ITW⎜Exploring how Julia Krantz mixes fashion, technology & gaming

Swedish artist and designer draws inspiration from gaming & science fiction to unlock the future of Swedish fashion

in brief

Born in Göteborg, Sweden, Julia Krantz graduated from the Högskolan för Design och Konsthanverk in Göteborg in 2010. As a designer and artist, her experience bridges avant-garde fashion and interactive technologies. Drawing inspiration from video games, fictional characters and alternative realities, she seeks new perspectives on fashion and the human body.

We discovered her work recently, and were quite fascinated by her unusual approach. We reached out to her to learn more about how she sees intersections between science fiction, gaming and fashion design.

Shell by Julia Krantz.

Futur404: How does the intersection between Swedish fashion and technology translate today? What are your preferred brands from this field and can you specify why?

Julia Krantz: « There is so much happening in this space on all levels. On my blog Magic Fabric I recently did a feature on the Swedish fashion studio Atacac which uses 3D software in an innovative way in selling and producing their products. For Sweden, fashion is one of the fastest growing industries and digitization has recently moved on top of the agenda. For Swedish brands exploring new technologies will probably become less of a future investment and more of a necessity to keep up with a completely digitized way of designing, producing and selling fashion. This might mean going beyond changing workflows and production but also hiring people with very different skillsets than today. »

To highlight the borderland between game development and fashion, Julia Krantz launched her own blog – to find interesting touchpoints between fashion, games and interactive technology.

F404: Could you tell us more about your work for Volumental? Did you accept the job out of a real passion for footwear or for other creative reasons?

J. K.:« At that point I had just finished a 1-year working grant from the Swedish Arts Council, where I had explored the potential in technologies used for the game industry applied to my approach on apparel. I was amazed of the potential of 3D technologies in this space. My roads happened to cross with this wonderful startup called Volumental: a research offspring from the Royal Institute of Technology here in Stockholm. At that point, there was no real product to sell but a 100% conviction that the 3D scanning technology they were working on was to revolutionize the footwear industry. »

Volumental offers a hardware and software solution to 3D scan your feet and provide footwear recommendations through the AI driven Fit Engine.

F404: What is Volumental’s specific take on 3D foot scanning systems for retail?

J.K: « With our 3D technology we are not only solving the sizing problem – we are creating an awesome experience for the customer, walking out of the shoe store with completely new insights about their feet and what shoes to wear. Our focus during developing our systems has always been to create something really useful for the shoe shopper, through great simplicity, speed and great UX. »

There is much more to finding the perfect shoe than just knowing the heel to toe length. To better understand this, Volumental’s foot guru Ales Jurca lead a research project, scanning more than 10,000 people to understand how foot shape determines fit of shoes.

F404: Can you tell us more about Fit Engine ? what does « fitting perfection » means ?

J.K: « With precise 3D models of your feet you can not only understand the full shape of your feet but using AI we can now also map them to other feet in the world and get unique size recommendations per shoe. A size 40 in one brand is not the same as for another, and not even for different models within the same brand. There simply is no perfect size. The best way of telling the fit of a shoe is simply looking at other feet that tried it on. With this solution customers can find the perfect product much faster and more in a much more engaging way. »

A perfect fit requires 3 separate pieces of information
1. A complete understanding of the exact dimensions of the foot: more than just length;
2. A complete understanding of the exact properties the shoe: e.g. if they are better suited for wide feet or a high instep;
3. A complete understanding of the customer’s preferences: such as whether they prefer a loose or tight fit.

F404: What is the big data strategy behind Volumental’s AI product and personalization technology?

J.K: « Apart from being a great service in stores, the data coming from the scanners can also be used for the brands to understand their customer base. What do their feet look like and how can that data improve how they produce shoes? The data can even be used for providing customized footwear. Once scanned you will in the future also be able to re-use it online where finding the right size is a hassle for lots of people. »

“Whiteness celebrates magnificent people in times of popular uprisings and digital revolution. Technology has forever changed how we look at the power of information while true greatness still lies in the hands of the courage and inner wishes of individuals all over the world.” Julia Krantz.

F404: Many people discovered your work through various projects (Whiteness, Shell, Tamashii…): can you tell us more about your artworks? What inspires you as a designer on a daily basis to create innovative garments?

J.K: “My artistic approach has often involved playing with re-defining the shape of the human body but even more often with a clear narrative. It’s obvious that I’m deeply inspired from science fiction and approaches rather belonging to the entertainment industry. Historically those worlds have been kept apart but with digital realities now melting together with physical ones, new light is shed on this kind of work. Alternate realities require alternate minds and teams and that don’t play by the book. »

“In my graduation project – Shell I have deviated from the physical paper and sketched directly on the body with the material. I have let myself be inspired by anatomical elements, inner organs, and physical symmetry, as well as different body-related objects, such as protective equipment, masks, and different appliances.” Julia Krantz.

F404: Your approach of work seems to be collaborative: how did working with fellow designer enhanced your creative abilities and helped you achieve the desired results?

J.K: « It is correct that I have preferred collaborative work rather than the opposite. Though my partners have photographers and developers rather than other designers and artists. That is something yet to be explored and to look forward to both for the work I do at Volumental and for my personal work. »

Marvelous Designer is a 3D design tool.

F404: Do you intend on doing more fashion, apparel experiments with tech in the near future ?

J.K: « For sure! And it is likely that it will be happening in the virtual space rather than in the physical. Lately I have started working in CLO3D and Marvelous Designer to learn how to build garments completely virtually. It is 3D software that uses real world pattern cutting principles and applying gravitation simulating the final results on an avatar – nothing like traditional 3D modeling software. »

F404: What’s next for what you call “avant garde fashion” ?

J.K: « No matter if we build sophisticated consumer tools for on-demand production or perfect algorithms that decipher what we want, humans need to connect to the unknown and the unexplored. Bold vision and pure fantasy are required to drive such insights. New perspectives rarely derive from the mainstream. A lot of things in the world are created to push, drag, and stretch design limits, thereby allowing the mainstream to grow into new territory. And I am very excited to see how new technologies are already empowering and enabling such work. »

F404: Why do you think video games play a key role in the future of fashion nowadays?

J.K: « As the industry is getting fully digitized many brands are using tools traditionally used by the game industry in both designing and visualizing their products. In fact, fashion brands have a lot to learn from the world of digital entertainment and even though the core of the video game industry will stay on their end, there will be lots of new players in the landscape in between. »

“Digital man is a visual concept where all the elements – as our anatomies, brains and nervous systems – move between physical and digital. Using wearable objects and patterns the concept plays with the idea of the human being as an electrical and digital creature” Julia Krantz.

F404: What’s your opinion about immersive technologies? How do you see it reinventing designers work in the years to come?

J.K: « Being able to see, experience and maybe even touch things that don’t physically exist is a radical concept that enables designers to spend less time on practical details and focus more on the magic. It will also enable designers and artists to connect to their audience in a new way and even at a very early stage of the creative process. Though because of the complexity of it’s new playground there is going to be a bigger need for people with strong artistic skills. Strong imaginary ability is less likely to be replaced by machines. »

Visit the following websites to discover more artworks by Julia Krantz and the many projects of Volumental.

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