Decrypted Garments: Pixelated Fashion Takes to the Runway at Milan Design Week
Clothing got a pixelated reboot for one exhibition at this year’s Milan Design Week, taking fashion into cyberspace and opening the door to endless design possibilities.
As part of “Missed Your Call,” Design Academy Eindhoven’s graduate exhibition at the annual Italian showcase, Latvian native Santa Kupča presented her “Decrypted Garments” on three large screens, highlighting “how the virtual world is forever morphing fleeting images around us.”
Kupča says on her website that as she designed during the pandemic, she realized that even the digital world is not without restrictions. As she encountered errors, bugs, and “server not found” messages, the online platform felt like its “own kind of lockdown.”
“I feel a sensation of being in an abandoned paradise, and the only way to reside there is to adapt,” she explains. “I created a digital runway for a fashion show that embraces these glitches and exists as monument for lockdown fashion. In absence of a human body, eight garments seem to live their own life in this virtual realm.”
Using clothing, shoes, and bags from her own personal collection, the Amsterdam-based artist generated 3D scans of eight different getups. She then tweaked color schemes, patterns, and outlines with the help of modeling software.
“The garments are inspired by renaissance silhouettes, setting an interpretation of modern gothic with robust and rough structures,” Kupča says. “Each piece in the collection is fragmented and asymmetric to emphasize how errors and distortion can often lead to unexpected beauty.”
Her inspiration for this collection of cyber-fashion stems from childhood memories of online games and communities like like Habbo and Habia World. “The theme appeared when I got my first computer at 11 years old and found out about [online] chatrooms like Habbo,” Kupča told Dezeen in an interview. “It was a lot about changing your clothes and making your home. I would dream about owning these virtual dresses and think I must have them in my own wardrobe.”
It’s no wonder Kupča drew so heavily on the gaming world for the aesthetic of her Decrypted Garments pieces, which she animated for their Milan Design Week showcase to make them look like they were being worn by invisible models strutting down a runway. The outfits sway and move in hundreds of accentuated pixels, even showing off dance moves in some scenes. She adds that “visually it has connections to Minecraft. It’s about glitches and errors, the shapes could become anything.”
The fashion designer was never interested in reproducing ultra-realistic looking digital clothing for this project. “It’s interesting to see how you can recreate fabric from the real world but maybe there’s a different kind of fabric in the digital world. It’s similar with art; centuries ago, people would recreate an apple in a painting exactly how an apple looks,” Kupča says. “The beginning of digital fashion is quite similar, brands are trying to mimic fabric, but we could go crazy with it.”
Kupča studied at the Riga School of Design and Art in Latvia before moving to the Netherlands to continue her education at the Design Academy Eindhoven. She tries to allow society as a whole to inform her work. She says: “I look forward to finding the essence of certain social phenomena and culture differences in trends and what connects us all, and to expand upon it with my perception.”