L.A. Brand Offers Glimpse Into Fashion’s Future With MVFW Plans

Digital-forward fashion brand Ilona Song’s Futuristic Fauna and Primavera collections will bloom in the real and virtual worlds this week, and the effort may offer a glimpse into how the fashion business — from design to runway shows to distribution — could look in the future.

The young, Los Angeles-based fashion house is known best for its Luv dress, a heart-shaped gown first made available in digital form that went viral last year thanks to a virtual try-on feature, with variations worn by stars like Madonna, Cher and viral fashion avatar Noonoouri. Now there’s a physical version of the garment for sale, and with Ilona Song’s so-called “phygital” bona fides established, the virtual dress is heading to Decentraland’s Metaverse Fashion Week (MVFW), starting Tuesday.

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Inspired by nature, Ilona Song is exhibiting Camellia Bride, Chanterelle Dress, Lotus Dress and, of course, the Luv dress, among others, in various ways ranging from NFT art, wearables or both. But that just scratches the surface.

Ilona Song’s Luv dress is available as virtual and physical garments.

Ilona Song’s Luv dress is available as virtual and physical garments.

On Decentraland itself, a partnership with Vogue Singapore brings the brand to the publisher’s virtual rooftop at the Cash Labs Gallery, where it will present NFT artwork and wearables for the “Elevating Culture” campaign.

As Kamila Rym, cofounder and creative director of the brand, told WWD, “the message is for the metaverse to be more inclusive, in terms of different cultures and cultural attire, such as hijabs, Turkish caftans, kimonos and Korean hanboks. Those are all featured in our artwork.”

For Song, there’s a personal angle as well.

“I am ethnically Korean, born in Russia, grew up in Kazakhstan and currently based in the United States,” explained the designer. “Experiencing all these distinct cultures and their similarities with one another continues to expand my worldview and appreciation for culture and tradition. There is beauty in every culture around the globe, and I aim to celebrate this through my designs.”

The fashion company will also bring wearables and artwork to Spatial, which is cohosting MVFW, to Vogue’s club, as well as the Mad Gallery. According to Rym, the latter will host its spring-themed Primavera collection, a line inspired by themes of rebirth and renewal.

The description is perfectly in line with the brand’s sustainability mission.

Turns out, the company doesn’t just use technology for tech’s sake. It powers its efforts in the circular economy. AR tryons help people make informed buying decisions, and on-demand production for physical products helps reduce waste. Products are also embedded with NFC chips, so people can tap to easily access blockchain information for transparency, verification of authenticity and ownership tracing.

Not that the tech is meaningless in its own right. For creatives, innovation matters and developments like AI can be a fascinating tool.

Real life Chanterelle dress by Ilona Song.

Real life Chanterelle dress by Ilona Song.

In fact, the Primavera collection on view at the Mad Gallery is also bound for AI Fashion Week, which premieres Thursday. That’s because the line was developed with the aid of artificial intelligence, as were the art and associated wearables. The tech was also an efficiency tool used to help shorten the process of garment creation.

When asked about how AI fits into her design process, Song elaborated: “I wake up with ideas and 3D visuals in my head.” she said. “I envision the big picture first: the main idea, mood, colors and then I create very detailed, precise prompts to create AI-generated visuals. AI allows you to play around with your ideas and improve upon them to get the desired result.” So for anyone wondering how a small, three-year-old brand can create and juggle so many moving parts, apparently the answer is, at least in part, data science.

For Song and her team, the week culminates on Friday, the last day of MVFW, at Over’s mixed reality fashion event. Over, the third MVFW cohost, will stage its first fashion event at Milan’s Piazza del Duomo with Song and other designers.

The way the tech will work, according to Rym, is that “all of the attendees will have their phones and, using geo-location [and computer vision], they can open the Over app and watch the livestream of the augmented reality catwalk.”

Making that work is a complicated affair, so Over spared no effort on the geo-location. Because no one wants to see a model, even a virtual stumble down the runway or run into walls. “We don’t rely on GPS, but on our own code and systems,” said David Carr, Over’s head of partnerships. “It gives us a much greater accuracy of about 20 centimeters. That’s crucial when you’re trying to position content within a scene.”

The implication for runway shows is still up in the air. Some established fashion houses have told WWD that immersive experiences of some sort will always be part of their events.

But others are skeptical that the metaverse and related virtual tech will become endemic to fashion. Over is planning a panel about it, titled “Will virtual fashion save the metaverse?” Ilona Song will be a speaker in that session.

It’s a fair question. The notion of a new internet, as a virtual world peopled by avatars, looked exciting to fashion houses just one year ago. And now, as tech trends go, AI appears to be the new black. But the fashion metaverse is still developing, and although AI may hog the spotlight, it’s not a competitor. It’s an enabler. That’s evident when looking at Ilona Song’s array of MVFW offerings.

A major highlight of its whirlwind week will happen at the Piazza, the company noted to WWD, when it dresses South Korean viral virtual influencer Rozy for her turn down the physical catwalk.

“[The show] just touches the edges of what’s possible,” Over’s Carr added. “It’s a really exciting thing to see fashion jump in and push a lot of this.”

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