Inside Retail: Can you tell me about how the Rare Reality film came together and how you decided on the theme of looking for human touch in a digital world?
Eugene Leung: The ongoing theme that we have kept going for the past few years is about a simulation world. I’m basically a big fan of things like The Matrix and [American sci-fi writer] Philip K. Dick, so I’ve been trying to show how the simulated world relates to what our current world is about. Every time we write a story, we basically go back to the simulation theory, and take some of the elements of the current events in our world, and put them together.
So last year when we did our CGI film, it was about how a girl goes into the simulated world and can’t distinguish between a dream and a simulation: she thought she was having a dream, but that’s actually a simulation. It was inspired by an ancient Chinese story called The Butterfly Dream.
This year we follow a similar path, it’s sort of a continuation of last year’s story. We wanted to look at human touch. During the pandemic, a lot of the time, people just couldn’t see one other, people were separated. The metaverse is a new thing that is emerging, and we predict a lot of people will spend a lot of their time inside the virtual world as well. So, we’re wondering whether the metaverse will create some human touch, or if it will separate people.
We’re saying that reality could become rare, because more and more people are trying to live in a virtual world. Reality is becoming something that is precious, and real human touch could become a precious and rare thing. So we built a story that revolves around characters inside a simulation, and they find love and their partners in the metaverse.
We tell that story through a lot of symbolism, like the yin and yang which is about balance and equilibrium. We’re talking about the balance of the physical world and the digital world, how people spend time in each world. We also referenced the Vitruvian Man, a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, which is about human nature and human connection. We were influenced by a lot of classical paintings like Michelangelo. It’s all about human touch, and about how God creates the world.
There are also references to the five elements in Chinese culture.
Dan Tse: Everything is made of the five elements: Wood, fire, water, earth and metal. And we use all these five elements to create all the accessories and clothing items in the film.
Inside Retail: The metaverse is still in its infancy right now. What do you see fashion’s role being in this new world that we’re creating?
EL: Fashion is not just about wearing clothes. It’s about how you style yourself, and it’s about identity. It’s about the image of oneself. It’s about how you perceive yourself as a character, and also about how you see others as a character.
So, I think the key words for fashion are “identity” and “character”. I think these are the two major keywords that form what fashion is all about, but it’s also about trends and what happens in the current era.
I think in the metaverse, this is really fun because there are a lot of different possibilities. You can create your characters the way you want, create avatars and dress up crazy…whatever way you like.
I think there’s a lot of potential for that kind of thing to happen in the virtual world.
It’s sort of like dressing up Barbie and Ken, but it’s in the digital world and there are more possibilities.
I think the role of fashion will be very similar to what you see in the film Ready Player One: when you go inside the metaverse with your operator, you’ll be able to dress up like in the physical world. I think that’s what’s going to happen next.
But of course right now, we can’t really do that. So right now it’s more like dressing up as a Barbie.
IR: You mentioned earlier that you’re inspired by the work of Philip K Dick. There are also clear inspirations from anime and manga and the general gaming landscape. Why do you think these visual styles work in the metaverse?
DT: I think the first steps into a virtual and digital world are always about gaming. I think that’s the easiest way for people to get engaged in the digital world. The gaming industry is massive and people spend a lot of time and money and effort in playing games. When the metaverse actually comes, I think the gamers will be the first ones to step on it.
Eugene and myself are always really inspired by the ACG [anime, comics and games] subculture, and our brand is always about that culture. We feel that the ACG really speaks to our essence, and it helps to tell a brand story in a particular way.
EL: I think the gaming community is already engaged and understands the idea of the metaverse, they’re the first group of people that are going to adopt the metaverse. But they also have their aesthetic influence to pull from, because if you look at gaming, there are a lot of costumes, like cosplay. I assume that will be a big influence on fashion designers designing for the metaverse.
DT: As fashion designers, we can see that there’s this trend coming from 3D worlds. It’s very interesting how people try to dress up like they’re in the digital world. It’s like a mutual influence, and I see this as a really big trend where people want to dress up like manga characters or like avatars. And it’s very inspiring.
IR: Injury has been making digital fashion long before the metaverse and NFTs became so on-trend. What have you guys learned about that process that you could share with brands that are looking to enter the space?
EL: We actually started the brand in 2004, but for physical fashion. We started doing digital fashion in 2017. We were invited to curate projects to create a campaign to promote designers, and we thought there must be a new way to promote fashion instead of doing fashion shows.
So we started looking into digital fashion, and we developed a short 30 second film with an avatar, dressing up in designer clothing to promote the designers.
It’s like rocket science. It’s really difficult to make something like that. So after that project, we decided to learn how to do that ourselves and try to use our own collective talents to design digital fashion in-house. It took us around four years before we could competently do a CGI film, and there were still a lot of technical issues this year when we did our new film.
I think that the major difficulties in doing digital fashion is that some of the software updates and new technologies are just coming out every day. Once you learn something, it becomes outdated in a couple of months. Sometimes you learn a program, and it takes you four months, and then a new software appears and it’s very easy. It’s just one button and you can do something that you spent months learning.
DT: It’s actually a good thing to get into digital fashion now, you can skip some of those steps.
IR: What excites or interests you the most about this space right now?
EL: I think the most interesting thing is that we have no idea what’s coming next. Every day, things come up and every day, things change. Every day, people come up with new ideas to see what the metaverse is about, but I don’t think anyone has quite figured out what it is, and I think that’s the most interesting part. Keeping people confused is also interesting in a sense, because that also means there are infinite possibilities.
DT: Our show on Monday was the first ever metaverse show at an Australian Fashion Week, and I feel that it is really a big step forward for the industry. We’ve heard so many positive responses from people,. We didn’t know what to expect before the show because this is the only ‘runway’ show at the event that wasn’t really a runway show. It was a fashion show without any physical clothes and I can tell that people are really excited about this. We are already planning our next project for next Fashion Week.