Digital Art Is Making Moves on the Mannequin Market

GETTING A MOVE ON: Will digital artist Sam Shea — prized for his disquieting, liquid-like figures sometimes comprised only of limbs — disrupt the, ahem, staid mannequin market?

“I’m basically going to start manufacturing all my 3D work in real life,” he said at an event Tuesday during Paris Blockchain Week, where he displayed a video clip of one of his human-like creatures, its flesh stretching out in the wind, riding a horse across a beach. “The cool thing is my dad worked his entire life at a natural history museum, and his best friend made the mannequins.”

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Shea, better known as Nude Robot, said his “surreal mannequins, like lucid dreamers” would offer a new way for fashion brands to animate their designs — and offer gallery-goers something to gawk at besides a screen. “That’s what I’m working towards.”

He was among about a dozen digital artists assembled for the launch of Itak, a new consultancy that helps brands navigate the new digital landscape and create immersive experiences with the help of cutting-edge technology.

Mado Scott, chief creative officer at Itak and one of three cofounders, said the firm helps fashion and luxury companies step into the Web 3.0 world “while staying on brand, and while having the level of craft they deserve as luxury brands.”

According to her, the “touch of the artist” is key, noting most employ video game and special-effects technology, along with AI, to create intricate, sometimes otherworldly visuals.

Indeed, artists like Shea, who studied fashion at Maryland Institute College of Art, is able to produce such compellingly lifelike digital effects thanks to his knowledge of cloth and costume design. “The way you drape in 3D is exactly the way a tailor would,” he explained.

Unexplored Fields, a creative collective that has already done work for Lacoste and Dr. Martens, displayed a mesmerizing video still of a ruddy-faced young man in a mullet hugging the nose of a giant yak, the camera panning slowly over his clothes: a leather jacket inspired by a 1982 design by Massimo Osti for C.P. Company, needle-felted trousers based on the motorcycle pants Swedish police officers wore in the 1950s, and sneakers inspired by a Balenciaga X Vibram collab.

The Roncier, a digital character created by creative collective Unexplored Fields.

The Roncier, a digital character created by creative collective Unexplored Fields.

No surprise that one of the three cofounders of Unexplored Fields, Virgile Brosa, studied fashion also. He tweaked the original designs and experimented with various textures. “3D is a good opportunity to do that, because you can relatively quickly change the design and have the result instantly,” he said.

The other cofounders of Itak are Massimo Moretti, whose background is in crypto, and Mariem Farhat, a Web 3.0 expert and marketing guru. Mado Scott was a finalist for the 2021 Andam Innovation Prize with her firm Acid Rays, which creates virtual and digital identities for fashion labels.

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