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  • Date
    06 JULY 2023
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    Estelle Pearce Exploring Phygital Fashion Design Using 3D Tools and Innovative Developments

    Estelle Pearce is a digital artist with a master's degree from Leeds Art University and over 15 years of industry experience as a fashion designer and pattern cutter. When the pandemic hit, Estelle shifted her focus to digital art, which allowed her to explore sustainable solutions and maintain a steady workflow. Her transition into this field sparked the interest in 3D tools and digital developments, providing her with creative freedom and the ability to bring previously unthinkable ideas to life in both virtual and real-world environments, without worrying about excess waste. 

    Her work has been showcased in various settings, including static installations, virtual environments, publications and multiple metaverse spaces. She also participated in Digital Fashion Week New York and London for two consecutive years, where she presented collections and animations. Recently, she was invited to collaborate with Ready Player Me and Digital Fashion Week New York to create a metaverse wearable, which was a remarkable experience and saw her further exhibit as part of Metaverse Fashion Week 2023.

    In addition to creating digital immersive art, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others and promoting alternative solutions to traditional art forms. Currently she is a lecturer and she leads a Master's module in Digital Futures at Buckinghamshire New University. Furthermore, she founded a community interest company called Fashion Fusion, which offers funded workshops where participants can create digital art pieces that can remain digital or become physical. Her workshops aim to educate participants on sustainable issues and solutions and alternative ways of engaging with art and fashion.

    Tell us a little bit about yourself as a fashion designer and when was your first approach with fashion? 

    As a digital fashion designer with over 16 years of experience in the industry, I have a passion for blending tradition with innovation in my practice. My interest in fashion truly began when I enrolled in a pattern and garment-making course and discovered a love for creating and experimenting with my own patterns. This eventually led me to pursue a degree in fashion, where I honed my skills as a designer and creative pattern cutter. In 2022, I completed a master's degree in digital fashion, which rekindled my passion for creation, today, I experiment with cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, laser cutting, and 3D printing, and I'm always exploring new ways to bring my designs to life, such as augmented reality try-ons, fashion animations, and immersive experiences and I’m currently exploring incorporating Unreal Engine and Virtual Production into my experimental workflows.

    Everyone somewhere or another has been influenced by their childhood. Could you please walk us through your own progressing years? How was growing up for you? Was it certain for you what you were going to do growing up?

    Growing up in a working-class family in the UK, I was surrounded by a world of garment-making thanks to my mother and other family members who worked as sewing machinists in the local village factory. My childhood clothing was lovingly made by my mum, and those memories stayed with me as I grew up. I didn't have many opportunities to explore my creative side or discover my passions and wasn't explicitly encouraged to pursue a specific career path and it wasn't until my late twenties, after working in Pharmacy for several years, that I decided to pursue my love of fashion and art by going back to school. Despite having only GCSEs, I was determined to succeed and became the first in my family to earn a university degree. Thanks to my previous job experiences, I was able to fund this transition and I'm grateful for the chance to follow my dreams.

    When was your first approach with digital fashion and why did you decide to explore it? What are the softwares you use to create digital garments? 

    At the start of the pandemic, I was listening to lots of discussions with a focus on sustainability and there was much talk about digital fashion with interviews from Alvihay Feld of Browzwear and Kerry Murphy of The Fabricant and this really got me interested. Initially, I was excited to be able to create size-specific blocks and work on patterns in 2D as my previous roles only required initial paper patterns and I’d never had an opportunity to use CAD programs like Lectra or Gerber. I initially started on the Browzwear University program and CLO3D beginner’s courses and I soon began to realize the other functions and benefits of working digitally; this keen interest to discover more led me to enroll on the Master’s Degree, and I’ve actually only created digital garments since. I currently use CLO3D, Blender, Adobe Suite, and Unreal Engine but I’ve also explored Maya, Rhino, and Marvellous Designer.

    How did you decide to be part of Web3.0? Introduce us to your artworks for it and how the process design was elaborated?

