Looking for a way to spice up your wardrobe? Now you can do so without even having to find space in the wardrobe. With digital fashion, there’s no need to get your hands on new garments to look striking. You just have to update your virtual image, with new computerised shoes, hats, tops and pants – some from the world’s top fashion labels – all available for purchase.
Trendsetters are hailing digital fashion – clothing being built using 3D software and computer programming – as the new wave of the 21stcentury in fashion and style innovation.
Of course, if you’re heading out for brunch with pals you may wish to stick to purchasing conventional clothes.
But, for those style conscious individuals feeling the need to look great for their social media following, it’s an exciting, less expensive new method to present their best image to the world.
The cost of a digital outfit will vary depending on what designers and fashion houses you seek out, (and you’d be surprised how many luxury labels are dipping their toe in the digital water. Gucci began selling virtual sneakers for $17.99 last year – somewhat cheaper than their regular sneakers which retail for over $500.)
Websites like DressX allow users to try out different pieces for free, using a filter on Instagram before they commit to buying a piece with their clothing ranging from $25 to $950.
The Starfish contributor Stephanie Jacob talks to upcoming WA designer and digital fashion modeler, Ivan Medrano about the rise of digital fashion.
How did you get into digital fashion?
I formally started creating digital fashion pieces late last year after being introduced to the concepts of the metaverse. After realising the expanding art and fashion opportunities of the digital world, I decided to jump in and claim my spot.
I believe digital fashion is something the majority of Gen Z has already had a longstanding engagement with. It’s the way we customize our characters in video games, how we choose to create our online avatars, the clothes we give our Sims.
What more do you hope to do in this field?
I want to decentralise high fashion. Fashion has always been an integral visual language in how people choose to express and brand themselves. There are two modes of the dynamic between clothing and self. The first is association through physical obtainment and the second is digital engagement.
Physical obtainment is expensive. Be it sizable affluence, or income dedicated to fashion collecting, this mode is materially demanding, and staples Haute Couture to wealthier groups.
Digital engagement has no output relating to the self. People can thrift, DIY, or style themselves in the likeness of the pieces they admire, but there is no personal form of consumption that allows them to ‘see themselves’ in high fashion.
I want to close that gap. Digital fashion is decentralised fashion. I want to be able to provide ethereal, Avante-Garde expression to a fashion audience in a digitised era. I want to make high art engagement available to the working class and I want to contribute to a less wasteful relationship with garments.
What’s one of your favourite pieces you’ve made?
The piece I’ve posted and styled the most is my Pearl Glory Top. It’s got a digital polished white leather material and a neck that folds and pinches over the chest. The bottom hem base folds up completely in an arch.
What do you see for the future of fashion in everyday life? How does digital fashion fit into that?
When I was younger and had some extra cash I’d go to the mall and spend money on clothes. I remember when my mother gave me a pair of Timberland boots for my birthday when I was 13 or 14. I lived in Ottawa, Canada, so the winters would be pretty extreme. Nonetheless, I wore those boots almost every day of the year. Other than that I was never a sneaker-head, my friends were, and I’d watch them buy and sell pairs of Adidas Boost and Nike sneakers.
But when you look at kids today, what do they buy when they’re given money? They get V-Bucks for Fortnite skins. Robux to buy items in Roblox, etcetera: digital currencies for wearables in the games they play. Undeniably, digital fashion and metaverse engagement is already here. Our children have an established value of virtual goods and experiences. Post Covid-19, virtual spaces have become so much more interpersonal and fulfilling to dwell in, especially as an answer to the lockdowns and quarantine isolations. Digital fashion, and modes of expressing a digital self, will only grow as this generation and their taste mature.
What programs do you use?
Zbrush Core and Blender.
How are your pieces made?
I use Zbrush Core to sculpt a lot of my hardware. Shoes, bags, the limbs of my models, most specifically my model heads. If you would make it with clay or plastic, it’s probably being made in Zbrush Core.
I use Blender for everything else. Looking back at the Pearl Glory Top, I used the software’s fabric simulation in construction. First, I draft the pattern of my garments, as you would with a physical design. Then I tell the program where the seams are, where the fabric needs to be pulled together. I assign physics properties to the virtual fabric, and from then on out it’s all about play and experimentation. When I have some forms I like, I repeat and situate them onto a model base.
Do you see a rise in its popularity?
There’s been a rise in prominence. Digital fashion retailers like DressX often act as a foothold for newcomers to learn more. I feel like a lot of people’s first interaction with digital fashion within this context was Safiya Nygaard’s video on YouTube, where she wore and posted digital garments for a week.
There are more and more digital fashion designers and houses coming together each month. The Fabricant is worth noting, together with all the independent designers like myself who have picked up the practice.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Japanese designers Issey Miyake and Yoji Yamamoto.
Miyake designs his pieces with a sense of play. He wants wearers to be able to interact with his garments in a manner that rejects a singular fixed state. Instead of buying eight new tops over a year, why not buy one top that transforms and grows with you over a decade. I want my work to possess this sense of timelessness.
Yamamoto embraces withering over time. Usually, the idea of longevity means to last a long time, not relinquishing from its original state. But his designs are meant to transform with age. Distortion, warping, distressing and fading, are all part of the garment’s designed lifespan.
Why did you choose this field of fashion design?
I’ve found 3D art has helped me achieve far more creatively than any other medium. I used to be a traditional artist, then a digital artist with Procreate; 3D Art is the most fulfilling art form I’ve encountered.
What are some of the struggles you’ve had?
It’s a huge learning curve. Render settings, vertices, faces, edges, materiality and nodes, there was so much that was new to me.
Digital fashion can be difficult to do – but when it comes down to it, really anyone can do it if they have the time and the effort to develop their skills with these programs.
What are some of the benefits of digital fashion?
The first digital fashion piece I purchased was a pair of Matrix Ear Cuffs from DressX. They were so fun to put on and see on my head, even though they weren’t physically there. I took a photo and was able to engage with a garment I enjoyed. No worker had to manufacture those cuffs; I don’t need to explain what the manufacturing process looks like in physical fast fashion. The cuffs weren’t shipped to DressX, then shipped to me.
They had no limited sizes or weight, and the person who designed them had few constraints to work with. And if one day I didn’t like them anymore, I wouldn’t have to worry about them taking up space at the back of my closet or resting somewhere in a landfill.
Digital fashion is the best part of fashion without physical limitations and consequences. Of course, the discourses around NFT’s and the energy consumption in the minting process is to be noted. However, when it comes to fashion as a mode of expression of self, digital fashion stands as a valuable solution to overconsuming and garment pollution.
Who do you see wearing digital fashion meaning what market are you designing for?
Digital fashion currently lacks niche subcultures. I believe it’s because digital fashion as a form itself is quite niche and subversive. However we need more designers to diversify the playing field.
I want to target fashion communities without our digital youth culture, put my garments among the works of archival Rick Owens and Mason Margiela fans. I’m designing for people are who are excited over the cyber revival, those passionate about sustainability. I want my work to be culturally important among Gen Z and be worn by people who care deeply about what they wear and how they style themselves.
Overall, I see digital fashion being marketed to younger generations but right now there is a substantial amount of online influencers who are getting into it and marketing digital designers to their followers.
Where do you study fashion design?
I’m currently a third-year Visual and Spatial Design student at Edith Cowan University. I’ve taken some fashion units that assisted me in my method of experimentation and iteration, as digital fashion is still a fashion practice.
Stephanie Jacob is a second year journalism student at Curtin University. She hopes to land a job at the ABC after her course is over. In her spare time she enjoys reading, music and fashion.