AMBER JAE SLOOTEN & THE FABRICANT: COMBINING FASHION DESIGN WITH MACHINE LEARNING

AN EXPLORATION IN CREATIVE COEXISTENCE

For our new theme 'Pioneer', we talk to Digital Fashion Designer Amber Jae Slooten about her recent project with The Fabricant.

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You identify as a Digital Fashion Designer, can you tell us about the work you create?

I call myself Digital Fashion Designer because I design clothes, but I haven't actually touched any fabric in years. With the latest 3D technology that has been developing within the past few years it is now possible to simulate garments before ever actually creating them in real life. I work in a digital space with endless materials and possibilities, and if I don't like my design I just hit ctrl+z. It's a new way of working which, I think, will be the future of the industry, as it eliminates excessive sample production and takes us to a new way of working. In my work I also discover the possibilities of the digital world. What will we look like when we enter a VR space? What will we look like in 10 years with the digitization going at the speed it does now? Will we even still be wearing physical clothes or could we wear holograms? The past years I have been trying to form an answer to those questions by creating installations of digital garment animations. 

How did you find yourself creating this type of work?

During my studies I realized that I did not want to work in a fashion industry that was so polluting. I came across the 3D animation software during a minor outside of my studies and ever since then I have completely fallen in love with it. When I brought it back to school and told my teachers I wanted to graduate with digital garments they told me I was crazy. And yet here I stand, graduated with 8 virtual outfits, having showed my digital garments at Amsterdam Fashion Week back in 2016 and still producing many new outfits without them ever existing in real life.

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...if I don’t like my design I just hit ctrl+z.

Can you introduce your project to the MM readers?

What will be left of our dreams after computers learn to dream? Venturing into unknown territory, "DEEP" project explores the Wild West, combining fashion design with automated exploration. What resulted is a collaboration between human creativity (my brain) and machine learning (the computer). The computer's 'dreamed-up images' serve as inspiration for my latest 3D digitally crafted collection. They predicted shape, colour and texture and I used these as a big inspiration point. It made us think about what the digital revolution could ultimately mean for fashion design, the industry, and the very people working in it.

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The collection is made entirely on the computer, in collaboration with The Fabricant, which resulted in a hypnotising animated video presentation taking the viewer through endless digital environments. Remnants of the fashion industry float through the scenes as the avatar moves forward into places that are vaguely familiar but estranging too. Can an algorithmic process of trial and error lead to creativity?

Where did you take inspiration for this project?

Basically the algorithm inspired me to create these shapes, and use these colours. The images it created were so inspiring to me that I wanted to create outfits from it. By myself I wouldn't have come up with these shapes, which is a whole different approach to design using the computer to my benefit. I still needed to create 3D garments from a vague 2D picture so I used elements of western historical clothing to express the feeling of moving into this Wild West, this digital undiscovered world. This project combines virtual animations and real elements and pushes them to a hyper-real level that leaves the viewer in a weird state, not knowing what real and what is fake. The name DEEP comes from deep learning, the artificial intelligence technology we used that is able to create 'fake' objects without them ever existing in real life by using reference pictures. 

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Did the computer have specific inspiration points for the collection, in terms of fabrics/colours etc? Or was it random?

We gave the algorithm input of a large dataset of pictures of Paris Fashion Week. The algorithm does not know what it is looking at, as in it does not know that it is clothing. It generates random pixels to try and recreate the images we gave it, but without seeing them. In this way the computer is able to come up with images that are generated by constantly learning whether it is on the right track and the images that come out are vague representations of garments that from a distance look like catwalk pictures. I gave it meaning by choosing the fabrics and actually designing the garments, with the computer image as my reference. 

How did you take the computer's images into a new dimension?

As the image comes out in 2D, it looks like a vague representation of a garment, but it is nowhere near an actual piece of cloth or a pattern. What I do as a designer is taking inspiration from silhouette and colour that I translate with my own inspiration elements into outfits. I sculpted the outfits on the computer and the result was this collection- designed by the computer and by me. To me it is also super interesting to see where the computer ends and I take over, how much do I stick to what it predicted in the shape, how much of the image do I recreate? There is still very much a creative vision needed to keep the collection consistent.

Your 3D visualisation videos are very mesmerising, I could watch them all day. Can you define the qualities that make it so?

We call it hyper-realism. An added layer on top of what is real. You're looking at an image that has a photo-real quality to it, but you know it's not real because what's happening in the image. So you're left with a sensation that leaves you questioning and wondering. At least this is what we wanted to achieve with it.

...you’re left with a sensation that leaves you questioning and wondering.

What are the advantages of digital fashion design, how could it change the industry?

At the moment, there is so much over-production and we really want to show that with the use of this digital world we can really waste a lot less! We are looking for new ways of presenting fashion, as fashion shows have been the same for over 100 years. We want to see whether we can create alternatives for photoshoots using digital super models (like for instance Shudugram or Lil Miquela) and putting them in environments that would've never been possible in real life. Digital fashion could also create a new way of tailoring, using 3D bodyscans and fitting them on the computer without the person ever being there. It is such a new market and there is still so much to discover, the possibilities are endless and right now we are focusing on digital e-commerce and virtual fitting through innovative initiatives. I always love this quote from Isaac Asimov, one of the founding fathers of artificial intelligence: "Things don't need to be real, when they seem to be."

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Thank you Amber for giving us an insight into the incredibly fascinating and futuristic world of digital fashion design!

Follow Amber here @amberjaeslooten and the Fabricant here @the_fab_ric_ant