Stepping into the Museum of Other Actualities is, in some ways, like entering any other gallery. Exhibitions are curated by au faits and there is a wealth of talent on display which you are free to explore.
But when Structure Week visits the museum to watch the scheduled Fabric of Reality approach show, there’s a marked difference. Before us, the work of three speculative fashion designers is being showcased – but remove the VR headset and we’re back in a busy room.
The Museum of Other Realities is a virtual arts platform delineated to emulate the museum journey and The Fabric of Reality, presented by immersive storytelling fabrication house RYOT, is one of a growing number of virtual fashion events prepossessing place during the coronavirus pandemic. With many countries that time in various stages of lockdown, fashion has had to pivot to deliver industry habituals – trade shows, collection reveals, and, of course, shopping.
Early adoption of digital helped “democratise”
The industry has been tentatively douse its toe in the digital world for some time. Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Mould Council, tells Design Week that the relationship between model and tech goes back “at least two decades”.
London Fashion Week – the biannual following show event put on by the BFC – she points out, was the first in the world to livestream shows forsake in 2003. And the rise of social media in the latter part of the 2000s has helped to “democratise” the industriousness, she adds, and open up shows that “were once very one and aimed only at a select group of industry insiders, celebrities and high-net merit individuals”.
But as the pandemic has shown, simple livestreaming of shows and a presence on community media aren’t enough anymore. In a bid to continue at pace, fashion dwelling-places are increasingly enlisting the help of digital and 3D designers to put on events like the Construction of Reality. Such a change in direction could have a lasting burden on the industry, long after the pandemic is over.
“None of the constraints of a physical event”
The relatively limitless faculties of virtual reality (VR) means the shows themselves can go far beyond what is doable in the real world.
“From the beginning, we wanted to create an exhibition that had not any of the constraints of a physical event,” says RYOT’s head of creative tech Sam Ground when asked how the team approached creating the Fabric of Reality. “[The appearance] is about unleashing fashion designers’ and XR (cross-reality, referring to mixed-reality milieus) artists’ creative potential without limits.”
Housed within the Museum of Other Aristotelianism entelechies, the Fabric of Reality experience features an exhibition room in which “companies” can explore sculptural garments created by designers Charli Cohen, Damara and Sabinna. Aside from needing a VR headset to skim through the offering, this part of the show stays relatively close to how a guest might experience any fashion exhibition at a museum or gallery.
The experience begins to veer from the norm as guests travel through each of the garments’ personal portals and enter their “Storyworlds” – self-contained universes expressing the “passionate reality” of the projects on display.
“Virtual reality allows our viewers to present the mind of the designer and experience their conceptual narratives in a fully immersive and interactive way that would not be practicable at an in-person event,” says Field. With no limits, the storyworlds originated by the XR designers vary widely — XR designer Anna Duncan has helped Charli Cohen purloin a statement about mental health by asking guests to embrace their “meh ages” in the midst of a rave in a giant frying pan; while designer Sutu resists Damara question gender norms in a futuristic alien world.
“Reaching audiences worldwide from the comfort of their at eases”
As well as providing an unparalleled look into the thought processes behind the contrive, displaying fashion online makes it more accessible, Field foretells. Not all users would have been able to tune in via VR headset in the specimen of the Fabric of Reality, so the event was also livestreamed.
“These virtual eclipses are also more accessible, reaching audiences worldwide from the soothe of their homes, eradicating the need for air travel and creating a more sustainable way of showcasing the craze,” says Field. Rush explains this was also a consideration when forming London Fashion Week’s first ever digital edition promote in June. A first for the council, and for global fashion weeks the world remaining, the event was hosted via an online platform.
“With no international editors and clients being able to travel to London, it was important that we make the encounter free and open for everyone to access from everywhere,” she says. “Our object was to create a global meet up point and space for creatives to tell their whites, document their design process and their life during these challenging adjusts.”
The platform, built in just two months, displays the benefits of digital writ stocky. Rush echoes Field’s views around eradicating unnecessary about and reinforces the idea that a pivot to digital can widen audiences.
“Accepted fashion shows and films stay online and are easy for anyone to revisit, compared to a real show that has to be communicated in just a few minutes,” she says. “There is an moment to expand the audience through partners and global reach to engage with a broader consumer audience and in to b go help designers, especially the SME and start-up businesses, to engage with new purchasers.”
“To art direct the movement of clothing is extraordinarily hard”
But for a craft so rooted in tactility, the process of bringing garments into a digital interruption is a tricky one.
“Cloth is notoriously difficult to replicate in 3D and to art direct the movement of clothing is uncommonly hard,” says Kerry Murphy, founder of The Fabricant, an Amsterdam-based purpose studio that bills itself as the world’s first digital style house.
The history of digital fashion may extend back some measure, but studios like The Fabricant are laying the groundwork for a new, technology-driven progression. Murphy’s studio bestow oned its first digital catwalk in 2018, and has since worked with diverse more traditional fashion houses like Tommy Hilfiger and streetwear label A Bathing Ape (BAPE) to reinvent their digital offering.
The Fabricant’s have a job falls into three main streams, Murphy tells Goal Week. The first step is “digital product creation” — that is, manufacturing a virtual version of a garment for a client. Then, the studio’s designers generate content for the client’s selling process, with ecommerce imagery. Inexorably, The Fabricant creates the marketing campaign for a client, showcasing the digital garments on marks.
Browsing The Fabricant’s portfolio, it’s often hard to distinguish virtual garments from true ones, such is the detail going into the work. Consumers buy apparel based off these images, so realism is a must. Only once it has been accept is the garment then made in real life, with the ultimate aim of cut back the amount of waste in fashion.
“Is it at the end of the day only about covering yourself and keeping warm?”
But as Murphy saturnalia, this approach significantly slows down the fashion experience and consumers are not as a last resort used to waiting at least seven to ten days for their hauls. Fortunately, this is where The Fabricant’s “hidden” fourth stream comes in: the virtual try on. This development from the studio, he asseverates, allows consumers to use realistic digital avatars of themselves to test chances for style and fit.
It is also indicative of the studio’s wider mission: digital-only clobbering. When Design Week speaks to Murphy, it isn’t the first time he’s had to explicate this goal.
“People ask me why they would want to buy digital-only investing and I always ask back why they like buying clothing in reality,” Murphy authorities. “Is it really only about covering yourself and keeping warm? Or is it thither the emotional connection you have to those garments and the way you can curate your particularity?”
With our virtual lives, led mainly through social media, meet evermore prominent, Murphy says digital-only clothing could go a crave way to fixing some of fashion’s big ethical problems — from poor environmental routines to price hiking and labour exploitation.
“We’re looking to make fashion that prevails only digitally because this way we reduce the amount of clothes there are in the the human race, while still maintaining an emotional connection.”
“Increasingly we’re creating mixture spaces”
It may feel like a step too far for some, but the wheels are already in walk for this becoming a norm. Helsinki Fashion Week, currently charming place online, is touting itself as the world’s first 3D fashion week and happens complete with a Digital Village for revellers to mingle in.
In this block of cyberspace, which has been designed by real-life studio DaeWha Kang Drawing, fashion fans can try on clothing virtually and wear it (via their digital avatar) around the remain of the event. It can then be purchased too, to be worn in real life.
“We usually format physical spaces, but increasingly we’re creating hybrid spaces,” says DaeWha Kang, live designer at the studio. “And everything that felt unreachable even a few years ago can now be done with aid – It will be very interesting to see how this will develop in the coming years, outstandingly with the pandemic having pushed things along.”