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Digital fashion design

Alumna talks about the future of augmented reality in fashion

Written by Eleanor Harvey
Published date 18 August 2020

Mathilde Rougier graduated this year from the Central Saint Martins (CSM) BA (Hons) Fashion: Fashion Design Womenswear course. The current pandemic created limitations on accessibility to materials, meaning that her final collection became more virtual, and allowing her to further explore her interest in augmented reality (AR) in fashion, and in sustainable design.

Her Modular Augmented Capsule collection uses AR alongside natural dyes, upcycled hotel sheeting, hand melted plastic packaging and aims to find sustainable alternatives for fashion and textile design. Her collection was nominated for the MullenLowe NOVA Awards 2020, as well as shortlisted for the Maison/0 Green Trail.

We spoke to her about her time on the course, and how she uses AR in her designs.

Woman with faint virtual hat on
AR hat by Mathilde Rougier Caption

Time at CSM

The fashion course at CSM was quite an obvious choice for me. The course really puts fashion in a fine art context and that is really what attracted me to it. CSM is really about the emulation created by all the people present, by the variety of different influences and advice provided by both tutors, staff and other students. You are really encouraged to experiment, the first two years of my degree I felt very free to experiment until I found my voice, without fear of failing.

Graduating during the pandemic was a whirlwind of emotions and technical adjustments. After the original shock, I was forced to adapt and develop new skills. I feel like the pandemic prepared me for the new paradigm we are entering, it taught me resilience and comforted me with the idea that digital design and sustainable design are the way forward for the future.

My project became more virtual during the pandemic due to material limitations. My original development was centred around developing sustainable production and design systems inspired and aided by digital systems. The pandemic brought my project back into the digital realm.

Virtual outfit with a hood
Look 1 by Mathilde Rougier Caption

Interest in AR

My interest in AR started with an interest in how the digital could aid the physical to be more sustainable. I started looking into 3D modelling, digital garment design etc. I then joined the Digital Maker Collective at CSM which opened me up to other technologies and people with similar digital interests.

I think fashion is gaining more interest in AR in a time where everything is going online and being experienced on screen. AR allows me to design without the constraints of physics, but also without the constraints of distance; somebody on the other side of the globe can wear my virtual designs. By solving the distance problem, AR solves the problem of the carbon footprint of shipping. It also solves the problem of production and waste, it also allows for updates, changes, evolutions without any waste production.

Woman with virtual mask over face
AR mask by Mathilde Rougier Caption

Previous collaborations with Chalayan and Patrick McDowell

Working with Chalayan on the virtual archive pieces made a lot of sense within my process. The collaboration consisted of the 3 AR filters which recreated iconic archive pieces from their previous collections. The filters made the pieces accessible to everyone and gave them a new life. It really demonstrated that good design is always relevant. The filters re-inflate life into those iconic Chalayan pieces.

Working with Patrick [McDowell] was a great experience, we had already worked together on his London Fashion Week 2020 swap shop and I would call Patrick a friend. He is incredibly committed to pushing for sustainable, upcycled design, always challenging the way the industry functions and coming up with ways to fix it. So when his 2020 collection was planned to be a digital creation for Helsinki Fashion Week, the collaboration came quite naturally.

Virtual model in a coat
Look 4 by Mathilde Rougier Caption

What’s next

I think my practice is going to continue to develop through sustainable and digital research. Next year I'm going onto to do my MA at the Institut Français de la Mode to pursue accessories design. I'm also going to continue working as a freelancer and developing collaborations, talks and workshops.

I'm also currently showing in the 2020 Vision exhibition showcasing a selection of young graduates and I look forward to showing this winter in the Fashion Clash Festival, Fashion Makes Sense Award show.

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