Techstyler x Bottletop: 3D digital design is critical for a sustainable fashion future
Updated: Feb 14
When discussing the future with pioneers on the edge of current industry practice an impassioned debate is inevitable. The latest Techstyler X BOTTLETOP panel discussion ‘Sustainability Driven by New Technologies: 3D Digital Design and Virtual Reality ’ hosted three such pioneers who are reshaping the fashion landscape and meeting ethical, logistical and philosophical challenges along the way. Their insights gave us an eye to a future fashion industry that is inherently more sustainable, and our place within it.
Opening the discussion, Kerry Murphy, Co-founder of the digital fashion house The Fabricant, discussed how within months of experimenting with 3D digital fashion design and animation and uploading the result on Instagram, The Fabricant was receiving interest from brands and manufacturers wanting to know more about their capabilities.
The starting point for The Fabricant has been digital storytelling, with their recent collaboration with Soorty Enterprises, a jean manufacturer in Pakistan looking to share their Cradle to Cradle denim production and raise brand awareness in an increasingly competitive market. The manufacturers in Asia and the Far East are plagued by negative opinion and press coverage, despite many of them making significant strides in sustainable dyeing processes in addition to investing in new, cleaner technologies. The next step will be integrating The Fabricant’s 3D design into the garment cutting and construction process, negating the manual pattern making process and reducing the need for physical samples at all. From his, and his Co-founder Amber Jae Slooten’s experience so far, this will take years rather than months.
Cameron-James Wilson is a visual artist and fashion photographer whose mission is to provide an alternative beauty and hyper-real honesty via digital models. His debut model, Shudu, has been hailed the ‘first digital supermodel’, has 149,000 followers on Instagram and is represented by Cameron’s digital model agency, The Diigitals. Although the inspiration and conception of Cameron’s models is rooted in fantasy and fiction, constructed from free to download software Daz 3D, his aim is to create honest representations of beauty and a more positive attitude towards diversity. His model Brenn is curvy, with stretch marks and an undeniable allure. This kind of appreciation of what is often deemed imperfect is possible with 3D digital design, said Cameron, because it is in the hands of the artists and is a product of their ideals, not of an industry fixated on people born as genetic flukes with perfect symmetry and 34-24-34 measurements of their bust, waist and hips. Even as I write the previous sentence I can barely believe how ludicrous a concept it is. Cameron asks why we reward genetic flukery rather than celebrating diversity.
Cameron’s visionary thinking prompted an interesting debate on human versus digital models and whether emotion could truly be experienced when presenting a digital versus human experience. There was also a question from the audience about whether digital models could be ‘trusted’ as they are not ‘real’. To that, Cameron presented the traditional scenario of a fashion shoot, with models having toilet rolls shoved down the back of their bra to make their breasts heave. And all know how much editing is done to digital images to sculpt and smooth, nip and tuck real life models. “The fashion industry lies to us every day” said Cameron. “It’s all a lie”. Add to this the fact that digital models cannot be exploited, do not age and can remain exclusive brand ambassadors for ‘life’ and his perspectives and insight left us questioning whether it makes sense to go forward in the fashion industry without digital models.
Amber Jae Slooten brought the rare, rounded knowledge of a fashion designer who has worked with both traditional manual and 3D digital pattern cutting and fashion design tools. Having graduated from a fashion degree in 2014 with a fully digital collection which she presented in hologram form, she set off on a path to reimagining and redirecting the fashion industry to a more sustainable, digital future. Unwilling to enter an industry that creates masses of waste, she was driven to adopt methods that have since unleashed her creativity and allowed her design in a more detailed, iterative, experimental and efficient way. Amber’s approach to design incorporates both the technicality of pattern cutting and garment construction and the creativity of fashion design. She creates digital pattern pieces in Clo3d which are stitched together onto an avatar to create a 3D foundation garment and then renders on different fabrics (scanned in at such a high resolution that they are indistinguishable from the real thing) colours, textures and proportions. She is able to develop her designs and iterate quickly, reaching high levels of refinement in hours, rather than days or weeks – all the while generating zero waste.
What are the challenges and drawbacks to these new approaches? “The (traditional) mindet”, said Amber. Currently, the industry is largely unreceptive to adopting the technical advantages offered by software like Clo3D. Although this and other software is being used by a number of pioneering designers, brands are currently most interested in the visual output as a content tool for social media or e-commerce. In time, the panel believes a shift towards further integration is inevitable.
To hear to the full panel discussion, head over to the podcast here.
To watch the panel discussion, keep an eye on Techstyler.fashion, where the video will be available soon.
The next talk in the Techstyler X BOTTLETOP speaker series will be in December on the subject ‘Fashion and Accessories Designers – Their Influence and Impact on Sustainability in Fashion’. Follow Techstyler here and on Instagram to be notified when the tickets are released.