British design powerhouse Edward Crutchley has broken new ground for the industry at London Fashion Week, becoming the first designer to blend his new collection with augmented reality. Edward Crutchley's collections are a classic example of British fashion, sharply tailored to include harsh and squared forms which emulate the general neo-gothic vibe that usually flows through his collections. If you could picture Rick Owens tailoring for Herman Munster you'd be in the ballpark of the aesthetic Crutchley has been building throughout his work. Rough edged yet fine tailored, you could wear it to a business meeting or a rave and neither would be out of place. Acting complimentary to his luxury, vampy, office-goth looks are styling elements and choreography which present an inherently queer touch to the show. At Crutchley’s London Fashion Week presentation muscular model Ashley Reece was dressed in a black and periwinkle woven leotard with large cut outs, showing the model to be walking topless, the playsuit wrapping around his torso and arms with a large cut out over the rear, large pearl earrings swinging playfully above his shoulders. As Ashley entered the runway, he began performing flowing feminine movements, arms swirling and stroking from inward to his body, unfurling outward to air and audience, as he walked the runway in Periwinkle Blue thigh high socks and high heels, a colour announced as Pantone colour of the year 2022.
The runway presentation and detailed design elements of the Edward Crutchley show were incredible, but not nearly as incredible as the record breaking feat of merging with augmented reality to deliver the digitally-exclusive finale look of the show. Edward partnered with augmented reality (AR) platform ZERO10 to release three exclusive digital garments that can be instantly tried on and worn at home. Edward said that he was “so excited” to work on the garments and spoke a little about his experience and the digital rendering process. “I have worked with 3D rendering in the past but their (ZERO10’s) expertise and commitment to digital craft really took the process to the next level.”
Allowing the audience to interact with fashion and design in this way, especially on the world stage of the almighty Fashion Week schedule, allows us to open up our interpretation of fashion and its purpose. Rather than just being a purchasable product, we can interact with it as a free form of self expression, presenting designs that anyone can try on anywhere, provided they have an internet connection. It can be visualised as a step towards accessibility in an industry known for its problematic level of exclusivity. In producing this work with ZERO10, Edward Crutchley is openly asking his audience, what is next? How do we move forward from the structure of the fashion industry that we currently uphold, and how can this change benefit us? Edward comments that he, “really believes that this is how fashion will exist, with digital and physical fashion both being equally valid as the artisan craft of the future.”
Blending fashion into the digital realm is a controversial topic. Some people don't really see the point in producing digital fashion, as it can’t be worn in real life. The premise behind the point of digital fashion, however, is the argument that fashion doesn't have to be functional in a traditional sense to exist. Should we view fashion how we would view any other form of art? A painter may have an original painting but the painting doesn't lose value just because you can't hang it on your own wall. It also requires the same amount of artisan skill and creativity to produce a digital form of the same piece of work.
The most exciting aspect of fashion stepping into the digital space is that it allows the designer complete utopian levels of freedom within their craft. Digitally, they are no longer bound by what is physically possible or practical to make in real life, but instead are able to produce work that comes directly from their imagination, whether it would be possible in a real life context or not. As an augmented reality platform, ZERO10 offers an innovative blend of body tracking, rendering technology, segmentation and fabric simulation, allowing its audience to experience a hyper-realistic 3D experience with the designs. The pieces are available to be downloaded for free via the ZERO10 app. Anton Grigoriev, Head of design at ZERO10 said, “Careful handling of the process with an artistic touch can create digital items which are highly sensitive and full of emotion, which can be aggressive or soft, delicate, or robust, euphoric or melancholy. In the hands of an expert, digital items can become beautiful - a work of art akin to any other.”