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The Future Of Fashion; Phy-digital Fashion With Aisha Oladimeji

Aisha Oladimeji, a visionary 3D fashion designer with a background in architecture and traditional fashion designing, is breaking barriers in the fashion industry. Embracing the fusion of physical and digital realms, she proudly labels herself a “phydigital” fashion designer. Aisha has had the honor of showcasing her avant-garde collection, aptly named “Eclectic,” at the prestigious Digital Fashion Week in New York. 

In an exclusive interview, we delve into Aisha’s unique journey, exploring her passion for fashion, her transition into the world of digital design, and her perspective on the future of fashion in the digital age.

If you’re looking around to learn more about technology and how it can influence the fashion industry, especially here in Africa at large, keep reading. 

Please note that the interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

Hii, Aisha. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a physical and digital fashion designer? 

I initially studied architecture. While architecture and fashion may seem like two different fields to many people, they share many similarities. In architecture, we work with design elements such as symmetry, form, and color, and these elements also play a significant role in fashion.

For instance, the way colors are used in architecture can be similar to how they are used in fashion. Also, there is an interplay between architectural designs and fashion designs. Some architectural designs, with their unique patterns and shapes, can resemble those in fashion. I find many of these connections and inspirations on platforms like Pinterest. An example is something like origami-inspired fashion which is also a thing in architecture. 

I didn’t know any of these similarities till I started working on 3D fashion. I was even considering proposing a project on the relationship between the two for my final assignment, but my supervisor advised me against it.

Through research, you’ll find that they are closely related. Both fields can be influenced and inspired by each other.

How did you start?

I started my journey into fashion in 2013 while I was waiting for admission into university. During that time, my mom encouraged me to find something to do, so I developed an interest in learning how to sew. That was the beginning of my fashion journey, and from then on, I started creating physical pieces. 

However, in 2020, I ventured into digital design and started exploring the world of 3D fashion. That’s why I now consider myself a “phydigital” fashion designer, as I create both physical and digital pieces.

What challenges have you faced when you are creating your fashion designs, and how have you been able to overcome them? 

One common hurdle is creative blocks or moments when I struggle to come up with new ideas. When this happens, I find it helpful to take breaks, explore other forms of art, or even revisit my mood board for inspiration. Pinterest is a great resource for discovering new ideas and trends so I’m there often. 

The time required to create a single piece varies depending on the complexity of the design and the techniques involved. Designing and creating a garment can take several hours, including breaks and interruptions. If I decide to render and add further details digitally, it can extend the process by a few more hours. Additionally, if animations are involved, the time required can vary based on the quality and complexity of the animation.

How important would you say technology is to the future of fashion, especially in Africa? 

Technology helps designers streamline their processes and reduce production time. Using 3D modeling and prototyping, designers can create digital representations of their designs, that way they can visualize and customize the garment before even producing anything. It reduces waste too cause you don’t need multiple prototypes. 

Another way technology can help is by improving the consumer experience and enhancing the relationship between consumers and producers. Virtual reality (VR) technology allows customers to virtually try on clothes, so they can visualize how a garment will look on their body before making a purchase. It just smoothens the online shopping experience and reduces the likelihood of returns or dissatisfaction.

Another aspect is the concept of photo dressing, where outfits are digitally placed on individuals for promotional purposes. 

We’ve talked about how designers can incorporate digital fashion, but how can other people get interested or incorporate digital fashion into their everyday life?

Okay, so we’ve been discussing sustainability in the fashion industry, influencers and everyday individuals who are interested in trend outfits can embrace the concept of photo dressing. Instead of purchasing physical garments that would most likely only be worn once and then discarded, they can opt for virtual garments through augmented reality (AR) filters. This allows them to create the illusion of wearing the latest fashion trends in their social media posts without actually buying the physical items.

Additionally, in the digital realm, gamers and individuals in the metaverse can also explore digital fashion. They can dress their avatars and participate in virtual events, parties, and experiences. It’s a unique way to express yourself creatively and have fun without contributing to physical waste. 

