Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen

Inside Gary James McQueen’s first digital fashion show

June 8, 2021
A godlike figure stands atop a tower, eyes glowing, arms open, draped in gold. A piece of earworm electronica starts to play, as another figure emerges from a doorway. His face expressionless, his body draped in chrome. As the sun rises, he steps out onto a walkway, pausing as the anticipation builds. 

Gary James McQueen’s first digital fashion show has begun.
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen
Released on April 25, Guiding Light is something of a bellwether for the fashion industry with its nods to sustainability and the emerging trend of digital garments. The latter, a market that is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2022 for gaming uses alone, is opening up countless opportunities for savvy designers willing to navigate its early stages. 

But for creatives like Gary James McQueen, this mix of digital fashion and cinematic 3D offers more than a business opportunity. It’s a creative sandbox, lacking in constraints. A zone where a collection like Guiding Light, comprised of 20 all-digital outfits, can be instantly purchased by people who want to apply high fashion to their photos. Or, in time, add unique looks to avatars within a Metaverse. This film is just the proverbial first shot across the bow.
 

“Going digital opens up more possibilities. Like fabrics that wouldn’t exist in reality, or other things that you’re not able to achieve in real-world fashion,” said Gary James McQueen. “It’s so much more convenient, and easier, to create a digital space of your own desires.”
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen
And it’s true. In 10 minutes, Gary James McQueen and Moyosa Media easily demonstrate how a mix of digital garments and cinematic 3D can be as compelling as a real-life event. But watch this film, even for a second, and you will see how this show is different. There’s no fixed vantage point. No distractions. Everything is curated to the whims of the designer, from camera moves to the 3D environment, creating an experience that is the fullest realization of their vision. 

“With real-time rendering, you can create the animations, then set up the cameras afterwards. You’ve got more freedom of creativity in the direction of that,” says Gary James McQueen. 

That freedom was found in Unreal Engine, which Epic MegaGrant recipients Gary James McQueen and Moyosa used to bridge the immersive storytelling ideas and evocative shots Gary James McQueen was seeing in his head, from the open desert and mysterious Sun Goddess to the secluded Babylonian structure that gives the show its “lost in time” feel.
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen
This sense of cinematic curation extends to all levels of the project, from how the models are followed (overhead, side, behind) to how the clothes are depicted. And unlike a traditional show, which might only give viewers medium-range looks due to photographer or camera placement constraints, the Unreal Engine cameras in Guiding Light could be placed wherever Moyosa and Gary James McQueen wanted them, allowing for strategic close-ups on the fabrics—a move that makes pieces like the serpentine bodysuit and Bloodlines coat really pop.
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen

Creating haute cinematics

Getting from concept to cinematic follows a process that will feel equal parts familiar and new to a fashion designer. From a clothing perspective, the process begins in Marvelous Designer, which is used to create the actual garments and silhouettes. Like a real-life designing scenario, Marvelous Designer mimics many of the steps one goes through when sewing/cutting an actual piece of fabric (only in a much easier form). 

When ready, materials and textures are added via Substance Painter, helping designers create details that look just like the real thing. As you expect, a lot of effort goes into making sure that the clothes look the way they should. If the silk looks off, or doesn’t move as expected, the illusion is broken. Thankfully, 3D applications have been preparing for this moment for years, which gives designers a clear path when they are trying to achieve photorealistic accuracy.

Next, the clothes move over to Unreal Engine, where the team assesses how they look when immersed in Moyosa’s 3D environment. This is where lighting comes into effect, not only for cinematic look development, but to ensure that the garment’s colors are accurate.
While this is happening, the show’s models are being created (by Gary James McQueen himself). Today, this is being done with ZBrush, but soon, designers will probably opt for something much more immediate, like MetaHuman Creator. Once done, they need to be imbued with that famous strut, which is added by Moyosa through motion capture. 

“It’s really important to have the right model when casting for motion capture,” says Gary James McQueen. “It’s more character than fashion driven. We are trying to translate the right personality to the avatar to bring that character to life.”
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen

Saving resources, cutting costs

Because everything in Guiding Light is 3D, Gary James McQueen was able to sidestep some of the time-intensive norms of the fashion industry, moving straight ahead with his vision.

“Creating the 3D garments purely in digital offers a lot more benefits in terms of production costs. In terms of design development, you can really interchange patterns and textiles very easily, whereas in physical fashion, you would have to go through a whole process. A lot of waste is involved in that. A lot of time as well, so this really speeds things up.”

By creating digital models, Gary James McQueen also didn’t have to bring in a real-life fitting model, forgoing the expenses and scheduling involved in that process. Clothes were designed and fitted straight onto a digital avatar, giving Gary James McQueen everything he needed to make a creative decision.
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen
But perhaps the most important benefit of moving to an all-digital workflow is its effect on the environment. With calls for sustainability rising throughout the industry, Gary James McQueen’s show offers a striking way forward. Design, present, and sell your clothes digitally. No physical materials, no physical spaces—just mind’s eye to screen. 

Historically, fashion designers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on sets that go up and down in a matter of days. Digital shows erase all that, giving designers all the stylized creativity they need without any of the negatives associated with one-time use. It’s both practical and powerful, and if digital fashion’s star continues to rise, it might just turn into the norm.
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen
“I think it will reshape people’s perceptions of what fashion shows should be in the future,” says Ilana Magar, UK Business Lead for Moyosa Media. “Just knowing that people aren’t having to hop on a plane or travel the world to participate or to view it. I think it will make a huge difference.”

The Guiding Light collection can be purchased on DressX now or explored through a real-time virtual showroom, built for interactivity in Unreal Engine. The show, now available on www.garyjamesmcqueen.com, also benefits the Mind charity, which helps UK residents experiencing mental health issues—a cause that’s become close to Gary James McQueen’s heart after losing his uncle, Alexander McQueen in 2010.

To get involved, please visit: https://www.mind.org.uk/.
Image courtesy of Gary James McQueen

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