NEW YORK • Claire Farron, a slender, athletic woman with pink cotton-candy hair and pale blue eyes, is taking her place in fashion lore as the latest star model for Louis Vuitton, joining the likes of actresses Alicia Vikander, Angelina Jolie and Michelle Williams.
The 21-year-old is a former soldier from a place called Cocoon. Her sense of style is, well, aggressive. She wears a bit of armour for protection and carries a "gunblade", a sort of fused sword-firearm combo that folds up and fits into a holster. Most people know her as Lightning.
Lightning is a protagonist in Final Fantasy, the role-playing video game series in which players explore distant lands.
She is not the only virtual woman nabbing modelling collaborations. Hatsune Miku, the Japanese hologram pop singer, had an outfit designed by Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere's predecessor, Marc Jacobs, in 2013.
Lightning's new modelling gig was perhaps an inevitability. She, along with the rest of Final Fantasy's hefty cast of characters, has always strived to be chic.
Unlike other famous characters who have transcended the video games they came from, such as Mario or Lara Croft, Final Fantasy's various figures were designed with careful attention to style, with the theory that clothing helps bring out a personality.
The characters' outfits are as much haute couture as they are Halloween costume - a low-cut dress made out of dozens of belts, a white tunic and blue vest with mighty thigh-high boots.
"A lot of games rely on fantasy tropes and not fashion," says professor Mia Consalvo, a research chair in game studies and design at Concordia University. "But Final Fantasy characters have always excelled at that. Not just high fantasy, but fashionable high fantasy."
The first Final Fantasy was developed and released in Japan by Square (now Square Enix) for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987.
Final Fantasy was connected to fashion in part because the repeated redrawing of worlds forced evolving creativity. Each of these worlds is distinct, an entirely new environment with a particular aesthetic - mediaeval, steampunk, fantasy. Following those themes, the clothes designed for each game are essentially standalone fashion collections.
In 2011, Final Fantasy XIII-2 characters had their own 12-page spread in Japanese men's fashion magazine Arena Homme+, wearing looks from Prada's spring 2012 men's collection.
Square Enix has gone so far as to have Lightning "speak" with the media. In an interview published by the Telegraph, she talked about her place in fashion and her love for Ghesquiere's new collection.
Tetsuya Nomura, a 45-year-old veteran character designer at Square Enix, has styled dozens of Final Fantasy characters since the sixth game, including Lightning.
Lightning, as she appears in Final Fantasy XIII, is Nomura's favourite. In that game, she is in a white-and- beige coat layered over a zip-up vest, with a short leather skirt and myriad accessories, including a cherry cape and cobalt fingerless gloves.
"I really felt that the style and colour of her hair, facial features and fashion were most perfectly in tune with each other," he says.
"There are many characters I want to modify afterward; but for the Lightning character in that title, I cannot think of any revisions I would make."
While most of the ensembles are far too extravagant to wear down a city sidewalk, people have found ways to convert video game looks to streetwear. How-to guides that reimagine characters from Final Fantasy and countless other games pepper the Internet.
For instance, for an everyday version of Lightning's look from spin-off title Lightning Returns, one site recommends a little black dress and white bomber jacket from Vila, VonZipper sunglasses and sneaker heels from Rock & Candy.
Ghesquiere considers Lightning the "perfect avatar for a global, heroic woman". As he sees it: "Lightning heralds a new era of expression."
High praise for a model who does not really exist.