It is a funny white and rigid accessory, a small tent in which two individuals facing each other can slide their heads until they disappear, as if to engage in telepathy. A ” helmet “ from the imagination of Mathilde Rougier, a student in the creation of accessories at the French Institute of Fashion (IFM) in Paris, and which exists only digitally. An addition to the graduation collection – very physical this time – of the 25-year-old young woman, inspired by “‘cyborg identities,’ theorized by academic Donna Haraway, and how our lives hybridize between the physical and the virtual”, she explains.
She developed a bag in the form of a virtual reality helmet, a very long wallet made of leather and stainless steel that looks like an XXL audio helmet, a pair of boots whose zipper is a real USB key… And a helmet of telepathy , that is, which would be impossible to use in real life, but which she invented, thanks to the help of Stage11, a virtual creation studio. Her collection – mixed with real and fake accessories – is part of that of IFM master’s students, presented during the opening of the Paris Fashion Week on February 28.
Why bother developing fully digital objects at a time when brands are still groping to gain interest in them and extract real commercial value from them? “These young people leaving our school today will be working in fashion houses within a year or two. So we have to be two years ahead and as such be an experimental laboratory.” Xavier Romatet, the general manager of the IFM, pleads for this unprecedented partnership with Stage11, in which he sees “an extension of the fashion industry”.
As if Frankenstein swallowed Britney Spears
At the end of October 2021, while already working on their collections, the ten students in the “accessories” sector were instructed to add a 100% digital object at the end of the process, which they remain the owner of. Then they are free to use it “in the metaverse” to wear an avatar, or even market their product as NFT… Faced with the request of the IFM, they did not hesitate for a moment. In a matter of weeks, their proposals came true: an ice shoe, a curvy boot made of what appears to be wire, a bronze bag that can be extended to the floor and adapted to the number of things to be stored in it, a prosthesis. with a pearly texture…
Father of real fuchsia fur and boots with heels, “to ultra-femininity turned monstrous”, As if Frankenstein had swallowed Britney Spears, 23-year-old Romain Rossi added a virtual boot with a large chrome-pink claw and silky hair of the same shade to his creation. “It completes my subject, increases the chance that people will be interested in it”believes the student, who says it was necessary, online, to “working on the soft texture of the hair so it doesn’t look like a wig”.
Elsa Longret, she had to perfect the double bag she invented that can carry an avatar in balance on the head. “One had to have the comfort of a pillow and the other a burlap texture like a potato sack,” specifies them. Elements related to the beautiful collection of leather bags, this time well felt, inspired by the Portuguese immigration in the 60s. These consist of links suggesting a packaging, a calf and lamb leather, storage space for identity papers or a decoration “like a rosary, the first thing the displaced people began to leave”†
Handicrafts and pixelated creativity
To develop their intangible creations, IFM students must first “gave Stage11 reference images for textures, then draw the desired object from the front, back, side…”, explains Charlène Auzou-Rigout, 27, maker of a boot that appears to float on an ocean of wavy black leather. “I was inspired by animism, shamanism and therefore wanted the shoe to look lived in. †
Stage11 then shaped and animated the whole thing in 3D, using Unreal Engine 5 and Blender software. Some wanted to get their hands on a computer right away, such as Joshua Cannone, 22, whose accessories testify to his experience of living in New York. “exposed to the lack of space, to the fear of death, to the capitalist economy”† Result ? Bags in the shape of large silicone rats or purses as thin, toddling little characters (and which have already won him a selection at the next Hyères festival in April). In the metaverse, they are joined by a black digital bag, the size of a human, menacing.
Of this back and forth between manual labor and pixelated creativity, students praise the fluidity and complementarity. “Fashion is full of very beautiful objects that it is important to manufacture with care, respecting one’s know-how, but the bill, at the end of the process, remains highremarks Mathilde Rougier. A virtual object, be it a shoe for an avatar or an Instagram filter, can provide a more democratic entry into the universe of a fashion brand. † In the meantime, they are all preparing to integrate brands (Ami, Loewe, etc.) for end-of-year internships where they will mainly be asked to demonstrate their imaginative and technical dexterity on wearable and highly tangible commercial products. “IRL” (for “in real life”, in real life), as they say.