    I decided to be part of Web3.0 because I saw it as a great opportunity to bring my digital fashion designs to a wider audience and explore new ways of showcasing and monetizing my work. My artworks for Web3.0 are a mix of 3D models, digital prints, and interactive experiences that blur the line between fashion and technology. The process has been elaborated through collaboration with other digital artists, strategists, and event organizers that experiment with new tools and techniques to push the boundaries of what's possible in digital fashion. My work has been showcased at digital fashion weeks in New York and London, as well as Metaverse Fashion Week, and is available as NFTs on multiple sites. As a contributor to Artisant, I'm excited to be part of a community that values digital assets and creativity in all its forms.

    Your work encourages innovation and makes the knick-picking style a trend of its own. I wonder what kind of challenges you would have gone through when it came to approaching digital art as well?

    As a fashion designer who has ventured into the world of digital art, I have faced the challenge of seeing myself as an artist, as well as the challenge of being recognized as one by others in the fashion industry. Even though my work encourages innovation and sets trends, some people still don't consider fashion to be a form of art. However, I am constantly striving to push boundaries and explore new possibilities, and through my work, I hope to change perceptions and encourage others to see the artistic potential in fashion.

    How is your brand philosophy manifested and interpreted in the garments themselves? 

    My brand philosophy of sustainability and new approaches to fashion consumption is deeply ingrained in every piece of digital fashion I create. From the selection of virtual materials to the digital production process, I am always mindful of minimizing waste and reducing the environmental impact of my designs. This ethos has allowed me to explore and experiment with my own style and creativity, resulting in digital fashion that not only looks great but also aligns with my values as a responsible digital fashion designer. Through my work, I hope to inspire others to embrace sustainable digital fashion and make conscious choices that benefit both people and the planet.

    How do you face challenges in such a complex industry and how do you approach potential customers/stores? Are you stocked in some retail stores? Where? 

    Since the start of the pandemic, I've been researching and developing my skills in digital technologies as the fashion industry shifted towards digitalization. The rapid development of the industry has been challenging, and I've learned how to create in 3D, develop game-ready wearables, create animations, edit short clips, and attend and navigate metaverse events, whilst learning new manufacturing techniques such as laser cutting and 3D printing. This eagerness to learn has connected and enabled me to align with key players in the industry which has opened many opportunities and collaborations, I've been fortunate to have showcased during major digital fashion shows and events and my work is currently available on DressX, The Drip, Open Sea, and Artisant. 

    You’re both the creative and the business head of your company. How do you balance your time between the two?

    As a creative entrepreneur and mother of two children, balancing my time between the creative and business aspects of my work can be a challenge. However, I have found that setting clear priorities and boundaries, as well as being organized and efficient, is key to managing both roles effectively. In addition to my work as a fashion designer and digital artist, I am also running a Community Interest Company that focuses on giving back to the community through workshops and events. This work is very important to me, and I strive to ensure that I am dedicating enough time and energy to it while also balancing my other responsibilities. Ultimately, it comes down to prioritization, time management, and having a supportive network around, my family and friends provide invaluable support and understanding.

    How do you see your brand growing and evolving in the future?

    My goals for the future are to continuously evolve my brand by exploring new digital technologies and sustainable practices. I see my brand growing by expanding my collections and collaborations, whilst also creating unique and innovative fashion animations and immersive experiences that are accessible to a wider audience. In addition, I am passionate about giving back to the community and plan to develop patterns that can be used to upcycle garments, inspiring individuals to learn new skills and become more involved in the creative process. Ultimately, my aim is to create a brand that is not only sustainable and innovative but also has a positive impact on the fashion industry and the wider community.

    A letter to your future self. What would you write?

    Looking back on where we started, it's incredible to think of all the progress we've made. Despite facing challenges, we’ve managed to stay innovative and true to our ethos of sustainability and new approaches to fashion. I hope that by now, we've continued to grow and evolve, developing and experimenting in our digital collections and collaborations whilst also taking comfort and pride in giving back to our community, and as a mother, and friend I hope you've found a way to balance your time between your creative work, business responsibilities, and family life. No matter where we are now, I'm proud of all that we've accomplished and the positive impact we've made on the industry and community. Keep striving for excellence and staying true to your values, and I have no doubt that you'll continue to achieve great things. I’m proud of you!

    Interview by Mira Wanderlust

    Image Courtesy Estelle Pearce