August 3, 2020 – By Daisy Wallis
Fashion weeks in London, Shanghai and Tokyo were among the first to make the digital shift, allowing consumers, buyers and leading figures in the industry to come together for the first time. However, last week’s Helsinki Fashion Week offered a sustainability-driven 3D virtual extravaganza unlike any fashion week seen before.
In an event that encouraged innovation and collaboration, Helsinki Fashion Week was like something out of a Sci-Fi blockbuster, complete with incredibly realistic CGI models and awe-inspiring virtual worlds.
The world’s most sustainable fashion week
From their Eco Village in 2018 to a Bio Playground last year, the HFW organisers have found new and exciting ways to spark a conversation about sustainability globally.
The Digital Village became a space where traditional sustainable fashion designers worked in close collaboration with 3D designers to present shows unlike anything seen before. The unique and seriously impressive platform became a hub for sustainability and digital innovation, with access to fashion shows, a digital showroom of the incredible collections and a Digital Sanctuary, unique to each individual user.
Collaboration was a key theme that ran throughout Helsinki Fashion Week. To launch the event, 15 international sustainable designers were selected to take part in a digital program encouraging discussions and collaboration between both traditional fashion designers and 3D designers.
The talks streamed through twitch, offered a glimpse into the world of sustainable fashion design. In the week leading up to the main event, fashion lovers were encouraged to not only learn more about these incredible sustainable designers but also take part in open discussions on important issues facing the fashion industry today.
Through open discussions between designers and 3D designers, the talks became a behind-the-scenes exclusive look at how the incredible real-life designs were reimagined in the digital realm.
How does a 3D virtual fashion week work?
Designed as an inclusive space for all fashion lovers, the Digital Village is unlike any fashion week platform created before. Each collection was designed and made by traditional fashion designers before being digitally recreated in 3D by Digital Atelier partner, Scotomalab. These virtual designs were then each placed in incredible 3D digital worlds created by NDA Paris and produced by Soldats Films, each unique to each designer and collection.
And the possibilities of the Digital Village didn’t stop there. Through a partnership with LUKSO, the Digital Village became its own community space, where each individual user was given their own Universal Profile. This allowed designers to store and share their digital recreations and all of the Digital Village users to create their own digital identities for the fashion week.
The Digital Village, from the 3D shows to the Universal Profiles, was a space for everyone. Creating a fashion week that not only encouraged collaboration amongst the traditional and 3D designers, but also communication through a global and like-minded community.
To celebrate the event, we wanted to share with you some of our highlights from the incredible sustainable collections and 3D shows.
Opening the unique digital event, sustainable label Open Plan wowed with a collection inspired by the nature of wind. In a beautiful natural setting, filled with daisies and wildlife, the Open Plan show transported the HFW to a dreamy digital wonderland. Each look in the collection featured pretty pastel shades and styles that flowed magically along the virtual catwalk.
Asymmetric hems on dresses and clever layering made the looks flow effortlessly as the virtual models walked through the digitised natural world. Despite being in the digital sphere, Open Plan’s unique collection of sustainable and ethical pieces set against the magical wonderland amplified the beauty of untouched nature.
The perfect start to a fashion week dedicated to finding a sustainable and more environmentally friendly future for the fashion industry.
In a dreamy Vatican City in the clouds, Patrick McDowell presented his third and fully digital collection to the HFW digital audience. Inspired by his Catholic upbringing, Catholic Fairytales was born out of McDowell’s desire to offer a more inclusive alternative to the Catholic Church for the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s been really incredible to create something new, in a space that hasn’t put anyone at risk from illness although it was strange seeing my own show through a computer screen, I love that it was open to everyone. Anyone with WIFI access could watch it and everyone had front row seats. I can’t wait to see how the space evolves with VR and AI there are so many possibilities!”
Catholic Fairytales is a beautiful celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and a symbol of hope for a more accepting society.
The breathtakingly beautiful Patchwork 2020 show and collection from Dutch designer Tess van Zalinge demonstrated the power of presenting fashion virtually.
Inspired by Dutch costume wear, the collection is entirely made in the brand’s atelier from archive material and upcycled scraps of fabric. Each design features multiple layers of intricate patchwork in fits clearly influenced by the extravagant and elegant styles of costume wear.
