studded leather vest and plaid half-skirt thing, but they speak to the series’ appreciation of distinct design. That design comes with a cost however and for many players of XIV commenting on social media the $139.99USD price tag attached to these bracelets is a cost they’re not willing to pay.
“I was expecting $50 at max but then again this is square enix. Should known better”, “$140?????? At least price them a standard gamer’s wage!”,
“I can make these for a fraction of $140. I’ll pass on this rip off”
Comments like these are common in the facebook thread announcing the collaboration. Similar sentiments can be found in many of the replies to the twitter counterpart. It’s easy to jump to a conclusion like some of these commenters but there’s more to this price tag than just a well-known fashion designer and a videogame license adding up to a prohibitive cost for the average ‘gamer’. It’s unfair to pass this off as just an attempt to gouge fans of the game (that’s what the Mogstation is for anyway (I joke, I joke)) without considering the larger business ecosystem at play.
Chan Luu is known particularly for her devotion to ethical practices in her factories. In an industry where mass-production and sweatshops are common, Chan Luu’s accessories are hand-made and her workers are paid fair wages that ensure a decent standard of living. Originally from Vietnam, Chan Luu later lived in LA and began designing jewelry in the 90s. As her business grew she hand-picked a factory in Vietnam that she trusted for it’s ethical labour practices. She also established a factory in Nairobi, Kenya, employing women who were experts at hand-crafted beaded jewelry as part of an initiative to create sustainable jobs around the world. She has employed 782 people in Kenya alone and Chan Luu Inc’s partnership with the United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative should continue to provide safe, well-payed, sustainable work to more and more people every year.
So is $140 too much for a bracelet? In an article for Boston University Luu says “It’s up to you to decide whether you support what I do or you don’t… The people who make this get paid fairly and have a safe place to work. And some people buy my jewelry only because they love it, but other people do care about those things…”
The game industry is no stranger to controversy about working conditions. Consumers are being confronted more and more about how to ethically consume and it can be uncomfortable to think about how an individual’s spending can impact the lives of the people making a product. It’s important to not always make the number one priority be “spending as little as possible for a product” when the other side of that transaction could be exploitative and damaging. I won’t profess to being an expert on economics but even I can appreciate when a big name publisher like Square Enix is willing to form a partnership that has its roots in the fair and ethical treatment of its workers.
That said, I’m totally broke if someone wants to spot me $140. I play NIN or MCH. tfp o/
The Final Fantasy x Chan Luu Job Bracelet line is accepting orders until December 11th 2018 for North America and December 13th 2018 for Europe. Items will be made to order and can be pre-ordered here.