Form and Fabric in Digital Space

Abstracting Fashion with Vincent Schwenk and Max Salzborn

Digital Fashion

Nov 22

Digital fashion is changing the trajectory of an industry in dire need of re-calibration. With affordable software and online, tutorial-based learning, many designers are bypassing the significant financial investment, costly environmental consequences, and steep learning curve required to physically manufacture clothing.

But beyond its democratic and sustainability virtues, digital fashion is also offering designers new tools for exploring the evolutionary trajectory of clothing itself. As two new artists-cum-digital fashion designers join the Dissrup ecosystem, we are taking a look at the questions that their respective practices raise about the future of fashion design within the new digital space, specifically: how might the absence of a human body liberate the shape and materiality of fashion design?

Vincent Schwenk and Unlimited Form

In Vincent Schwenk’s digital fashion series, "When the K Hits", inter-connected masses of brightly-coloured, inflated forms engulf a negative presence—an implicit body—to create fashion that merely hints at the figurative form of the human being for context.

Still from 'K Hit 01' by Vincent Schwenk (2021).
Still from 'K Hit 03' by Vincent Schwenk (2021).

Re-contextualising his distinct colour and textural combinations, Schwenk’s fabricated apparitions swathe this implicit body, undulating and mutating: inanimate objects vaguely anthropomorphised by the turmoil of their surroundings.

Within this digital space, ‘garments’ are no longer restricted by the homogenous topography of the human body. Instead they are liberated; limitless in the forms that they might take. Schwenk’s digital fabrications transcend the body, and in doing so, they broaden our limited definition of fashion by abstracting its essential components. Without the human being, fashion becomes a simple, yet elevated interaction between cloth and space, form and idea.

You can now view the first piece from Vincent Schwenk's "When the K Hits" series here, exclusively on Dissrup.

Max Salzborn and Digital Materiality

Max Salzborn’s digital fashion paradoxically combines the tactility of fine fabric detailing with the de-materialisation of cloth, so that each piece occupies the impossible space between the hyperrealistic and physically implausible.

A close-up still from Max Salzborn's 'Cloudy' (2021).
Digital fashion by Max Salzborn (2021).

Using the artifice of the digital world, elemental material properties are mastered (or nullified), and Salzborn can sculpt creases and pleats that will remain perfectly in place; emboss fabric without distortion; and create prints whose colours will thrive perennially in a saturated gamut, far removed from the pallid wash of reality. Each piece is closely akin to a carefully constructed still life—an artistic simulation drawing focus to, and enhancing those haptic qualities of reality that cannot truly cross the digital border. His garments, for example, will never burden the wearer with the consequence of impracticality—frosted plastic bodices won’t cling to the sweaty skin of their wearer, and vinyl plackets fastened with poppers will never distort. This is a world free of practical consideration, where the immateriality of digital space frees the fashion designer from the physical contingencies of materials.

Max Salzborn's first digital fashion NFT, "Cloudy", is now available here, exclusively on Dissrup.

Post-human Fashion?

Between them, Schwenk and Salzborn demonstrate the creative freedom of designing beyond the physical limitations of the real world. Within the digital world, fashion can exist without the body, unencumbered by corporal and material concerns. Some might argue that fashion in the absence of the body is not fashion at all, to student's of this school of thought, the author would pose this question: if fashion can exist without physical cloth (and this premise must be accepted for digital fashion to exist), does fashion really require a wearer to be classified as such? Is the jacket that spends the entirety of its life, unworn, suspended on a hanger in a wardrobe, any less a fashion item than the very same jacket worn by a model on the catwalk?

Digital fashion by Max Salzborn (2021).