Katharina Vinzenca Ludwigka Schmalz is only 33-years-old, but she has already done many exciting things, as interning with Barbara I Gongini (Copenhagen) and Perret Schaad (Germany), and she’s currently doing a paid internship with Hugo Boss (Germany). During Copenhagen Fashion Week, she participated in the competition for new designers Designers Nest, where she, among others, caught the attention of Vanja Hedberg, Senior Designer at Balenciaga, and us. Her approach to new technology in fashion design is making her push limits and getting to new and exciting solutions.
It was during her MA studies in Fashion Design at Design School Kolding (from where she graduated in 2015) that she really had the possibility of nurturing her ideas about ‘Blended Borders’, and how it translated into Materiality vs. Immateriality in a digital design sphere. It proved to be an excellent and stimulating playground for her development, and her final project was called ‘Mat Blur’, which explored the borders, points of contact, intersection and interaction between ‘Virtuality & Reality’ in trying to connect them through materiality.
At The Fashion Crowd, we decided to get to know Katharina, and find our more about where these ideas of ‘Digital Reality’ and new technology in fashion design come from.
Katharina, please tell us a little about yourself, and how you work as a designer?
I am a fashion designer with a jewellery design background, who believes in the power of collaborative and cross-section design. Already as a child, I enjoyed creative work like handcrafting and drawing, and my neighbour inspired me to do an education as jewellery designer. He had his own goldsmith atelier, where I did my first internship during high school.
Following the jewellery education, I decided to study Fashion Design in order to have the freedom and the possibility to work interdisciplinary. In my opinion, jewellery and fashion support each other’s collection statement, and both of them become stronger, when combined together.
I think, the idea of working interdisciplinary springs from my wish to combine my two design educations, and my preference of working in a creative and complementary team in which you can support, inspire and learn from each other. So in a certain sense, in my mind, I always combine things. Through border crossing and working cross-section, you go beyond your own notion and you gain new constellations, connections and insights, and this is what I find most inspiring, when working with specialist of other professions. Through the change of perspective, you gain new ideas, and you can often explore and find new ways, you haven’t thought about before.
Please tell us more about your MA project of ‘Mat Blur’, which was also showcased at Designers Nest.
I see the phenomenon of ‘Blended Borders’ through the constantly advancing and ever-changing digital technologies. This development creates a new post-digital generation. New technologies like 3D printing and laser-cutting start being used daily, and enable young designers to mix virtuality with reality – immateriality with materiality almost without borders. In essence, that was what my graduate collection MAT BLUR was about.
The project explored and discovered borders, points of contact, intersection and interaction between virtuality and reality, and the thing linking them together was materiality. The collection was almost entirely created with the use of new, digital technologies like 3D printing, 3D programming, and laser-cutting and nothing in the design process was made outside the computer. It wasn’t until the last part of the project, where certain handcraft techniques, as silicon casting, took the project back into the ‘real world’.
This way of working allowed me to change the perspective with the use of new technologies and crossing the borders. My style remains the same being minimal, pure, and feminine with a futuristic touch, and my jewellery education has helped me having an eye for details, but the perspective of how I’m seeing fashion is new. It was like wearing new glasses.
How did you work during your MA project?
I am a person, who is always looking for new challenges, and therefore it’s sometimes hard for me to achieve, what I aim for. But I’m also not afraid of failing, and this is my key strength. Only in this way, I can improve myself.
The master project itself was a really tough time. I learnt a lot not only at a professional level, but also about myself. I had to learn a totally new field, and indeed it is still quite new for the fashion industry to work with 3D digital development into ready-to-wear garments. I used a 3D software program called CLO 3D for designing my fashion collection, and an additional tool for accessories and shoe development called RHINO.
It took me quite a long time to understanding how to use the programs, and the time and energy I invested was enormous. I learnt the software by myself with the help of tutorials, and now I’m very glad and proud about having overcome the obstacle and expanded my knowledge.
Please tell us more about the CLO 3D program and the working process.
CLO 3D is a 3D software for the development of virtual garments, and, as I did, you use it mainly in the prototyping period. Beforehand, I had done some basic patterns, collages and drawings to visualize my first ideas, which I had thought about.
In CLO 3D, you are working with 2 different windows; a 2-dimensional window and a 3-dimensional. The 2-dimensional window is your virtual pattern making window, where you do your pattern cutting. I started searching for base patterns, which I scanned and used as templates, and then you draw on top of them on another layer, and this is where you make your own pattern cutting/development. So in theory it’s only a virtual drawing of my flat pattern. After finishing my pattern, the last step is to tell the computer, what seems are sewn together, and this acts like a virtual sewing tool.
