, by Unexplored Fields and Hyperbase

Nature Inspires Fashion; Fashion Becomes Art

Unexplored Fields and Hyperbase, specialists in innovative fashion design, provide an epic breakdown of the making of their short film Archive 01.

  • Fashion
  • Interview

For this project, two distinct creative teams came together to develop a creative fashion project in 3D. These teams were Hyperbase, a group of concept artists specializing in speculative design and R&D into harmless materials, and Unexplored Fields, a transversal and multidisciplinary 3D team inspired by craftsmanship and fine arts. Their objective: to create a short film showcasing their original approach to fashion design.

Project Overview

Two explorers meet in a cave in uncharted territory. They are perfectly adapted to their environment, their clothes reproducing via biomimicry the patterns found in nature. The pair even adapt to one another; one explorer copies the colors and textures of the other, absorbing this visual information like ink on blotting paper. The two leave the cave together.

This film is a creation of both Hyperbase and Unexplored Fields; each explorer is a symbolic representation of these teams. Those teams, and their specific roles in this project, were:

Hyperbase: Sylvanie Meignié, Jérémie Léonard, Nicolas Bessières, Kelvin Ejuomah, Léa Taing and Hinako Ino; Hyperbase was responsible design of the clothing and avatar of one of the female explorer character, the storyboard, research on innovative materials, the creative R&D of fabrics and textures on Substance 3D Sampler, the 3D garment made by Hinako, and for the film’s music.

Unexplored Fields: Etienne Kawczak-Wirz, Antoine Belot, Virgile Biosa, Ilyès Taïebi, and additional artists and designers as necessary; Unexplored Fields created the high-quality textiles, designed the avatar and clothing of the male explorer character — the Roncier — and realized the 3D environment, and produced the film.

Unexplored Fields and Hyperbase worked together jointly on the artistic direction of the film.

Storyboard and Clothing Design

Sylvanie Meignié and Jérémie Léonard of Hyperbase came up with the story and the artistic direction. That was the inception of the film; Jérémie then started working on the designs and storyboard, while Sylvanie focused on material research and design.

Jérémie: First I draft the story and set the general atmosphere; only after that do I start to think about a main character, his attitude, his silhouette, and his clothing. I tend to focus more on equipment than clothing because it has a role, and needs to match the character and his actions. This leads me to figure out the character’s background, his state of mind, whether he has a job or a function/role, and so on. Then I start to see how the garment will interact with its environment.

The process of creating a garment is always the same. First, I define the garment’s environment: is it in the past, present or future? Is it in our reality or fiction? Then, I place the garment in a genre — urban future or science-fiction, for example — and in a sub-genre. I mix these cultures together while keeping the whole cohesive.

So, I had a very defined image when I started to draw the clothing and accessories of the character. That’s when Sylvanie and I collaborate on the design of the clothing. Sylvanie is a designer, but I’m originally a concept artist, and I created a lot of characters, and their outfits, for my stories. But, over the process of working with Sylvanie for more than 10 years, and working with her on a range of fashion projects, I suppose I’ve become a designer as well. Sylvanie brings the vision of the overall design, unconstrained by technical boundaries. In all, we each find that our individual vision and processes complement the other’s.

For this project, I experimented with the graphical style, testing out whether the clothing would be more in the style of Moebius, more graphic novel, more animé – both in the clothing itself but also in the types of lines used. Colors are also important; I adapt the colors according to the story, notably to the theme and location of that story. For example, the cave in the film is part of kind of a blueish universe, and so I wanted to have a sandy feeling which would detach the clothing from its surroundings, and which would at the same time evoke a painter’s canvas, as the clothing would ultimately absorb the colors of the other character, once scanned. Color is an important element; it needs to have a purpose.

Boot design in Illustrator.

Designs change, as well. I’d initially thought of an explorer in a very science-fiction aspect with a breastplate, a helmet, and her equipment on her back. But once the storyboard was finished, and the team had met, the input from the group caused the character to evolve — this is where the idea of the scanner was born. We wanted the to have an object that allows her to guide herself and analyze her environment. The scanner is also a tribute to all the Adobe tools we used for the video, that we use in our daily process.

I need to provide the character, and therefore the garment, with meaning – I like to call upon references, and to pay homage to the influences that have inspired me. The inspiration to create a garment doesn’t come from other items of clothing; it comes from everything that makes up an image – it can be a way of patching up an element, or an anatomical structure, while always integrating the trapezoidal shape that we associate with Hyperbase.

Jeremie: I used Fresco to paint the environment and create the spirit of the cave. I also imagine the musical atmosphere of the story at this stage; that’s a necessary element in order to create a rhythm for the video. At this point, Kelvin and I start to work together, using music to interpret the ambiance I have in mind. We’ve worked together for a long time, so it’s natural for us to get in sync to create a full atmosphere.

Jérémie: I don’t have textile textures in mind — that’s Sylvanie’s area. Rather, I’m concerned with the function of the character. For instance, I wanted the character to have a scientific aspect, so thought about a rigid plastic material, as smooth as wax. But I don’t interpret which actual material this might be. This is where Sylvanie comes in; she has great ideas about which actual materials would be suitable, here.
Textile Design

Sylvanie: As a technical/sport textile developer and designer, I usually start developing a textile by creating a moodboard. Then I choose its technical, creative, and sustainable specifications. Once the selection is made, I work with a supplier to produce the material. Either I create a derivative of an existing material with my partner manufacturer, or I create from scratch a textile inspired by a reference in his collection.

I wanted to push the sustainable aspect even more; this is the main goal of my research, as the process of developing textiles is particularly energy-consuming. I saw several problems in terms of time, means, and waste creation in the development of materials before finding the right final fabric.

