what does a designer need to know to create for the metaverse?

What skills does a designer need to develop to create for the metaverse? Is traditional fashion design training becoming obsolete? These are just two of many questions about the designer’s role in virtual environments as digital fashion develops. But these aren’t new ideas when it comes to the future of creative roles.

In 1992, science fiction author Isaac Asimov explained how new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence would change the way we work: “Artificial intelligence is a term we use for any device that does things the past we only associated with human. intelligence. Leave all that to the computer and we can leave to ourselves the things that the computer can’t do, like imagination, creativity, fantasy and intuition.”

Are we now in that phase, where we can focus on creativity and fantasy, and let technology do the rest? Or are new roles emerging? We asked four key fashion design innovators how they develop their work with technology today and how fashion designers should develop the skills required for the future.

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This article is a collaboration between The Digital Fashion Group Academy and FashionUnited, written by Dr. Lívia Pinent, Professor of Digital Research at The Digital Fashion Group Academy.

Born and Raised in Digital Fashion

“It’s interesting to see how the next generation of fashion designers are launching digital brands to express themselves and create inclusive places,” said Natalia Modenova, CEO and Founder of DressX, a pioneering multi-brand platform for selling digital collections. .

Like other new technologies, younger generations are adapting more quickly to digital design and for most of them, this is the first opportunity to develop fashion. Being able to sell your creation almost immediately via a digital platform without the need for physical production is an attractive prospect for young designers. And the metaverse is a fitting place for these designers to experiment, find their identity as creators, and build a community that can turn into consumers. A shortcut compared to the traditional physical development of the mark.

But what about fashion designers who have been trained traditionally, how can they get into digital fashion? Modenova says that many DressX fashion designers have moved from physical to digital clothing, and the platform is playing an important role in this movement, helping them digitize their collections. “Right now we have over a hundred designers and we are the largest digital fashion library with over two thousand items. Most designers create digital first and some brands are exploring this new opportunity,” adds Modenova.

And what future for these brands? “I believe that every brand, in a few years, will have digital fashion in their collections. It’s similar to how streetwear has turned the fashion industry upside down, it’s become a category for every brand, including luxury,” says Modenova.

Push towards digital and sustainable processes

“We try to bring our in-house designers into the digital world,” said Dale Parr, COO of Fresh Couture, an independent streetwear brand from the UK that embraces digital technology with the aim of sustainable production. For Parr, digitizing the creative process starts from within, by training their designers who often use 2D software, to become experts in 3D design software. “We’re moving in that direction, and it’s been a journey. We need to give them the time and space to be able to embrace these technologies and not feel pressured or stressed during the learning process,” adds Parr.

Leading a physical fashion brand towards a sustainable system gave Parr an understanding of the challenges of production. He is clear on his reasoning: “The world of physical fashion must decarbonize as soon as possible”. And the solution is rapid adoption of digital assets. But Parr also raises other questions about the acceptance and use of digital assets: “The utility of these assets is going to be important in ensuring that NFT ownership is not just placid and collectable. have real utility and people need to be able to use their assets as if they were wearing fashion, just in the digital context.”

Collaboration to enhance creativity in digital fashion

Is it possible to enhance creativity through technology? The question was raised by Mauro Mastronicola, creative technologist and founder of TwinOne, a tech start-up for the research and development of digital twins, which are virtual replicas of physical products. For Mastronicola, the metaverse is where we can combine creativity and technology to enhance the experience and quality of the creative process.

“We put together a team of digital modelers using 3D software and paired them with talent from the games industry as well as the visual effects world. Together, these teams are the visual side of the design 3D, from different disciplines, working together”. Is this how we can innovate in fashion, through collaborations from other fields, skills and talents?

This combined expertise generates new perspectives and also new technologies, more focused on helping creators with or without 3D design experience, as Mastronola said: “We started developing software that can allow a designer to work directly with 3D design, to put together their creative vision, to create independently and in real time, manipulating realistic objects”. He concludes that “the greatest opportunity I see in the metaverse is the ability to propel creativity across different disciplines and in different ways.”

Developing a digital mindset for fashion

“From a fashion designer perspective, you have to start by addressing your mindset first. You have to think about how you’re going to approach design in a digital context,” says Sean Chiles, co- founder of The Digital Fashion. Group. For the educator, this means understanding the possibilities offered by the digital realm and its impact on the creative process.

“As a designer, it all starts with research, with the spirit of the times. Everything you feel – art, fashion, the world, politics – those things that you put together to form your vision”, adds Chiles. “It is essential for any designer entering the digital world or being a digital-only designer to understand the basics of what it is to be a designer. Why do you want to be a fashion designer and what do you create. And who can engage with that, whether they’re buying, whether they’re looking, whether they’re inspired, those are vital considerations.”

Knowing your goals and understanding why and for whom you are developing fashion is the basis for developing the required skills. These conclusions will lead you, as a creator and designer, towards the right ways of expression, the tools to explore, the supports on which you will communicate. And as Chiles concluded, “Education is about self-improvement. Training and skill development is learning to deliver. And working in the metaverse, as a digital designer you need to master technical skills, but you need your education in research, in tune with the times, in creativity, so that you can bring your vision to life in the metaverse.”

This article is based on the webinar “Fashion Design Skills for the Metaverse: Transitioning from Physical to Digital,” hosted by TDFGA in partnership with Parsons N Ventures. You can watch a preview of the discussion below and the full webinar on the TDFGA website.

Joseph E. Golightly