Virtual fashion, the next big thing for the industry
The blend is near, for reality and virtual that is. Computer generated imagery (CGI) has been around for 45 years. With 2D CGI first appearing in the 1973 movie Westworld, then 3D CGI in the sequel in 1976, and has since featured in loads of movies each time looking more real. The photorealistic technology has emerged in the fashion and beauty industry with the likes of Shudu, Margot, Zhi, Perl.WWW and Lil Miquela.
Earlier this year, a few colleagues and I were theorising what Lil Miquela was. I thought she was a model with a photoshop filter, my friends however had an inkling there was something unusually digital about her. They were bang on right, I had no idea we were so close to seeing digital characters in mainstream media. After a few months of uncertainty, news surfaced of how the Instagram influencer came to exist, and around about the same time she was booking legit fashion editorials for major brands including Prada, Vetements and Pat McGrath.
It’s not all honky dory in the land of mixed reality, digital influencers are causing a stir with their strong values and fictional ethnicity. From Lil Miquela supporting the Black Lives Matter movement to Balmain’s recent attempt at diversity with #BalmainArmy. It gets you thinking about the ethics of these creative campaigns, however while you’re deep in thought about which side you’re on, let’s look at five practical applications of how this (old but new) technology is driving change in the fashion industry.
1. Fashion Design
Clo3D a virtual fashion studio has created software helping streamline the design development process. The 3D garment simulation makes clothing look as real as if it had been photographed. They are the team behind the recent Balmain campaign mentioned above and have worked with other brands such as Adidas and Emilio Pucci.
2. Interactive 3D Fashion
Melbourne entrepreneur Marcus Milne creates avatars using a 360 degree camera setup, then renders the 3D realistic avatar with clothes direct from a fashion designer’s patterns. The end result is an interactive 3D model that can be integrated into Facebook, websites, AR and VR environments.
It won’t be long until you see 3D avatars on eCommerce websites. As the tech improves and integrates with fit technology, shoppers will be able to see how a piece of clothing on a fashion website looks on their body based on their measurements and preferences.
3. Fashion Lookbooks
Digital Fashion House, The Fabricant in Amsterdam produces ‘digital fashion collections and editorials.’ Collaborating with brands, The Fabricant creates digitally rendered garments based on patterns and turns it into a complete fashion lookbook from layout to social media assets and motion graphics.
Virtue Nordic, the Scandi in-house creative agency from VICE has released the world’s first digital fashion collection and you can wear it, online. In collaboration with Carlings and digital influencer perl.www it’s not as out-there as you might think. Typically, you wear items from your wardrobe an average of 7 times before items are discarded, and t-shirts are one of the biggest water-wasters in the world. On average, one cotton tee requires 2.700 litres of water to produce.
‘When customers order an item from the collection, a digital tailor fits the design to a 3D figure of the customer's body, defining the seams, drapes, and creases in a virtual environment. Then, they insert the model in an image of the customers choosing, adapting to the lighting sources in the target image. The image is sent back to the customer to be posted on social channels, printed out or featured in a magazine.’
All proceeds from the campaign going to Water Aid, a non-profit organisation working in 34 countries with the goal to provide clean water, sanitation and good hygiene facilities for everyone.
“Designing in 3D isn’t all that different from tailoring. You still select materials, draw the pattern, join the seams, perfect the fit. But in the digital world, the only limit is your imagination. It’s pure aesthetics, liberated from practical concerns, and it’s exhilarating to work in.” Dimitri Werner de Paiva, Creative at Virtue Nordic
5. Just plain weird.
Balenciaga released an interesting lookbook with their latest collection. The CGI models twist backward, bend from the middle, and expand at the shoulders, it’s enough to make your toes curl, well, it did for one of the unreal models. The quirky appeal of this campaign, I personally love because they’re not trying to make it look real and they CGI models still portray the brand and clothes beautifully.
As we see more brands incorporating experiential and personalisation into their product offering, digital fashion and CGI is a super smart and eco-friendly way fashion can leverage technology and enhance the customer experience. It’s clear that for fashion businesses to evolve, they need to consider what their competitive advantage is, and tech just may be the answer to that. Chat to some folk mentioned at the above companies (I can connect you with the first four agencies if you’re interested) and embrace the XR blend.
Typed by Saskia Fairfull, founding member of the Independent Fashion Advisory Board. Connecting tech startups with fashion businesses.