LONDON — Helsinki Fashion Week’s first purely digital and sustainable showcase via the “cyberspace utopia” platform Digital Village, which ended on Sunday, was nothing like what a regular fashion week goer would expect.
Instead of a weeklong marathon filled with hectic travel schedules, bubbly drinks and designer gossip, the boutique-size virtual fashion week is more like a Twitch Live event, where viewers comfortably tune in from home for 3-D fashion films and livestreamings from around the globe.
Some 31 designers presented their new collections over the week, and 15 of them were paired with 3-D designers months ahead of time to digitize their latest collections via HFW’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”- or “Big Brother”-style designer residency program, according to Evelyn Mora, founder of Helsinki Fashion Week.
Each video showcased a handful of looks from designers selected from around the world. Models’ faces, which were 3-D scanned from humans, may look a bit scary, but the details of the garments and the movements on the bodies were well executed.
The collaborations between fashion designers and 3-D designers have been challenging but rewarding. Dutch designer Tess van Zalinge confessed the project has been a challenge from Day One. “The digital aspect of designing brought me a reality check concerning my processes and I improved and innovated my designs even further,” she said.
Finnish designer Paula Malleus, who has been running her label MEM for the past two decades, described her experience with Helsinki Fashion Week as “very hectic, yet attractive and very interesting.”
“This experience with HFW brought to me and MEM a totally new horizon into the future. A new way to create forms with no limits and what you can do with it. It freed me from the restriction of how things have to be made, and how forms are to be created. At the end of this process, I realized what you could do and what there is yet to find,” she said.
“This process opened my eyes to a new reality,” said German designer Marisa Fuentes Prado, who is behind the brand MAQU. “It was exciting to collaborate with 3-D designers and see what is possible in the digital world. Also, I became so inspired to exchange with great sustainable designers. I think I will go deeper into my supply chain and analyze our methods more precisely. As a business, we are always keen to improve.”
Another good thing about showing virtually is that designers can pick and choose the wildest settings to present their work in, instead of a blank runway. For example, Patrick McDowell’s runway was a protester’s heaven, where statues of angels were sprayed with graffiti. Nece Gene’s show took place on the surface of a deserted planet. AVTR’s new collection was presented on a chessboard, with dance and battle performances.
Mora argues that the cyber fashion week is not an alternative or a secondary way to do things, but “a new way and a different way” to look into the future of fashion, especially in cyberspace.
“If you have your physical collection, you have a strategy there, you shouldn’t necessarily copy and paste it to the digital world and have a digital twin of that specific garment necessarily, but you can approach a digital opportunity as a completely different strategy,” she said, adding that she has been getting calls from luxury houses and consulting firms about these experiences since the start of HFW.
The most direct application of the cyber showcase is to the gaming and online community, where a fashion design can be treated as a digital asset and it can be worn by digital avatars, or be put on magazine or album covers. One can also order real garments from the brands.
In fact, with the help of its blockchain partner LUKSO, Helsinki Fashion Week launched a 3-D online store on Sunday. Virtual looks and garments of selected participating designers are included in the store, and users have an opportunity to claim 3-D clothes and purchase the service of digitally wearing the garments.
Marjorie Hernandez, cofounder at LUKSO, explained that with blockchain technology, fashion designers can create unique and tradeable virtual universal public profiles with authentic value.
“In the tech world, people understand the value around digital collectibles and this is a new concept for the fashion world. When a designer applies the technology to a digital fashion good, they basically registered their profiles, their uniqueness in the digital world. And from that profile, they start creating digital assets and tokenize one product, and from that one product, they will start issuing how many of those products you can sell. You have a proper asset that you can transact and you have the details,” she said.
“There is no way to fake that,” Hernandez continued. “And then, to the point of gaming, those assets, they live in this decentralized infrastructure and you don’t ask for permission to access them. You could basically start plugging in different kinds of interfaces that connect to those products.”
Helsinki Fashion Week is expected to release a digital sustainability report later this month with Normative, a Swedish auditing company, to measure the environmental impact of its digital showcase compared with previous physical editions.