Online Fashion Shows, Digital Fashion, and Digital Clothes
Digital fashion and digital clothes are becoming increasingly popular in the fashion industry and in society. Many major clothing and footwear manufacturers apply new technologies to create virtual images of their products in the online space. Eva Sviridova, 3D clothes designer and founder of the SXEMA studio, told about who and why needs clothes that one can’t wear and how to make a design using neural networks.
3D clothes designer, founder of the SXEMA studio
The SXEMA project’s team develops the digital clothes market and helps brands adapt their collections to online space. The platform focuses on machine learning, character animation, 3D graphics, and the design of digital clothing and footwear. Together with their colleagues, the studio employees developed a neural network that creates generative 2D graphics. They use it when designing virtual and real clothes. The first 3D collection with such prints was shown at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia in 2020.
Eva Sviridova is a young woman with extensive and unique experience in the fashion industry and new technologies. Today, together with her team members, she is one of the few representatives of the field of generative design in Russia. They often use artificial intelligence technologies in their work and creative activities. In her interview with the Global Women Media news agency, Eva Sviridova explained the essence of digital fashion and shared her vision of the development of the new industry.
– How did you come to the idea to create a project dealing with generative design and digital fashion?
– My father owns and operates a knitwear factory. From my childhood, my family prepared me for the fact that I would inherit that business. My path started in college where I was trained as a sewing technologist. I took third place at the World Skills Russia contest. Then I entered the Department of Design and Promotion of Light Industry Products at the Russian State University named after A. N. Kosygin. At the same time, I attended courses at Vyacheslav Zaitsev Fashion Lab and studied clothes design in China for six months within an exchange programme. I studied during the day and worked in the evening. By the middle of my third year of studies, I stopped being a full-time student and worked for Valentin Yudashkin, Victoria Andreyanova, and the Sportmaster company (mainly focusing on its Demix mono-brand).
Once I met an HR specialist at MTS who really liked my 3D design project. I was preparing it for my graduation thesis. She invited me to take part in creating an app for online clothes fitting. That team included experts from different fields. We gave up the idea of that app but turned into a closely collaborating team of like-minders.
My friend created a neural network based on 10000 photos of Russian houses. He identified panel apartment buildings as Russia’s image. That inspired him to create pixel art with images of houses of varying degrees of abstraction. When I saw his work, I immediately thought that the pixels were very similar to the jacquard weaves at my father’s knitwear factory. We decided to combine them in one project. That’s how our knitted scarves appeared. They were designed using a neural network without the direct involvement of a graphic designer.
I am used to immersing myself in processes and know much enough about how physical clothing is created. Thanks to technological progress and 3D software, I have discovered a new approach to designing products. It gave me a new vision of such goods and made it possible to apply an eco-friendly approach in that area. Very beautiful clothing models appeared as a result.
We presented our first digital show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Moscow. By that moment, the world was surviving a pandemic. That gave us new opportunities. The main part of the events took place online. We started cooperating with not only Russian representatives of the fashion industry but also our international colleagues. Today, half of our clients are people from abroad.
We implemented the first cases of designing 3D products in collaboration with a knitting factory. We worked with customers willing to create samples of their branded clothing and not understanding fully what the final product would look like. Knitwear has its own specifics, and it costs much more to create such a prototype than that in a garment factory. We created realistic visualizations keeping all the proportions. One could see the exact model of the final product. That saved a lot of time, materials, and money for the design process.
I like the idea of cyber-atelier actively promoted in Russia today. We recently worked with an Austrian brand on the development of such an atelier. They have a design bureau for individual tailoring of clothes. Thanks to digital technologies, people can try on different versions of already created clothing designs on their avatar. Then they choose the one they like best and order personal tailoring.
– Is it difficult to become firmly established in a new niche? Is digital fashion highly-competitive today?
– Very few people are engaged in generative design using neural networks. If considering visualization and digital fashion, the competition in those areas is growing. However, it’s not that difficult to occupy your place in that niche. Today, there are very few really competent professionals with profound knowledge of computer programs, clothes production technologies, and fashion trends at the same time.
Game designers and CG specialists know digital programs very well but are far from the fashion industry. As a rule, fashion professionals having the enthusiasm and a rich background in clothes creation and production have poor knowledge of digital programs.
