Forget entry-level fragrance or lipstick purchases to build a luxury customer base; Gucci is dressing up emojis, Italian style. The fashion brand has signed on as the exclusive provider of high-end accessories and clothing for a new app from Los Angeles-based startup Genies Inc.
Launched on Nov. 19 with financial backing from Shawn Mendes, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Carmelo Anthony, Genies’ titular app supports emoji-to-emoji chat among a target audience of 16- to 23-year-olds. Users can select from over 1 million combinations of skin tone, eye color, hair, clothing, jewelry and footwear to outfit their avatars.
In addition to testing whether luxury fashion brands can thrive in the virtual world, Genies’ 3D emojis powered by artificial intelligence also compete against Snap Inc.’s popular Bitmoji app. Moreover, Genies plays into Gucci’s ongoing strategy to emphasize video and moving images.
“If you think back 10 years, the way that luxury brands were advertising was essentially print campaigns that were created on a seasonal basis,” said Robert Triefus, Gucci’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “Today, the narrative that we’re telling at Gucci and the communities that we’re engaging with is essentially powered by digital.”
As Genies’ first global advertiser, Gucci’s deal is the latest emoji experiment in the fashion world. Last year, Chanel launched pink-hued sweets emblazoned with its interlocking C’s logo. Versace and Comme des Garcons also have created emojis that suit their signature aesthetics. Earlier this year, in collaboration with London-based artist Unskilled Worker, Gucci drew up animojis inspired by creative director Alessandro Michele’s dogs clad in the brand’s green-and-red collars.
The twist to Gucci’s partnership with Genies is that any mention of Rodeo Drive, luxury, Milan, gold and other fashion-related keywords in chats will prompt Gucci-branded items to rain down on the conversations. “The liquid content that we’re creating has a different purpose,” Triefus said, “allowing us to have an always-on approach.”
Co-founded by millennial entrepreneurs Akash Nigam, Matt Geiger and Evan Rosenbaum, Genies is using the tried-and-true formula of enlisting support from celebrities simultaneously to generate buzz and promote their personal brands among youthful fans. In addition to endorsing the app, the famous faces are also making investments.
While actor Ashton Kutcher has turned investing in technology firms such as Airbnb, Spotify and Warby Parker into a viable second career, The Chainsmokers said the terrain appears “to be like the Wild West.” Still, the EDM-pop duo invested in Genies, along with YouTube star Cameron Dallas and rapper A$AP Rocky; Hollywood firms Management 360 and CAA Ventures; motivational speaker Tony Robbins; and NBA star Russell Westbrook, among others.
“This is literally my first technology company investment,” said Jared Goff, quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. “I’m most excited about Genies because I feel it is entering the personal avatar space in a way that hasn’t been seen before. The numerous animations and outfit combinations make the possibilities virtually endless.”
With an infusion of $10 million announced Nov. 19, Genies has raised $25 million to date.
This article originally appeared on THR.com.