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A model wearing a bright red leather jacket and leather briefs walks the runway at the Han Kjobenhavn fashion show at Milan Fashion Week. Photo: Estrop/Getty Images

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Diablo is haute as hell at Milan Fashion Week

Danish designer Han Kjøbenhavn unveils ‘Chthonic Penumbra’ collection, a collab with Blizzard

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Blizzard Entertainment and Danish fashion house Han Kjøbenhavn unveiled a surprising new collaboration on Saturday at Milan Fashion Week: a Diablo-inspired, high-end, ready-to-wear collection for 2023 that will be available for purchase this summer.

Han Kjøbenhavn’s fall/winter “Chthonic Penumbra” womenswear collection goes far beyond the T-shirts and hoodies one typically associates with gaming-inspired fashion. The line comprises striking fashion pieces composed of faux fur, vegan leather, and feathers, in gray and black hues, vibrant, blood-red fabrics, and complemented with pearls and chrome accents. Han Kjøbenhavn described the new collection as inspired by the phrase “hell as a beautiful place.”

Ahead of Saturday’s runway show at Milan Fashion Week, Polygon spoke to Han Kjøbenhav creative director Jannik Wikkelsø Davidsen and CEO Daniel Søndergaard Hummel about the brand’s collaboration with Diablo and Blizzard.

Han Kjøbenhavn’s Diablo-inspired womenswear collection is not the brand’s typical collaboration. It’s worked with other labels over the past decade, including athletic brand Puma and textile maker Pendleton Woolen Mills, but Davidsen says that it’s been less interested in those kinds of partnerships in recent years — and that Diablo and Han Kjøbenhavn share a certain “emotional DNA.”

“Normally a fashion brand would do sneaker collabs and such, but... we have not done too many collabs [like that] because it just seemed almost too saturated,” Davidsen said. “We wanted to look at new possibilities, with new partners, where it’s more about the emotional DNA and the connection between brands than a product. Talking to the [Blizzard], the match between us and Diablo has been really, really good, because my and Dan’s aesthetic, creatively, is not clean and sweet. The darker side [is more] our aesthetic more than a classic fashion brand.”

Davidsen said that Han Kjøbenhavn aimed to avoid doing a direct translation of what appears in-game in Diablo 4 — and to steer clear, creatively, of what he called “gimmicks.”

“The core idea has been talking to the Diablo team and translating emotions to make sure that what we’re creating isn’t a one-to-one translation of a skin — that becomes too gimmicky, right?” he said. “We’re trying to translate emotion into something that can exist within our world. Because we both share a lot of creative DNA in our visions, it’s actually been a pleasant journey.”

Hummel said he sees “common ground, common aesthetic, and common emotions in the audience that overlaps a lot,” with Han Kjøbenhavn, “especially when you have an aesthetic like ours and the world of Diablo.” Looking at Han Kjøbenhavn’s recent runway and prêt-à-porter lines make it clear why the game franchise is a good fit, creatively; the Copenhagen-based fashion house leans into dark, disturbing imagery, with an emphasis on black leather, imposing silhouettes, and, yes, even the occasional gimmick — like a leather dress with a built-in choker that takes the term quite literally.

Photo: Getty Images
A model wearing a bright red dress with a hood walks the runway at the Han Kjobenhavn fashion show at Milan Fashion Week. Photo: Estrop/Getty Images

Davidsen said that he was creatively inspired by the “big, beautiful evil Renaissance” style of Diablo 4’s art direction, as well as its “dark and dystopian” atmosphere. But that conveying the “journey” of a player’s adventure through Diablo’s world of sanctuary was equally as important as the game’s dark tones.

“It’s about being on a long journey, which I translate visually sometimes in terms of materials,” he explained. “How does the material react when walking or interacting? Of course, ‘conflict’ is also a big thing for me, something I share with the Diablo universe. The darkness is obvious, but so it conflict — but journey carries a lot of visual emotion for me.”

Those materials, Davidsen said, include leather, rubber, and other skin-tight materials inspired by Diablo’s Lilith, but also fabrics inspired by the journey, like mesh that conveys the sense of the game’s ghostly spirits. Hummel likened the line as “dragging [Diablo] into the physical world” through fashion.

Han Kjøbenhavn isn’t just runway fashion, though that’s where the decadent showcase of creative emotion is conveyed, in clothing and sound and visual effects. The label, which was founded in 2008 as an eyewear brand, now sells casual, ready-to-wears pieces, including trousers, T-shirts, sweats, and outerwear, and Davidsen is well aware of the Diablo fan bases desires and expectations.

A model wearing a bright red leather jacket and leather briefs walks the runway at the Han Kjobenhavn fashion show at Milan Fashion Week. Photo: Estrop/Getty Images

“There’s a reason why we start with the runway show,” Hummel said. “It’s important for us to start with the core emotion and then build that out into more ready-to-wear pieces.”

“When we do the runway, we know it’s a set format: It’s extravagant, big emotions,” Davidsen said. “The first assignment for us is to get emotion out, be extravagant in some of the lines. For the audience, we’re obviously thinking about daily, ready-to-wear pieces —hopefully we have a good idea of the gamers, and the audience, and [will] create something special for them.

“They’re very specific in what they believe Diablo should be,” Davidsen added. “We have a tough audience, and Diablo does too. That audience wants Diablo 4 to deliver on what they expect of Diablo, and that’s something I’m really aware of. I read the comments sections.”