How do you think we can incorporate it more in Africa?

I think you start with physical collaboration. For example, now you have a physical brand and you are looking for ways to incorporate 3D.

You can customize a “dress yourself” section on your website, people can just customize their outfits themselves.

In terms of Africa, specifically Nigeria, and the fashion industry, I believe there is a need for more collaboration and integration between traditional fashion and digital fashion. Currently, most fashion events and runways are focused solely on physical designs.

To bridge this gap, I think it’s important for fashion events in Nigeria to incorporate digital designs and provide a platform for digital designers to showcase their work alongside traditional designers. We can display digital designs on screens during runway shows or create interactive experiences where people can engage with digital fashion.

Like the just concluded Metaverse fashion show where you can register your avatar, dress your avatar up and people can have virtual exhibitions.

So with the rise of AI, and the skepticism around it, how do you see digital fashion evolving in the next few years?

Without removing all of the artisan work that goes into fashion, how do you think designers should play into that, the traditional designers, and how do you think it should involve over the years?

To be honest, I think this is the right time for traditional designers to start incorporating it into their workflow because it would save them a lot of time and even money. You mentioned something about trying to check how fabrics work in real life, designers can use digital libraries that simulate different fabric textures and weights, allowing them to virtually assess how a particular fabric will look and drape on the body. This information can help designers make informed decisions about fabric choices and garment construction.

They try to make it as close as possible, you can tell how cotton feels, how silk can drape, what would happen if you drape in this particular way, all of that. 

But do you think that it takes away from the fulfillment and the joy that comes from creating from scratch? 

One thing I keep saying is “Evolve, evolve”. You have to evolve with it because, in the long run, you can get left behind. It’s coming up slowly now, starting from the Western world, it’s important we take advantage of it. 

However, it’s important for designers to maintain their unique artistic vision and craftsmanship. AI should be seen as a complementary tool that enhances and supports their creativity rather than a substitute for their skills and expertise.

If you could create a digital fashion collection for like any brand or celebrity, what would you be and what would that collection look like for a celebrity?

Creating a digital fashion collection for someone with an OG Style like Tiwa Savage would be exciting. Considering Tiwa Savage’s versatile style, I would create a collection that’s bold and unique with a touch of elegance and glamour.

You showed your first collection “Eclectic” at the Digital Fashion Week in New York, that’s awesome! How did you feel? How do you see yourself now and what are your next steps from here? 

Being able to exhibit at Digital Fashion Week in New York and showcasing my first collection, Ecletic, was a significant milestone for me. It made me realize the vast opportunities and potential that exist in the digital fashion space. It was a validation of my work and showed me that I can reach a global audience with my designs.

This experience has definitely impacted my work. It has given me more confidence and motivation to continue exploring and pushing the boundaries of digital fashion.

As for how I see myself now, I consider myself a digital fashion designer. It’s no longer just a hobby for me but a serious pursuit. I’m dedicated to further developing my skills, expanding my brand, and making a name for myself in the digital fashion industry.

To be honest, when I started doing 3D designs, it was all about trying to keep myself busy. I wasn’t even aware of the advantages and effects of it. I just enjoyed diving into the world of 3D design and was able to join a community at that time. However, the community is no longer active.

Being part of that community exposed me to a lot of possibilities and showed me what I could actually do with 3D designs. It made me more proud of myself and I now consider myself a digital designer. 

As for my career in architecture, I recently finished my master’s degree. I’m not sure if I’ll continue designing buildings, but who knows what the future holds.

Initially, becoming an architect was my passion. In 2020, I made the decision to pursue a master’s degree in architecture, with the plan of becoming a licensed architect after completing my studies and fulfilling the required work experience and professional exams. However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted my plans and led me to explore 3D design. This shift has caused me to reconsider my career path, and for now, I’m leaning more toward digital design.

Lastly, what message do you have for our readers who are interested in phydigital and digital fashion? 

They should be open-minded, and willing to learn more. 

Follow Aisha on Instagram to see more of her works.

Omotola Saba
Omotola Saba