The Fashion Machines

Julia Krantz, a self-described “artist in fashion and new technologies”, is the futurist behind the influential blog and Instagram @magicfabricblog and magicfabricblog.com which explore the ever-changing interstices between “fashion and game technology” and 3D fashion.

2019-11-22 | byMatthew Hicks

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Artwork for Wayoutwest 2019
Artwork for Wayoutwest 2019 by @eliasklingen and @studioleonchris

Ms Krantz—who graduated with a degree in Textile Arts from the School of Design and Craft in Gothenburg, Sweden—is currently creative director at leading Stockholm start-up Volumental. And what exactly is 3D fashion? Ms Krantz describes it as “the digitisation of garments, either (...) replicating physical ones or letting ideas take shape digitally” via “a life that transcends physical and digital space or exists solely in the digital world.” Krantz sees new digital experiences creeping into the retail marketplace already. “The fashion industry is going through a massive digitisation process and with this access to data, new types of services and experiences are enabled. Personalisation is one of the changes of paradigm we are now stepping into, especially if you look at the way brands and retailers want to connect to their customers.”

Consider, for example, software that allows denim purveyors to scan your hips and legs to get the perfect fit. “In terms of technology, 3D visualisation is breaking ground in fashion in a way 3D printing was never able to. If you take people like Kerry and Amber at The Fabricant for example, they are using the same type of software being used in CGI for rendering fashion pieces. Another personal favourite and friend is Joseph Cross, an American artist with an impressive career from the computer games industry who is more and more exploring how his work can be translated into the physical space.”

Krantz does not think the visualisation process is under any imminent threat from advances in 3D textile printing. “I think it might still take some time before 3D generated products will entirely replace product photography on online platforms, though it definitely opens up for new types of online experiences. For example, it will allow people to interact, explore and even design their own products online that would never have been possible using flat imagery.” Imagine a future in which a consumer in Cleveland, controlling the foam injection machine at a remote sneaker plant in Shenzhen, is able to create his own trainer. Even in that perhaps not so far away future, customers and marketers will require visualisation to design and market the trainers. The difference is that those visuals might not be static and 2D. “[3D visualisation] also has huge potential for R&D and prototyping.”

Then there’s the possibility of a feedback loop of design and digital market research, of “combining the two—feeding product development with real user feedback on experiential platforms.” Machines learning from you—and from each other—in order to make garments you don’t even know you desire. Towards this much-feared intervention of machine learning in retail, Krantz remains optimistic—even friendly: “[Machine learning] plays a big role in what we do at Volumental where we create personal footwear recommendations based on training data from people all over the world using what we have learned about your own fit preferences. AI plays a big role in providing the platform upon which products and services can adapt to you and not the other way around.”

Krantz describes being a young girl in her bedroom playing Grim Fandango in a state of utterly transfixed absorption. She knew that video games were not designed for young women and yet she couldn’t help but be fascinated by their potential. Those early experiences with gaming cast a long shadow over her career. “My interest in fashion has very little to do with personal style. I’m a big fan of science fiction and I love the type of work where you take something and pull it to the extreme. And I love a good story. Playing games just sucked me into this world where everything from narrative, music and visuals had a coherent voice. It’s very much what I expect the future of how to sell fashion will be like.”