The Fabricant is the world’s first digital-only fashion house. Its' community of creators combines 3-D fashion design, cutting-edge visual effects animation, and technology to build the future of fashion. Their bespoke designs garments only exist digitally and collectors' avatars can "wear" the items on social media platforms, in gaming environments, and in virtual worlds ("the metaverse").
In the interview below, Michaela Larosse (Head of Content at The Fabricant) shares the story behind how they built an entirely new fashion-tech industry, why they want to create the wardrobe of the metaverse, and how they're embracing freedom of expression and identity exploration in the digital world.
Learn more about The Fabricant's world and stay tuned for their exclusive Portion NFT Drop later this month!
When you talk about your practice you sometimes refer to it as “thought couture.” Can you elaborate on what that term means for you and how it ties in with your practice?
The Fabricant has always believed that clothing does not have to be physical to exist, but it can be quite a challenging concept for people hearing it for the first time. We’re used to such an intimate relationship with garments because we have traditionally worn them against our skin, so the idea that this is no longer necessary requires a mindset shift in what fashion can be.
We use the term ‘Thought Couture’ to describe our pieces to enable people to comprehend the concept of non-physicality. It’s couture that exists beyond the physical, just like a thought. We can collectively agree that thoughts exist even though they don’t take physical form, so it’s that idea translated to fashion.
The Fabricant launched as a fashion house in 2018, with its first collection being released just shortly after. How do you think the industry has evolved since then and where do you see it going?
The Fabricant was founded in 2018, which is recent history but a long time ago in terms of the trajectory of digital fashion. Back then there was no concept of what we were doing at all. We were seen as this curious, techy niche; digital fashion was interesting and quirky but not necessarily something the wider industry felt the need to participate in. So we had a double-edged challenge at the time: the need to create a business, while also building an entirely new fashion-tech industry around ourselves to exist in.
We were passionately committed to making it happen using the team’s knowledge in digital fashion design and visual effects, spliced with a massive helping of self-belief. Now of course, fashion’s big-name luxury players are stepping into the digital fashion world and beginning to iterate and experiment with digital garments, blockchain and gaming, which is really gratifying to see. The wider uptake of digital fashion will accelerate our world even more so we can drive innovation and continue to be creatively groundbreaking.
Digital fashion is reaching a wider audience, and just over the last year we have both seen and heard a lot more about the subject. What possibilities do you see for digital fashion, and how do you think it can change and/or challenge the more traditional aspect of the fashion industry?
Ultimately it will be our audience of digital fashion lovers or Digi-Sapiens, as we call them, that will decide the direction they’d like to see things go in. The secret sauce will be for digital garments to enable maximum self expression while having multiple utilities in virtual spaces, allowing them to be worn, traded and collected, creating a new fashion economy.
The currently nascent metaverse - the next generation iteration of the internet which will be immersive - is where our work is focused, as our pieces will build the wardrobe of the metaverse. In this digital layer of our lives we will interact, transact and have experiences using personalised avatars, and those avatars will express who we are, how we’re feeling and what we believe in, and all of this will be apparent through the garments we choose to clothe them in. Digital pieces can be coded with so much information and of course be visually spectacular, so they’re this incredible vehicle for communication and interaction. The currently existing notion of clothes being something we merely wear will quickly become an outdated concept.
The Fabricant is one of the pioneers of digital fashion. How did you end up in this rather niched industry, and what led you to start to work with digital garments and designs?
We didn’t end up in this industry, we created it. There was no doubt in our minds that digital fashion was absolutely the future of the fashion industry and the way that we were going to define our identities in the digital space. It was a matter of convincing everyone else of our point of view, which required us to just go for it and begin iterating.
There was no digital fashion industry when we started in 2018, so we created a website and an Instagram profile to get our concept our there. The first day that they went up Nike got in touch as they were curious, and so did luxury retailer IT.Hong Kong, our first client, who were looking to do something cool and innovative for their 30th anniversary collection. That project gave us a tangible use case for everything that we were talking about and it grew from there. Nothing we’ve ever done has been conventional.
Though the idea of how a physical garment is not necessarily clear to everyone, it seems like it is still less abstract than the notion of a digital garment and the creation process behind it. How would you describe digital fashion and what do you think is required for it to reach a wider audience?
