What is the most common reaction to the work that you do?
I say that I create digital clothes—clothing for digital identity or your digital life that never exists in the physical world. Most people react with some skepticism or misunderstanding. I explain that the clothing is designed for avatars, online gaming, Instagram, or any online space. Before the pandemic, fewer people understood what an online-only space entailed. But now, given Zoom and how many people stayed connected and in communication through digital platforms, this is much more widely understood. I find I don’t have to do as much explaining now.
What first drew you to fashion and designing clothes?
I've always been fascinated by identity. As a little girl I would often play dress-up because I loved the ability to switch identities with new outfits. My mom knew how to sew and work with fabric, and she often made my clothes. I remember walking through museums and wanting to wear the costumes that I saw, as a way of transporting myself. I was also into computers and gaming as a kid, games like SIMS in particular really interested me because of the endless options for how to dress the characters—that was more fascinating to me than playing the game itself. At some point I figured out how to hack the software to find the special edition green and purple skin colors. Then as I got older, I was very inspired by designers like Hussein Chalayan and Issey Miyake because they created rich narratives behind the fashion that they created. That bigger storytelling is hugely important to me.
What is your first memory of interacting in an online space?
I am a millennial and grew up playing outside, in the street, and offline. And then, at some point, we had a computer in the house. This was back in the day when I would have to switch off the telephone in order to use the Internet. I remember both my grandpa and my uncle were proficient and advanced in understanding how to use computers. My uncle was a software developer and at one point he brought one of the computers that he had to our house and installed Photoshop. He taught me how to draw and create using these online tools. It was so exciting and ever since that first exposure, I was compelled by what was possible within gaming environments.
What made you combine these two worlds more formally?
As a teenager, I gamed after school a lot and I was much more interested in the online space than most of my friends. I knew I wanted to do something creative, and I chose to study fashion because it felt most true to who I was. Almost immediately, in fashion school, I noticed how physical it was. There were almost no digital elements and very little use of technology. I remember being overwhelmed by the piles and piles of materials and recognizing just how wasteful it was. The process was very slow when it came to designing but I had tons of ideas and felt frustrated that I couldn’t actualize them because I couldn’t work quickly enough or didn’t have the materials that I needed. I felt the limitations of my creativity acutely in the physical world. There were also other parameters like the size and shapes of clothing we could make. There was only one model and if I wanted to make clothing for more diverse shapes and sizes, I had to pay for other models which were expensive.
At some point, one of my teachers introduced me to new software that enabled the fitting of clothing before physically making the garments. It allowed for so much more experimentation even though it was not very advanced. This ultimately led me to take a semester off to do further research and I ended up working on an interdisciplinary project where we created a virtual fashion experience. I kept researching, looking for better tools to continue this work and at some point, I found a software called CLO 3D which I really loved. The possibilities felt endless, and it felt like a game. I contacted the company, and they sent our group a license. It felt like magic.