And these beautiful detailings were not lost in the digital realm. Set against the backdrop of a serene, futuristic utopia, Tess van Zalinge’s intricate patchwork designs came to life in the digital sphere.
Each look, created using the science of Vastu architecture and the Yantra Couture method, features a unique blend of antique Indian silks and repurposed materials. From “The Luminary” to “The Sculptor”, each look from the collection has its own unique story to tell.
Perhaps the most magical look of the collection was of course “Om” created in collaboration with the 3D studio, 3mbassy. The digitally crafted sapphires and diamonds on the dress glistened in the underwater landscape and the beautiful pastel organza cape floated effortlessly through the virtual water. A truly breathtakingly beautiful virtual fashion experience that everyone should experience.
Inspired by the beauty and ambiguity found in ruins, the collection features relaxed silhouettes and distressed detailings. Mirrored in the digital scenery, the looks feature hues of earthy oranges and dark blues and purples made entirely from organic materials and textile leftovers.
“It was an exciting process where you have to let go about everything that you know and go on this pioneering flow. This made it hard at sometimes as well. As a designer you are used to working with fabrics, patterns and shape pieces using your own hands. It was the most challenging part to have the manufacturing out of my hands. It was all about good communication, with the 3D designers, to make all the garments look as accurate as possible.”
ROUMANS have created a collection and show that draws on the possibility of ruins. The single plastic bag blowing on the branch of the digital tree served as a lasting reminder to the HFW viewers of our environmental impact.
The brand played with the traditional styles of the pieces and created an elegant and contemporary collection. Asymmetric hems and layers of contrasting textures and fabrics seen throughout the collection demonstrate the power of creating something new and innovative from vintage and pre-loved fashion.
The coming together of vintage and modern is a motif that was carried through to the mesmerising digital show. Contrasting a futuristic backdrop with a collection inspired and created from vintage pieces served as a powerful reminder that in order to create great fashion we do not need to create something entirely new!
Nicole Zisman’s latest collection was created with the definition of ‘sustainability’ in mind – “able to be sustained.” When approaching this concept in the design process, Zisman ensured that pieces in the collection adhered to one of two things. Either the garment must reuse and upcycle harmful waste products or it must be completely circular, with the materials ending where they started.
With this in mind, Zisman has created a collection that doesn’t cost the earth and looks to give back. In a collaborative look with The Feminist Internet, which features a chic Mirium Plant leather graphic print dress, Zisman has committed to donating all proceeds to the Abya Yala Fund, supporting indigenous groups in South America.
As well as every look being compostable or 100% recycled, Zisman’s collection serves to remind the HFW audience, and the fashion industry, of the true definition of sustainability.
But how sustainable is an event like this?
While there was certainly no travel involved for fashion lovers to attend the event, the fact remains that digital fashion weeks like this still have an impact on the planet.
With sustainability at the heart of the event, HFW partnered with Normative Digital Sustainability to measure the sustainability of the event. The data collected from designers and consumers will be compared to the impact of the HFW Eco Village event in 2018. This will offer a unique chance to compare the social and environmental impact of physical and digital fashion weeks – a crucial study that would help plan for a more sustainable and ethical future for the industry.
In doing so, Helsinki Fashion Week is leading the change for a conscious and mindful fashion industry whilst raising awareness for sustainability in both the physical and virtual realms.
Is this the future of fashion?
The global pandemic has forced each industry to reimagine the way they operate. And the fashion industry is no exception. As more designers and leading fashion figures look to reshape the traditions embedded in the industry, events like this, which place sustainability and transparency at their core, will become the new normal.
Encouraging sustainability and collaboration, Helsinki Fashion Week represents a more positive approach to the fashion industry. The Digital Village became a place not only to witness incredible innovations in sustainable design and 3D technologies, but also to learn more about how the industry is working to create a better future.
Breaking free from the norms of traditional fashion weeks, the structure of the event took the HFW viewers on a journey, allowing consumers to witness each stage in creating the incredible digital shows. The Designer Residency Program, especially, became a place to witness the unique collaborations with traditional and 3D designers firsthand.
While the concept of virtual fashion may still be daunting to the majority of the industry, Helsinki Fashion Week represents the next stage in the industry’s evolution. It provided a platform not just for an array of incredible sustainable fashion and digital designers but a hub for necessary discussion on how we can all work collaboratively to achieve a much brighter future for the industry.