Virtual Religion: Exploring Fashion's Digital Frontier

Virtual Religion: Exploring Fashion's Digital Frontier

Inspired by Qian Xuesen's concept of the "spiritual realm," Lei Zhang pushes the boundaries of design philosophy and embraces the limitless possibilities of virtual fashion. Join her on this captivating journey as she blurs the lines between the tangible and the ethereal.

In a world forever transformed by the pandemic, our lives have witnessed a remarkable shift towards the virtual realm, where a "second life" has taken root. Inspired by this profound societal change,  Savannah College of Art and Design graduate, Lei Zhang,  embarked on the "Virtual Religion" project, delving into the depths of the virtual world and its intersection with the realm of fashion. Drawing inspiration from the concept of the "spiritual realm" pioneered by Chinese scholar Qian Xuesen, Lei sought to understand the virtual landscape through the lens of "religion." Join Lei on this captivating journey as she explores the fusion of virtual and physical elements, pushing the boundaries of design philosophy and embracing the limitless possibilities of virtual fashion.

The development of virtual technology has provided a new way of showcasing fashion. Designers can use a computer to complete the entire design process from 0 to 1, no longer constrained by materials and space.

“Virtual Religion” lineup

The traditional fashion industry has serious ethical problems, including environmental pollution, labor exploitation, and resource waste, which all industry practitioners are working hard to overcome. This project has made me more convinced of the importance of virtual fashion.

CLO working process

During the project, I used Maxon Cinema 4D and CLO to help me complete the video production of virtual clothing. CLO is a very user-friendly software for designers, and its design completely meets various needs of designers in the clothing development process.

My design process follows a similar path to other designers, starting with sketches.

When I have a fresh idea that can't be effectively conveyed through flat images, I turn to CLO and delve into the realm of digital draping with electronic fabrics.

It's an incredibly intriguing process, as the digital platform expands the realm of possibilities for garment patterns indefinitely.

The material library of CLO contains a large amount of fabric data. These fabric data effectively demonstrate various fabric attributes, which is crucial for designers. Combining different fabrics can achieve more outstanding effects. In my design, I need to use a variety of fabrics with different elasticity, and CLO provides users with guidance for data debugging, making clothing simulation more realistic.

When it comes to pattern making, there is no tool more convenient than CLO.

After completing the sample garment debugging, I need to print the pattern pieces, and CLO can quickly accomplish tasks such as seam allowances, pattern layout, and notch marking. Even my printed fabric designs can be directly output to the printing factory at this stage. CLO also makes grading easy to achieve.

Once I settle on my entire design series, I utilise CLO's print placement feature to strategically position prints, allowing for more impressive effects. I then animate my own models using Mixamo and import them back into CLO, fine-tuning the patterns to achieve the perfect fit. The beautifully rendered garments are then seamlessly integrated into C4D for scene design.

C4D rendering process

This process was inspired by my Motion Design professor at SCAD, who, although unfamiliar with CLO, wholeheartedly assisted me in overcoming file import and export challenges. It's a method I've personally discovered, but I'm certain that other designers have found even more convenient approaches.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I cherish SCAD and the invaluable experiences it has provided me with. This institution has been instrumental in shaping my journey, and I am immensely grateful for all the support and assistance I have received here.

For a designer who functions as an entire team, this is undoubtedly the most convenient approach. Moreover, these virtual garments were directly used in the post-production of the videos. C4D played a role in environment construction, lighting rendering, and material simulation creating more realistic effects.

From grey model to final effects

Virtual fashion design has many advantages, including the ability to avoid ethical problems in the traditional fashion industry, unlimited creative space, and the ability to reach a wider audience. Through the "Virtual Religion" project, I hope to continue exploring the possibilities of virtual fashion and inspire more people to explore this field.

Lei Zhang has won six international design awards in the past six months and received recognition from the #CFDA, The Rookies, and Pierre Cardin Young Designers.

While studying at SCAD, the largest design school in the U.S. with a comprehensive roster of disciplines, Zhang seized every opportunity. She enrolled in an elective course in motion media design and embraced technology as a means of creative expression.

The Rookies - Savannah College of Art and Design
Savannah College of Art and Design prepares talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented university environment. SCAD is continually recognized for educational and professional excellence, affirming our commitment to the highest standards…

Inspired by state-of-the-art 3D modeling software, Zhang embraced emerging technology as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional manufacturing and the physical space traditional fashion consumes. With limitless ideas and a new medium, Zhang sought to design virtual styles for Web 3.0/NFTs, which led to the genesis of Virtual Religion.