Today, it’s a proper moment to enter the field of digital fashion because most professionals are just beginning to learn a new niche. However, that branch is developing rapidly. Probably, we will have a lot of talented and highly-qualified digital designers very soon.
An increasing number of investors decide to collaborate on projects related to digital fashion and online clothes fitting. It is important for those people who have the necessary knowledge and want to develop in a new niche to use this chance.
Two years ago, when I was looking for vacancies abroad, knowledge of 3D software for designers was highly desirable. Today, it is a mandatory requirement for professionals willing to cooperate with major companies. Adidas, PVH, H&M, and many other market giants are already actively using new technologies and consider them as an integral part of the new reality.
– What is your vision of the future of digital fashion? What will be trendy in 3-5 years?
– I believe, in 5 years, we will have digital technologies that we can’t even imagine today. The digital field is developing incredibly fast. In my opinion, it is moving towards the so-called Metaverse, which is a whole decentralized virtual universe.
Many people already have access to such amazing technology as virtual reality glasses. You can use them to watch 360-degree videos and play games with full immersion in 3D space. I believe that these technologies will become more popular and accessible.
Today, we actively communicate on the net in various chat rooms. We send voice and texts messages and make video calls. However, giant companies and startups are already working on more sophisticated platforms for online communication. Thanks to new technologies, people will be able to scan themselves and create digital avatars that represent their alter ego in digital reality.
Creating avatars for the digital space is an interesting and challenging story both in terms of the technical and psychological aspects of that process. People will be able to see themselves from the outside. They will have to accept or not accept themselves as they are.
Today, many companies focus on connecting the real and the virtual when positioning their brands. For example, GUCCI already has a virtual showroom containing all the collection concepts over the years. It is their Metaverse.
– Do you find it important to maintain a balance between the living and the digital? Can artificial intelligence replace designers one day?
– I strongly support adopting and developing digital technologies in design and production. At the same time, as a kinesthetic learner, I am aware of the importance of touching materials.
I need to feel the fabric and understand its texture. I can’t do that through a digital image so far.
However, recently, I read an article about British medical scientists using special sensors making it possible to transmit sensory data. I think that as soon as such technologies become more available, they will start to be actively used in digital fashion.
Artificial intelligence and other new technologies can provide designers with great opportunities. I believe that they will never replace people because only people can understand exactly what others need.
A neural network creates graphics in our creative projects. However, it is still monitored by living specialists. They choose the best options from among what it proposes, make corrections, and choose the further development path. Anyway, no matter how advanced and ‘smart’ digital technologies are, the final decision is still people’s business.
In my opinion, the balance of the living and the digital can lead to multiple growth and simplify the work of many specialists. It can create something truly large-scale, unique, and important for society.
– What must modern designers have to be able to fulfil themselves today and be demanded in the future?
– Everything depends on the chosen direction. When we started working at SXEMA, I realized that knowing clothes production well was not enough for me.
Designers should constantly learn something new, share their knowledge, and have a very broad worldview. I like to immerse myself in the essence of things. I find it important to understand how all the mechanisms work and what the team members do with 3D software or a neural network. The future lies in new technologies. Everyone who doesn’t have the slightest idea of how they work and what they can do will be left behind.
Many designers and artists are so passionate about creativity that they don’t always have an idea of how and to whom they can sell their products. They are unable to position themselves properly and explain what they do correctly. That skill is called storytelling. I find it especially important for representatives of creative professions to learn it. Talented people who are able to create something necessary for society must also be able to demonstrate his or her idea to the audience, to show the importance of his or her project. Otherwise, his or her work will remain unnoticed and bring pleasure only to the author. A designer must be able to convey his or her thoughts well. Sometimes a designer’s project can be brilliant but not understandable to others. That occurs simply because the concept was not formulated well enough. Good design is always clear and simple.
– What inspires you?
– Interesting people who are passionate about what they do inspire me very much. I love to brainstorm with specialists and experts in different fields. Such collaborations and discussing most abstract things often result in unexpected and exciting ideas.
I believe that the future lies in cooperation and unification. People who can do a lot on their own are capable of great deeds when they are together. That is why I always try to surround myself with people from different fields who love their professions no less than I do. Love for your activity inspires not only you but also people around you.
Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov