Imagine being able to plunge fashion models into a photorealistic, 3-D environment, and control the sound, lighting and backdrops in real time?
That’s the promise of French start-up Mado XR, which has developed what it’s billing as fashion’s first LED virtual production studio. Some of Paris’ biggest brands have already toured Mado’s high-tech cave on the outskirts of Paris, a 5,000-square-foot film set in the round that can simulate pretty much any place, real or imagined — lending itself to immersive fashion shows and ad campaigns.
It arrives on the market when France and other European capitals are weathering a second coronavirus lockdown, and amid heightened concerns about the environmental impact of massive runway productions and big shoots in exotic locales.
Two Mado XR principals, chief executive officer Louis de Castro and production director and cofounder Lancelot Rumney-Guggenheim, staged an “Alice in Wonderland”-inspired demo for the press last month featuring dancer and choreographer Fanny Sage. It made green-screen technology look like something from the horse-and-buggy days as Sage moved seamlessly amid an array of dazzling settings. At one point she shined a flashlight on the backdrop and the effect was smooth and realistic.
Mado XR melds technology from filmmaking — it has already been used in Disney series “The Mandalorian,” for example — and the gaming world.
“It is really a window into a virtual world,” de Castro, a former model, told WWD. “We think this is going to enable creatives, brands and agencies to take this tool, make it theirs and maybe create the show, or shooting, of tomorrow.”
He cited the example of a fashion shoot slated for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. If getting there is not possible — and it isn’t for many — a 3-D model of the space can be created in the Paris studio. “It’s traveling without travel, it’s a direct answer to the crisis that we are going through now,” de Castro enthused. “We bring the location to you.”
He declined to give prices, which vary widely depending on the project, but noted that the cost of virtual production is not necessarily less as investments are necessary in digital assets.
“Only with this, you can control the weather, the time, the location — you are in a controlled environment which, within the context of the crisis we are living, to us is a positive,” he said. “We can basically have ‘golden hour’ for days. You can also ‘travel’ from location to location with just one click.
“Here we are playing with digital assets, that means there are infinite possibilities for creation, with no waste at all,” he added.
De Castro declined to say which fashion clients have signed on, but noted Mado is working with “one of the top five French brands” on the production of a virtual fashion show.
“There’s been a huge interest,” he said. “We are working with a few clients. We prefer to be very selective as we are still a very small company, there’s only eight of us.”
He noted that Mado is already working on “concepts that would allow both the audience and the brands to be in interaction with the content….I think that fashion shows have all been kind of the same for too long and we are very excited to be able to at least make a proposal.”
Mado RX is an offshoot of ATO Designs, a fashion, design and art production company based in Paris and Tokyo. It was founded in 2018 by Castro, Rumney-Guggenheim and Caroline Lefrere and has done productions for the likes of Saint Laurent, Akris and the Pompidou Center in Paris.