Just imagine that you are sitting in your living room while holograms of models are walking the catwalk in front of you, and Alexander McQueen's memorable garments are virtually sweeping your floor. Because of technology, fashion shows don’t have to be old school and boring anymore, Evelyn Mora, the founder of Digital Village, told CyberNews.
Evelyn Mora is building something that might look like a social network for designers and fashion lovers, where you can not only chat with other users but also buy digital clothes, garments, or filters. Due to the pandemic, Evelyn Mora, who is also the founder and the creative director of the Helsinki fashion week, decided to go entirely digital with the show this year.
“We should all go digital, but we shouldn’t abandon the physical. I don’t believe in the model of fashion weeks right now. It hasn’t changed for decades, and it’s too old school for me now. You can present fashion, design, and art in so many different ways. Just having a catwalk is a bit boring, it’s no longer stimulating,” she told CyberNews.
Digital Village was the first entirely digital 3D fashion show held in Helsinki in late July 2020. Models were scanned to create avatars that were then digitally dressed by designers such as Patric McDowell or Tess van Zalinge. Attendees had their own avatars and attended the virtual catwalks in the Digital Village.
This idea was realized faster than it would have been if no one had attempted to sell bat meat in the now world-famous Huanan seafood market. At least this is the coronavirus origin story that is well-fixed in the public mind.
“To be honest with you, we did it in a record time. In a perfect world, you would make this project in a year, at least, but we did it in four months,” Evelyn Mora told CyberNews.
Being slightly bored with traditional fashion shows, she doesn’t believe the future is entirely digital. Technology lets us enhance our physical experience and present clothes and art in entirely different ways. Evelyn Mora, together with a team of around 200 people, created Digital Village in only four months and is already planning future shows that will definitely evolve significantly from this year's digital-only fashion show.
Generation Z, millennials, and generation Alpha interest Evelyn Mora a lot. Back in 2018, she launched the first 100% sustainable Eco Village fashion show with garments crafted from recycled materials and a zero-waste approach. Even then she paid a lot of attention to our environment and the fact of how it affects the physical and psychological well-being. So it’s only natural that she moved into the digital environment, as we surround ourselves with screens throughout the day.
“We date online, we shop online, even for groceries, and we work online. Just some years ago, having sushi or ice-cream delivered to your home was like a utopian idea,” she told CyberNews.
As the environment we live in changed a lot, Evelyn Mora started researching the concept of a multidimensional environment, and entering cyberspace was something that interested her very much. She started researching it, talking to architects and tech professionals about a year before the pandemic.
“As a millennial, I use the internet most of the time. I realized how it affects my mindset, mood, and even physically, when you sit at the computer 8 hours a day, it can have very significant physical effects. The most valuable thing that we have is not money - it’s time. And we have to be very mindful of how we spend our time and make the most of it,” she said.
Of course, if we talk about designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, or Alexander McQueen, they can take your breath away just by a model walking back and forth. But we shouldn’t be that fixated on having catwalks.
Evelyn Mora believes that augmented reality (AR) will be huge, and that the future is multidimensional, where holograms, tech, and real-life is going to be mixed.
The current model of fashion weeks, she reckons, is outdated, the traditional catwalk is a bit boring, and models walking back and forth shouldn’t be the only way to present haute couture.
“Of course, if we talk about designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, or Alexander McQueen, they can take your breath away just by a model walking back and forth. But we shouldn’t be that fixated on having catwalks,” she said.
So what’s next for Helsinki fashion week? Evelyn Mora says it will definitely stay strongly digital, and she has new ideas for the future.
“The designer residency program was very successful for us. We had designers collaborating and openly letting people enter into their design processes while creating the collection. We streamed this on Twitch, we reached quite a lot of people, and it was a very successful co-learning and co-creating opportunity for many designers,” she said.
How difficult, or easy, was it to create a lifelike fashion show - scanning the models, making them walk in astonishing surroundings, creating the way the fabric waves and falls? There was a team of over 200 people that worked during quarantine and made Digital Village happen in only 4 months. Evelyn Mora said it was not difficult per se.
“I had to learn a lot just to be able to coordinate the project. I feel like I did a university degree in a few months. When you talk with a digital designer and say "Hey, I have this vision," they start asking you questions, and you don’t know what they mean,” Evelyn Mora said.
What was the show like for the visitor? Some people go to traditional fashion shows just for a chit chat over a glass of sparkling wine.
“In the first Digital Village edition, we launched videos that are still available, and people can see them. We are launching a store in digitalvillage.io where you would be able to basically access the creations of global designers. We are building a metaverse where all the digital assets, whether it’s a garment, a filter, or any other type of digital asset, are being sold, and you can buy, sell, showcase them, and network with other people on the platform. Other than that, we have a digital sanctuary where you can create your chatbot, grow it,” Evelyn Mora explained.
It seems like she is creating some kind of social network, a platform for fashion lovers. This is something that the industry needs, she argues.
Virtual reality is not the future of fashion shows, Evelyn Mora reckons. She can spend no more than half an hour with her VR goggles on before she starts getting dizzy and disoriented. For her, augmented reality, like Google’s little game with putting an elephant or a dinosaur in your living room, is much more fun.
Does that mean that I could experience a fashion show in my living room and have models walk by me as holograms?
Totally, Evelyn Mora agrees, and instantly takes this idea further. Why stick to these catwalks, even if only virtually, when we could create a completely new experience and a new form of presentation using all the technology that is available to us?
“If we are to use tech tools, instead of having a fashion show for consumers, it could be something completely different,” she said.
Is technology even advanced enough for this? What if I, as a consumer, just love to feel the designer’s clothing, to touch the garment? Can technology make the same feeling for me?
But people don’t get to feel anything before buying, as a lot of them buy clothes online. E-commerce is a huge source of income for many companies, Evelyn Mora argues.
“Maybe we should ask how we could use these tools or tech combinations to maybe create more of an assurance, or presentation of that specific product that someone wants to buy in a way that it is as close to the expectation as possible,” she told CyberNews.
One of the biggest challenges of e-commerce is the return. Companies are addressing this issue by creating applications that can scan your body so that you would know for sure that something you ordered online would fit you well.
In Europe, there’s a lot of regulation around privacy, so I asked Evelyn if the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) made it harder to create the Digital Village. Of course, there are things to take into consideration, she said.
“If you want to be taken seriously, you need to gain the trust of users from the very beginning,” Evelyn Mora told me. But there’s something that bothers her more.
“Privacy is used as a way of marketing, and that’s crazy. We are living in times when having privacy is commercialized to us,” she said.
Just the other day, Evelyn Mora saw an advertisement that triggered her. The poster read “Privacy. That's iPhone”.
“I can’t trust this information because there’s not enough context for me to understand if they actually protect and respect our privacy. Privacy is the new trend, if you think about communication,” Evelyn said.
Of course, looking at privacy only as a trend is tricky and dangerous. Sustainability might be seen as a trend as well, but it is an alarming problem, and not a trend that comes and goes.
“Hey, do you want to be private? Good, then buy an iPhone, because other phones will not protect and respect privacy. We are living in very dangerous times in terms of data democracy and privacy, access, transparency, and traceability elements. There are going to be a lot of improvements or challenges in general in the tech field. I hope that those are challenges that we can come up with some creative solution,” Evelyn Mora said.