In Vogue Singapore’s virtual world, anything is possible. Picture this: a circular courtyard in the middle of the desert, a flight of white stairs leading heavenward, and a locked door by a solitary tree. In a landscape driven by surrealist elements and boundless creativity, an avatar is clad in a couture dress decorated with bone-like detailing to embark on a journey of discovery. And while this is all part of an elaborate digital universe, one cannot help but to be charmed by the possibilities and magic of it all. If anyone is ready to take on this out of-the-world narrative that virtual fashion can afford, it is China-born digital couturier Yimeng Yu. At 27, the interdisciplinary fashion designer is pioneering a shift in fashion by breaking boundaries of how we perceive and wear digital outfits.
One need only look at the hyper-detailed and sculptural couture dresses Yu has created for Chinese actresses Hu Lianxin and Qui Tian to witness the level of innovation and intricacy in her designs—always architectural yet wearable. Playing a significant part in this is Spatial, an online portal dedicated to building virtual galleries in the metaverse. Yu has created three digital dresses exclusively for Vogue Singapore’s virtual universe within Spatial—fuelled by the intersection of fashion and technology—to showcase how dressmaking has entered a new paradigm of couture.
“My design identity is dedicated to integrating darkness and elegance, softness and hardness, order and chaos.”
Inspired by the works of photographer Man Ray and surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, Yu’s digital couture designs are subversive and disruptive. Fusing technology and art, she goes beyond traditional designs to achieve otherworldly creations that comprise new structures, forms, materials and silhouettes. For Yu, there is always magic in the unexpected. “My design identity is dedicated to integrating darkness and elegance, softness and hardness, order and chaos. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I grew up in China which instilled in me the value of balancing yin and yang.”
It is no wonder, then, that Yu’s designs are artistic juxtapositions. Taking elements from dreams and consciousness, her creations expertly contrast ethereal silhouettes with tough fabrics; integrating folds and feathers as well as sci-fi elements into her designs. Her niche as a designer, in particular, involves creating couture garments for the cyber future. Set within an imaginary world in distant outer space, Yu’s three designs enhance natural environments with artificial editing—creating unique, futuristic silhouettes that break sartorial limitations.
“Virtual materials that completely break through the limitations of the physical world give me full creative freedom.”
Yu’s design specifics are “unpredictable but well-controlled”; a result of alternating between five pieces of software to get the mathematics behind each garment exactly right. This involves an algorithm-assisted generative process that controls variables from body-making and clothing adjustments to rendering and fitted composing. Even so, Yu affirms it’s a fulfilling process to create custom and one-of-a-kind garments. “This is the future,” she posits.
Yet alongside her high-tech software, Yu’s designs are surprisingly emotive. She pays homage to the arbitrary nature of surrealism by tapping into fabrics and silhouettes that are a challenge to achieve in the real world. In a sense, it feels almost like an escape into an imaginary realm where anything is possible—a kind of pipe dream we have all been chasing.
“Virtual materials that completely break through the limitations of the physical world give me full creative freedom. These create bionic structures in the virtual world and help us imagine the growth of mechanical creatures. You can see the metaphor of the folds of mermaids, the feathers of birds, the fragments of machinery in my designs. Combining the soft materials and hard metals to create a visceral visual experience is what I am always keen to explore.”
A culmination of high-tech designs and futuristic silhouettes, Yu’s couture creations perfectly encapsulate how anything is achievable in the virtual space. To her, digital fashion is moving in the right direction. She remains hopeful that “it will breed new technology, new culture and new consciousness into the fashion industry”.
For users looking to enhance their metaverse presence, Spatial has partnered with Ready Player Me to allow a more diverse and realistic avatar customisation. This allows users to build communities and hold virtual meeting spaces, all enabled by a blockchain. To elevate the experience, an arsenal of casual ensembles and avant-garde pieces to dress your avatar in are available. Two of Yu’s digital couture creations will also be available for selection at no cost.
Step into Vogue’s New World and try on Yimeng Yu’s exclusive designs
- Visit Vogue’s New World on Spatial.io
- Create an account or log in to your existing account
- Build and dress your avatar in Vogue’s exclusive designs by Yimeng Yu
- Enter and navigate the space using your mouse and keyboard to interact with the four clickable points
The virtual world will be launched in two phases with the first part activated today and the next in tandem with Vogue’s second anniversary issue in October 2022. The experience on Spatial.io is best optimised for desktop, mobile and oculus headsets. Sign up to stay up to date on the launch.
The September ‘Fashion’s New World’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 5 September 2022.