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What is virtual fashion

On a bike, a girl in an iridescent Chanel suit rushes along a field overgrown with silvery grass. In the passenger seat, an alpaca crumb. These two are similar to the characters of a post-apocalyptic computer game or movie: the main character and her four-legged companion are the last living creatures on the planet, once known as Earth, witnessing the decline of the kingdom of people and their technologies. But this is not a motion picture or a screenshot from the game – this is the cover of Vogue Taiwan in May, created using CGI. Yes, if desired, a similar picture could be recreated using traditional methods, taking the usual glossy team into the wasteland: models, photographers, makeup artists and even an alpaca. But the coronavirus stepped in, and the gloss had to look for new ways to solve old problems.

Model wears: jacket, pants, all by Chanel

By the way, that familiar team has not gone anywhere – it has just been supplemented by a CGI artist. The photographer and art director lined up the shot, set the lights and defined the composition. The model entrusted her face to the 3D scanner. The artist has put everything into a single picture. Its virtual origin is betrayed by the details: the alpaca seems too small and stands too firmly on a moving motorcycle. Glare is too strong, colors are too saturated. The sky could still be the same as in the picture, but everything looks artificial together – and this is not an accidental oversight. “We imagined the Earth of the future, where animals became extinct and the only way to interact with them is to build a virtual world where they still exist,” says Leslie Sun, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Taiwan, about the shoot. – It was important for us to make the images realistic. And at the same time, leave enough hints that all this is unrealistic. ” That is, to deliberately induce the “sinister valley effect” – the unsettling feeling that arises when looking at a robot or computer model that looks like a person, successfully pretending to be alive – minus the little things. What for? Because in troubled times, it is this feeling that becomes the background of all reflections on the future.

Would such a cover have been removed if the coronavirus had not happened to the whole world? Probably not. Although CGI technologies, and the passion for computer games, and other interactions of the real with the virtual, have been in fashion – and in life in general – for a long time. But until recently, the contradiction between the real and the virtual still remained – and a special tension was always felt in it. The first was considered real and significant, the second – a game and self-indulgence. For many, it is even a sign of a millennial or genzier vanity fair. When FaceTune first came into fashion, people for the first time massively got the opportunity to remake themselves, artificially approach the ideal. Polished faces, tiny noses, large doll eyes and lips, incredibly thin waists and floating lines of the background became a sign of that time. This striving for perfection was perceived as a deception, and as soon as viewers noticed the artificiality of the photos, waves of ridicule immediately rose, because in reality the same beautiful maiden from Instagram pictures looked completely different. Today’s filters work differently. Of course, some of them still imitate natural beauty, presenting a picture of the format “like in life, only a little better”, but most look completely different. Iridescent tentacles creep out of their mouths, eyes move in different directions, flowers sprout from the head – this is no longer a desire for conventional beauty. Nobody seriously thinks that in life a person using such a filter looks the same. It is rather the creation of your own avatar, a virtual cast, a new creature. The same Travis Scott and Kate Moss in the images of digital centaurs on the cover of Dazed Beauty are the next stage in the development of glossy covers with Hollywood actresses edited to death, devoid of any signs of age and in general of everything human. This approach seems to finally deliver the freedom that everyone has hoped for in virtual space and technology.

This spring, people from all over the world, in reality separated by thousands of kilometers, met at one point, moving from their own cramped apartments to the wonderful island from the Animal Crossing game. Someone was fishing and growing vegetables, someone was celebrating graduation with friends, in real life canceled due to quarantine, and someone was staging real fashion shoots. Animal Crossing has a flexible character creation editor: you can draw your outfit pixel by pixel, repeating any image. Some fashion houses took on this task, deciding not to bother their fans additionally: collections, for example, Marc Jacobs and Valentino, were transferred to a virtual format. And they did it for free. These goodwill gestures are, of course, a great marketing ploy. Although the fashion industry has long known that people are willing to pay real money for virtual things. Published 13 years ago, The Sims 2: H&M Style was marketed as a “ticket to the high fashion universe.” In the mobile games of Kim Kardashian and the Jenner sisters, designer outfits have been available since 2014 – for example, Balmain and Karl Lagerfeld. But even six months ago, people who spend money on virtual things for games were looked at as weirdos – even though the game skins market was already estimated at fabulous sums. Today, after weddings at Animal Crossing or Travis Scott’s Fortnite gig, it seems less and less weird. We already live in both worlds at once, real and virtual. So what’s the difference? Shaking a game ax to the performance of Travis Scott, you want to look good no less than at a work meeting or, say, a date.

Can a single video game change the rules of the fashion industry?

Virtual clothing is now available not only to gamers. And not only models from glossy covers, behind which there is a whole team, wear it. You can buy a virtual dress just like that, for a photo in social networks. The main heroine of this front in Russia is Regina Turbina, the founder of Ophelica; its first historic sale took place in early March, when the coronavirus was just beginning to creep into major news headlines. And during the quarantine, the business, of course, only gained momentum. So in May, Regina launched a full-fledged store of virtual outfits Replicant.Fashion, inviting other domestic designers to join. Virtual fashion, in Regina’s opinion, is a win-win for everyone involved in the process. Designers get creative freedom and a vast field for experimentation (Alena Akhmadullina presented a 3D capsule in May, in which, for example, there is a colorful kokoshnik helmet). The industry is becoming more environmentally friendly: fashion is scolded for overproduction, and digital clothing does not exist physically, which means it does not harm the environment in any way. Buyers get cool things at lower prices, bolder designs, and materials that might not exist in reality. And along with things – an opportunity to present yourself in a new way on social networks, juggling with images with an unprecedented frequency. After a virtual fitting, some of your favorite outfits can also be ordered in physical embodiment: many digital fashion applications work according to this principle. Wanna Kicks, for example, allow you to virtually try on your favorite sneakers, while Voir does the same with luxury brands.

Today it is absolutely clear that virtual fashion is not a temporary phenomenon, not a consequence of a global lockdown. Even if he spurred her development. The boundaries between the real and the virtual have finally blurred. We are still far from the moment when one replaces the other: the production of CGI-content for gloss is still much more expensive than traditional shooting, and virtual things still cannot be worn for a real walk. But to the moment when both worlds can exist and exist in symbiosis, we have definitely come – and there is no doubt that it will give us many exciting discoveries.

Model wears: dress, boots, all Loewe

Stylist: Yvonne Tsai. CGI artists: Mark Chang, Hsiuwei Wu, Chiajui Wu

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