Our work is created in our digital atelier, which utilises high-resolution screens instead of scissors and cutting tables. The entire process is non-physical, so we create our patterns in 3D then digitally stitch them together to build a silhouette that will be adjusted for drape and fit, depending on the digital fabric we’re using and avatar that we’re fitting the piece to. It’s the traditional methodology translated to the 21st century, using the tech we have now to make it happen. It makes for a faster paced, innovative and dynamic process, as of course we can make changes and evolve ideas far quicker than classic physical practices. The fine-tuning and finishing of a digital garment is still very craft-intensive as it involves lighting, 3D environment creation and visual effects to bring a piece to life to the movie-industry level of iteration that we like to see in a garment by The Fabricant. Our pieces are known as digi-couture, and we invest the same love and attention to detail in our work as a traditional couture atelier, it’s just our raw material is data.
You’ve worked with AI and computers for some of your earlier collections, answering questions such as what a collaboration between humans and computers could potentially look like. What path does your creative process usually follow, and where do you find inspiration for it? Are collaboration with machines always a vital part, or is each creative process shaped individually?
It’s tempting to assume that technology is where our thinking begins and ends, but our design perspective places humanity and emotional connection central to the entire process; we’re creating for people after all. Through digital clothing, The Fabricant is returning to the heart of what fashion was always meant to be – a playful arena to explore and express our identities and individuality. The fashion future we are building is collaborative, creative, diverse and inclusive. We don’t see people as passive consumers but creative agents crafting their self-expression and curating their virtual identity through digital clothing.
Young people in particular have an instinctive understanding of the digital space and its power to enable self expression. For them the digital world has equal validity to physical life as an environment in which to explore and express their various selves. Our work seeks to emotionally connect with these digital natives to co-create an inspiring, innovative and sustainable fashion landscape that’s attuned and relevant to their values and interests.
Can you tell us about the newly launched Fabricant Studio? What do creators and collectors have to look forward to with this new platform?
The Fabricant Studio is our shot at disrupting the entire fashion narrative to make fashion creation a democratic and collaborative process. We’re so used to this idea of a lone auteur as creative director making decisions on the aesthetic of a collection, which is such old school thinking. In the digital world it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Fabricant Studio is an open invitation for anyone to become a digital fashion creator, without any software knowledge, and participate in co-creating their own digital fashion NFTs to be worn, collected and traded. Users get to customise garments to their own preferences using limited edition digital-only fabrics, trims and accessories. The master silhouettes are dropped into the environment by big brands and boutique digital creators, so they can be played with and customised before users mint their own entirely individual fashion NFT.
All the garments can be traded in the Studio’s in-platform marketplace, launching 15th October, and have multiple utilities in environment such as The Sandbox and Ready Player Me, so they can be worn on avatars in virtual spaces. The wardrobe of the metaverse starts here.
Can you tell us about "Pluriform - Metalized Ocean" - What is the inspiration and concept behind the piece and why did you select it for this exhibit?
The Pluriform concept goes to the heart of The Fabricant’s belief system about what fashion can be in the virtual space, and what it should be in the physical world. Society and history has fed us this idea that only certain garments can be worn by certain people, and it’s wrong or inappropriate to express yourself in certain ways through fashion. Why? Who made those decisions for us? And what’s the point in continuing to perpetuate these ideas when they were made 200 years ago for societies that no longer exist?
All of the garments we create at The Fabricant are genderless, made to be worn by anyone of any body type or size. A Pluriform is a multi-form piece that lends itself to multiple expressions, and we wanted to present this garment to open dialogues on what fashion can be when we open ourselves up to new ideas and new avenues for self expression. Metalized Ocean is one of the limited edition digital fabrics we created for The Fabricant Studio, which gives the piece a beautiful otherworldly shimmer. We hope that whoever considers buying the NFT appreciates the garment’s visual appeal, but also the beautiful philosophy behind the idea of embracing freedom of expression and identity exploration in the digital world.
→ Stay tuned for The Fabricant's Exclusive Portion NFT Drop at the end of the month! And if you live in NYC, go check out Portion's AR NFT exhibit on Fifth Avenue ft. The Fabricant throughout the month of October!