At this point, you transfer the pattern to the 3D window. Here you have a virtual fitting model that wears your garment, and you can see all individual pattern pieces arranged around the body. With this simulation button, you can see the result of your garment on the ‘human’ body. You can modify the fabric property, which will show you how a light, heavy, stretchy, and stiff fabric drape, and you can even put prints on the pattern pieces in the direction, size and colour, you want. And if this wasn’t enough, you can even ask your model ‘to walk’, as you would in a real life design studio in order to see, how the garment moves.
When I worked with the program, I went back and forth between both windows. This way, I was able to change details instantly, make improvements, and see it straight away. That makes the whole development process faster, as you don’t have to make toiles of every single design, and you have more time for perfecting the designing part. In the end, when I was satisfied with a style, I was able to export the pattern and print it out in real size with a plotter and get a real prototype done. It really did save me a lot of time a part from being a fun way to work.
What is the most valuable thing about the CLO 3D process?
For me, the most valuable thing about using CLO 3D is the fact that the working space is virtual, so you can work from everywhere, you want. That, to me, is the biggest benefit and freedom; that you don’t have to carry too much material around with you, and you can design anywhere. There’s nothing better than translating ideas immediately and incorporating the feelings of travelling with the places and people, you meet on your journey. Everything you see can be integrated in the design process, before the moment slips away.
There are other important benefits too. It is sustainable, because you don’t have to make 4 prototypes before having a decent result, as you can test immediately, if something is not working out, as you wanted it. Only one prototype will be produced in real fabric; maximum two, but this is only, if your base pattern was imperfect or a lot of changes have been done with the pattern.
Another benefit is the fact that you can use the tool for communication, and this can be both with your design team, retail team, a retail buyer or individual customer. At a moment, where the entire time line and production chain in fashion (read more about that here) is under development, this tool can become very handy. It can save time in eliminating time-consuming tasks, and in that way making the development process leaner. This equals saving money and also making less ‘mistakes’ in terms of garments that no one wants to buy.
What is your design dream, and how do you see the future?
I dream of a working space without borders led by feelings and values. For me, it would be the reinvention of the Fashion Designer profile.
Until today, Fashion Designers didn’t have the opportunity to work from anywhere, they wanted to – in particular during the design and prototyping period, where you can’t easily change your location due to all the materials required for the creation process. If you needed a change of environment and a bit of inspiration, this wasn’t really possible, at least not very often.
This will change in the nearest future, in any case for me. I imagine the future profile of a Fashion Designer, and my own design future with a mobile fashion design studio, from where I can work. As it will always be in my bag, this mobile studio is anywhere and at any time, I want. For instance, I love to work at a café. There you can work with a coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. Or you can go on an inspiration trip and work from there, while catching the exact mood for your collection inspired by the place. It could be any place; a city, in nature, surrounded by people…Without restrictions, you can choose your preference of space according to your theme or feelings.
Of course, there is sometimes that you have to be in the design studio, as communication and collaboration are important too, but this is also something that can increasingly be moved to technological media; from reality to virtuality. This way of ‘coming together in the cloud’ is also possible between designer and customer, where they can create together in the virtual space without physical borders and limitations. Collaborating in the ‘Design Cloud’ will allow the designer to see the reactions of the customers in real time on their ideas and designs, and if this takes place early in the process, the designers will have the possibility of changing things due to demand or implementing directions from customers. In making the design process more transparent, it becomes more sustainable, as perhaps also a way of having a meaningful and engaging relationship with the customers.
This would be a paradigm shift for the entire fashion industry, and in particularly for small and innovative fashion labels and start-ups. It would change their operation pipeline by making it possible to test the reaction of the Customer, before the production process even started, and not base production on retail forecasts only. Furthermore, brands could minimize the costs for market research and analysis, and this way would be a much more cost-effective way of doing things.
You could even imagine that the customer would have the opportunity to print out the pattern, find the fabric themself, and have the garment made by a tailor locally. This is perhaps a bit harder to imagine, as most fashion companies are very protective about their patterns, but for a certain type of company, this is not impossible.
The trends to Customize and Go-Local have already been successful in the food industries, so it will be interesting to see how this mega trend (read more about that here) translates into the fashion industry.
Follow Katharina here.