Finalist 2023

The Digital Temple of Synthetic Flora

Oscar Keene

Converging physical and digital fashion, The Digital Temple of Synthetic Flora celebrates Australian flora through immersive and innovative design practices.

The Digital Temple of Synthetic Flora explores the enmeshment of digital and physical fashion realities. Harnessing multiple 3D modelling tools, combined with expertise in conventional physical tailoring, pattern-making and construction, it explores the ability for the unique hand of the designer to be represented in both physical and digital spaces. The prototypes expand on the potential for a diversity of fashion expressions. This collection celebrates unique Australian flora through a fusion of print, hand-drawn illustrations, 3D animation and garment design. It is an immersive, eco-conscious, future-focused approach to design that aligns seamlessly with pre-existing fashion practices.

Design Brief:

The Digital Temple was created to explore the ability for digital software to accurately create realistic prototypes that could then be manufactured physically using the alterations and measurements taken from the digital pattern pieces and 3D models. It was also created to explore the ability for digital fabric to be embedded with hand-drawn prints, further blurring the boundaries between physical and digital fashion communication.

The collection minimises the material waste involved in the prototyping and toiling stages of a fashion collection, and the digital tools can accurately convey the look and feel of a garment to potential customers, thereby reducing the need for creating multiple physical prototypes before they are required. Using new and developing technologies, this collection celebrates slow fashion and a made-to-order model, while demonstrating that the unique skillsets of pattern-making, fabric print design and physical garment construction are successfully transferable to the digital space.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Initially each prototype was sketched out and fully realised technically before they were then prototyped exclusively digitally. In the digital space the pattern pieces were assembled around a unique model, where alterations could take place, with findings, new geometries and measurements that were directly transferable to the physical pattern pieces. In this digital space, fabric type, weight and drape could be accurately and reliably simulated, allowing for few surprises when the final fabric was printed and ordered.

For the print, each flower was hand-drawn on a large scale and then assembled into a repeating print in Photoshop with the intent that the overall print design would be large, modern, attention-grabbing, and bold, rather than more intricate and detailed, due to the nature of digital fashion communication and the way in which the public interact with visual media online. Inspired by multiple conventional archetypes in fashion, the designs are intended to be modern and genderless, relying only on the essential geometries of the body rather than projecting any gendered expectations onto the body.

This ethos also dictated the kinds of digital avatars created to represent the collection – faceless, genderless, and part of the overall visual communication. The overall feel of the collection was inspired by Robert Thornton’s book Temple of Flora (1807), where unique hand-drawn flowers were represented in highly detailed and dramatic environments. The Digital Temple of Synthetic Flora was a project intended to demonstrate the exciting continuum between past and present artistic and technical execution, while emphasising that the unique hand of the designer need not be lost in the transition; that digital spaces can be enriched by physical expertise, skills, and craftsmanship. This was the primary consideration throughout each phase of the digital and physical design process.

Design Excellence

By prototyping digitally, this collection can be represented online, on social media, and in the Oscar Keene webstore in a variety of conceptual and accurate manifestations. E

xposure online, including digital runways and other garment animations, can connect this collection to a global audience without the need for costly, time- and material-intensive physical photoshoots, or for multiple physical prototypes to be manufactured before garnering public interest. Potential customers can also provide their personal measurements that can be translated onto digital avatars, so they can see exactly how a garment would look for them before investing further. It is an eco-conscious and material-waste-conscious design process that has the same, if not greater, impact as a conventional physical collection/campaign process.

By emphasising that the collection is genderless, it allows for each customer to decide how these garments best express their individual gender. The collection also includes more conceptual digital manifestations of the wearable physical outcomes, enhancing the ability for the public to connect with visual fashion narratives and concepts that underpin the collection. The digital prototypes also have a secondary function – they are individually available as NFTs that function as collectibles, diversifying the income streams from the creation of a single collection. As a project it is important because it creates more space for a slow-fashion model that incorporates new technologies, while still being grounded in concrete and attainable outcomes.

The challenge for digital fashion is to connect it to the consumer and to make it meaningful and viable. The Digital Temple of Synthetic Flora addresses how digital technologies can meaningfully and sustainably contribute to the design process, as well as to the customer-facing retail space.

Design Innovation

The project primarily addresses the waste involved in the prototyping stage of creating a fashion collection, and creates meaningful digital outcomes that can communicate the essential conceptual and commercial components of the collection. It further blurs the boundaries between digital and physical fashion, demonstrating how 3D modelling software can be intentionally embedded in the design process, while still emphasising the importance of physical skillsets and craftsmanship.

An offshoot of this collection was selected to be shown at London Fashion Week in February 2023 as part of the On/Off Showcase, where physical and digital realities merged in front of a live audience, facilitated by Unreal Engine, green screens and motion-capture technology. This was a first-of-its-kind demonstration of the link between the physical form, the physical garment, and the digital world, requiring both physical and digital garments that were accurate copies. It also required a thorough knowledge of digital garment construction and how digital fabric properties would translate alongside a livestream of the physical garment.

This showcase was the brainchild of Lee Lapthorne, but the inclusion of the Digital Temple collection and the Oscar Keene label demonstrates that fashion designers with physical and digital skillsets are working at the frontier of fashion with new immersive technologies to create visual fashion narratives with global significance. The collection, as well as its inclusion in the showcase, continues to expand on the potential for designers with hybrid skillsets to connect with an increasingly online audience, while thoughtfully engaging with the potential for their overall design process to be meaningfully altered and enriched by digital design tools.

Design Impact

The project, the Digital Temple of Synthetic Flora, has several positive impacts from social, environmental, and commercial perspectives. Socially, the collection's genderless and inclusive designs challenge conventional fashion norms, allowing individuals to express themselves authentically and fostering a sense of identity and empowerment.

By embracing slow fashion and made-to-order models, it encourages consumers to be mindful of their fashion choices, supporting sustainability and conscious consumption. Environmentally, the project is eco-conscious.

Through digital prototyping, it reduces material waste that is typically associated with traditional fashion prototyping. This aligns with the principles of a Circular Economy by designing out waste and minimising environmental impact throughout the design process. From a commercial perspective, the collection leverages new technologies and digital representations to connect with a global audience.

By reducing the need for physical prototypes and photoshoots, it streamlines production processes and reduces resource consumption, positively impacting the bottom line. The project's inclusion in the London Fashion Week's On/Off Showcase, facilitated by Unreal Engine, green screens, and motion-capture technology, further elevates Victoria's design and creative culture on an international stage. It showcases the cutting-edge innovation and expertise of designers with hybrid skillsets, positioning Victoria as a hub for fashion and design at the frontier of digital technologies.

Overall, the Digital Temple of Synthetic Flora stands as a model for the future of fashion, demonstrating how a thoughtful, digitally-enriched design process can drive positive change in society, the economy, and the environment. Its progressive approach showcases the potential for fashion to be a force for good, promoting sustainable practices, inclusivity, and creativity on both local and global scales.

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