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What are the greatest benefits of digital fashion, particularly within your profession?
As a traditional fashion designer trained (and still training!) in digital fashion, for me the first obvious benefit of digital fashion is the time- and material-saving opportunities it represents, especially at the sampling stage. Usually a sample—the garment's prototype—would have to go through a lengthy iteration process, often travelling between the brand's head office in Europe or America and the production factory based in Asia or India, and this is repeated until the style is approved for production. This "method" represents a huge waste of time, but also an incredible waste of material for an item that might not even sell well in-store, and would have to go into sales before eventually being discarded. Digital fashion and digital fashion software like Clo3D enable designers to only use computer power to create a nearly perfect sample that might only require one physical iteration before approbation.
In the same way, the digitalisation of the fashion design process enables me to experiment freely, to "go crazy" with an idea, without producing any physical waste. The instant 3D visualisation of a design helps me to quickly decide if I want to discard or pursue a concept.
Finally, digital fashion has these elements of fun, creativity and freedom that, I feel, traditional fashion has lost. Maybe it's because, to me, fashion's aura has sort of begun to fade, as the ethical and environmental scandals unfold. The traditional fashion system sometimes feels so wrong that it is refreshing and nice to try something else. And that is why I'm a bit afraid of fashion NFTs and their ecological impact; I would not like digital fashion to make the same mistakes as its traditional counterpart. But that's another, huge topic!
Otherwise, the principles of digital fashion, the idea that something can be created and exist entirely and only digitally, could be applied to the accessory, jewellery and watchmaking sectors. In the same way that a fashion campaign can be realised only with computers, jewellery or bag advertisements could be digitally rendered rather than shot by a photographer in a physical studio—if that’s not already the case!
What do you think is the most promising path right now towards a more sustainable fashion industry?
I don’t think that there is only one path, and that is also what defines sustainability. The fashion industry used to be a “one-way” industry, and that is what made it unsustainable environmentally but also ethically. There used to be one way of producing, one way of promoting, even one way of wearing. Brands that did not respect the rules would die or struggle to exist, going against the flow. To become more sustainable, the fashion industry needs to change at all levels and become multiple, offering diverse ways of making, presenting, owning and enjoying. So, to me, there isn’t only one path to the sector’s sustainability—there are plenty. And we see them emerging already! Of course, digital fashion is one of them. But, considering that we might still need to wear physical garments for a bit, I consider thrift shopping, mending and repairing, loaning and buying from small, local sustainable brands as being among the many cool and sustainable options readily available to consumers.
I wouldn’t say that transitioning to sustainability is more complicated for designers, but I think that it is more challenging because we, speaking as a designer, have to change the way we do what we do. Our thinking has to change, our whole way of designing fashion. But, again, there are multiple paths. One can decide to design with selected materials, for example recycled or discarded; for specific users; or using a particular technique, such as zero-waste pattern cutting or collaborative design. There are many existing opportunities for designers to create for sustainability, and many more to discover. I chose the path of design for environmental and human well-being; we will see where it leads me!
I don’t think it’s a problem if digital fashion becomes more mainstream, or at least I don't see this as an issue. I believe that the simple fact that it is, well, digital, makes it more accessible and that it should be. This is another difference compared to the traditional fashion world where exclusivity is acclaimed. This is why I am not a big fan of fashion NFTs, which celebrate the idea of drops and limitedness again. Other than that, I think that it would be quite cool to see more people wearing digital fashion (in an image), and even more so if this replaces the purchase of a physical item that would have only been worn for a picture.
I must say that I find everything digital fashion–related super exciting at the moment! It is an exciting sector in and of itself. As my work explores garments' impacts on environmental and human well-being, I really would like to investigate the potential benefits of digital fashion. I feel like we don't normally associate virtuality with well-being or happiness and there is this idea that clothing needs to be physical to impact our emotions and feelings.
What made you decide to pursue a career in digital design rather than designing in the more traditional sense?
What are some of the pros and cons of digital design versus traditional design?
For me, the big con of digital fashion is that it lets you create amazing shapes and textures, but that they often cannot exist in reality. I am still attracted, or rather in need of physicality, and when I see an incredible digital garment, I can’t help myself from thinking, “I wish I could wear that,” and I mean physically. It’s a little bit frustrating at times that all that beauty only exists on-screen, but that’s also part of the magic. And apparently, that need for physicality goes away with time and practise, so we’ll see!
There are a lot of pros that I already mentioned, like creative freedom and the capacity to instantly visualise an idea. To me, one of the biggest pros of digital fashion is its sustainable aspect—the gigantic amount of fabric and paper that is saved when designing digitally. But this is a benefit that could be implemented in traditional fashion with the use of digital fashion design software, which is already the case within some companies.
How does the emergence of the digital fashion industry affect the experience of fashion design students and newer designers today?
I feel like most fashion students and young designers show interest in digital fashion. At least, they are curious about it and question its role. It's quite normal, as several graduates and current students had to switch to digital fashion design when we went into lockdown.
I think that the learning of digital fashion design software, and here again I'm thinking of Clo3D, should be integrated into the existing curriculum, rather than creating digital-only fashion courses. For me, it shouldn't replace learning of more traditional design techniques—they are complementary skillsets. Besides, I was introduced to Clo3D and other digital fashion software and tools as part of my MA Fashion Futures at The London College of Fashion and without this introduction, I would probably not be where I am now. I feel like it’s important to at least present this technology to students, even if they don’t decide to pursue that path. And I must say that it’s also easier to make digital garments when you know how to sew them physically.
As for newer designers, I think that the use of digital fashion software and the simplification of the sampling process that it represents could impact the way they decide to produce. If you save time and material when prototyping, you are likelier to invest more money into producing locally. And even if one chose to go ahead with outsourcing, the process's digitalisation would enable fewer exchanges between the factory and head office.
What tools and innovations are you, as digital designer, most looking forward to accessing as the industry continues to develop?
Luxiders Magazine Contributor