Digital Fashion Special
Why is digital fashion so reliant on gaming?
Marie Isacsson, junior concept artist at Massive Entertainment, shares why gaming is such a natural stepping stone for digital fashion.
19 Apr 2022

Introducing the forerunners of the new digital fashion industry. In this 16-part special, we list the most exciting designers, brands, and platforms that are helping our digital selves to get dressed to progress. This is part 1.

While cutting her teeth as a fashion designer at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, Marie Isacsson’s perception of traditional fashion changed as her studies went along. Her fascination with fashion’s ability to express identity, creativity, and influence persisted during her bachelor’s degree, but she found herself turning to 3d programmes like CLO3D and Marvelous Designer rather than the sewing machine. 

— Fashion is all about change but somehow the way we show fashion, consume fashion, and how the fashion industry works is very traditional and stuck in the same system. For my graduation work, I, therefore, started to look into designing for virtual worlds instead and I was specifically focusing on the gaming industry and MMO (Massive Multi Online games), Marie explains, adding:

— What really caught my eye was the social aspects as well as the identity perspective within gaming, but also the link between physical and digital identities. Video games are virtual worlds and a huge platform for entertainment wherein fashion can exist and grow, I saw an opportunity to expand the context of fashion.

Clothes from Isacsson’s Fantasy Land collection.

Marie’s physical and digital collections from her time at Beckmans won several design awards, and the recognition together with her exploration of digital identities landed her a job as Junior Concept Artist at Massive Entertainment. The Malmö-based game developer, owned by Ubisoft, has developed games like Assasins Creed, Far Cry, and Tom Clancy’s The Division, to name a few. Since a year back, Marie has been developing concept art on outfits and apparel collections for Massive’s online characters. Marie has also started to explore with the cosplay community, a phenomenon that has been extracting digital culture into the physical world for decades.

Walk us through the design process of a virtual fashion piece. 

— Firstly I always start with research and depending on what the brief is I think about overall silhouettes while I’m researching. After that, I sketch in photoshop. When I’ve finished sketching and the looks are decided, I start to 3D ­model it. Outside of work I use the software clo3d, however at work I 3D model in Marvelous Designer, and then I also use Substance Painter. Both software (CLO & Marvelous) are made by the same developer, however, CLO3d is targeting the fashion industry and Marvelous Designer the games ­industry. 

Is it easier to design virtual fashion pieces with experience of designing physical fashion?

— I used to believe that it is easier to design virtual fashion pieces having the experience of designing physical fashion, however, I’m not that convinced anymore. The biggest difference between virtual fashion and real-life fashion is the tactile and non-tactile experience. Virtual fashion is purely visual and technical whilst real-life fashion is first of all trendy cloth that protects your body.

”I used to believe that it is easier to design virtual fashion pieces having the experience of designing physical fashion, however, I’m not that convinced anymore.”

— Therefore it all depends, if it’s virtual fashion that will also become physical fashion pieces, then yes for sure it is way easier because you need to have the tactile understanding. If the pieces will only exist virtually it’s not necessarily easier to design if one has experience of designing physical fashion, it might even be the opposite. 

Outside of her day job with Massive, Marie is still exploring other ways of designing digital fashion outside of the gaming sphere. Recently she has developed an ar filter in collaboration with phygital (physical and digital) fashion brand DARKN, which has resulted in four outfits compatible with the online meeting app Zoom. By downloading the extension Snapcam, meeting participants can take part in meetings in digital clothes rather than physical ones. 

Isacsson’s Zoom AR filter with DARKN.

How are fashion colleges and universities talking about virtual fashion? 

— I would say that the approach toward virtual fashion really varies among fashion colleagues and fashion schools. Technology is still in the early stages of development and is only going to improve and become more integrated into our lives. To be frank, the fashion industry is stuck in its old ways and is quite behind the other industries when it comes to including software in the process of designing and creating. I strongly believe in a change though, not least in education, when that happens I think many traditions can be broken for the better. For example, negative hierarchies in the industry, the broadening of the designer role, and building collaborations with other industries.

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