Virgile initially introduced me to Substance 3D Sampler. While I was familiar with Illustrator, and other 2D apps, I didn’t have any experience with 3D software, so I started out by playing around with it, and soon found that Sampler was very easy to use — so much so that I it began opening up new ways for me to conceive of materials. I do a lot of hiking and I like to take pictures of textures that inspire me in my surroundings, natural or urban. I wanted hiking to directly impact the materials I wanted to develop — without making a wasteful printed pattern. So I used my hiking photos in the fabric texture.

I had a couple of different approaches to creating materials. Sometimes, I’d start with one of my hiking photos as a base, then use my personal fabric library and the Substance 3D Assets textile library. Other times, I’d create a pattern with Illustrator, and work from that base. I had a lot of fun developing patterns and then creating and modifying my weave structure with Samper’s Cloth Weave filter. In the end, the app partially replaced the physical moodboard part of my creative process by providing me with more freedom to experiment — working in 3D has allowed me to go further in my designs that would have been possible otherwise.

While playing around with Sampler, I saw that the number of test variations I could create was infinite, and that I could save an enormous amount of time when projecting my ideas. It’s the ideal tool to carry out textile R&D before launching physical tests with brands and fabric manufacturers.

In this process, there is also a sustainable aspect, which is at the heart of my work. 3D in textile design has many environmental and social benefits: it avoids the waste of fabric and raw material, limits the impact of dyeing tests, and more.

With digital alternatives we were empowered to create variations of existing materials. But we also discovered that we could create — from scratch — textiles that could then be produced by manufacturers. I decided to play with this creative outlet.

I usually have a specific idea in mind for a texture, structure, effect, and technical parameters. But the discovery of the 3D process, my initial lack of knowledge in 3D, and the happy accidents that I chanced across along the way allowed me to have much more fun than I’d originally anticipated. In a way, this gave me back my love of experimentation. When you’re so focused on the technical aspects of your project it can stifle your creativity; here, however, working with Sampler balanced things out for me – I could maintain creativity while keeping an eye on the more technical areas. I could even easily come up with a lot of derivatives of the final textile, colors, effects, coating… Everything was possible — within the constraints of the technical possibilities of my partner manufacturer, of course.

Substance 3D Sampler has completely changed the way I approach research and development. Normally, I make a moodboard, and establish my creative, technical and environmental impact specifications, and then I source the textiles I want to use, either as they are, or by using them as a starting point upon which I can improve them technically or creatively. But by integrating these 3D tools I multiply the possibilities available — I improve the sourcing, and the work for both the designer and the suppliers. It makes research and development much more imaginative and advanced. Digging deeper into Sampler, I wanted to create an entirely new process starting with digital creation and progressing through to the R&D of a real technical fabric.

Defining the materials

Sylvanie: In this project I wanted to spotlight harmless innovative materials, about how to be inspired by them with biomimicry. This is at the core of my research — I don’t use nature to create materials, because extraction has a real impact; rather, I prefer to reproduce the system of how nature works, like a blotter soaking up ink. From this, I wanted to explore how we could project these materials — which exist, or which are currently in development in the fashion industry, or a related industry — in a fictional, dreamlike universe. The elements of the environment represent plants and bacteria that are used to make new textiles or dyes like biopolymers with algae and protein, recycled natural material, or bacteria for dyes. We focused on the following new sustainable materials which are in development with biologists and engineers: biopolymer ripstop made from Caulerpa racemosa (invasive algae), recycled wool gabardine and nettle velvet, milk casein-based twill, and spider protein biopolymer-based and recycled titanium from industrial waste. We also chose to introduce the innovative dyeing process using waste (food, textile, ground), dyeing without water made with CO², or with algae and raw material without dyeing.

The goal is to show textiles that currently exist, or that are being developed, in a creative and technical way while portraying everything feasibly in order to raise awareness of this area. We use real materials both to imbue the scene with reality and to highlight important topics, such as the role and place of nature and the environment in fashion. Here, we don’t use nature directly, but rather draw inspiration from the technicality of nature; this aligns with the core purpose of Hyperbase of exploring a subject in all its nuance, without imposing any moral judgment.

Jérémie had a specific story in mind for the character, here. I created textures from this story, that were imaginary yet also logically consistent. For example, he wanted the cape to be something that a scientist, in particular, would wear. I initially found the idea of a semi-transparent technical material appealing, like tarpaulin, and then, I thought of a ripstop fabric, a material with reinforced square crosshatching, because the technical aspect and the design of the garment reminded me of parachute fabrics.

The functionality of the garment must always be matched with its aesthetics. Everything must be considered useful, while maintaining a concern for graphic and visual details.

Characters

Textiles

Virgile: The vast majority of the textile textures were made in Substance 3D Designer. Sylvanie conceived the texture of the Hyperbase outfit and shoes in Sampler, and I reproduced her design at a higher level of quality for the video.

As we had a lot of woven fabrics, I created a general base texture, from which I created several variations. I used the Tile node, which allowed me to change a few very significant parameters.

The Roncier

The Roncier is the first fictional character created by Unexplored Fields, that is revealed for the first time in this video. He’s a young naturalist, who still possesses the curiosity and naivety of childhood, on a voyage of initiation searching out a mysterious plant on this new continent. He is a prominent figure in our work; it is via his journey through the brambles of the unknown, accompanied by his faithful yak, that we discover together scenery and cultures that feed our imagination.

Visual provided by ACID RAYS.

Stitches

One of my objectives in 3D is to successfully transcribe the handmade aspect in textures and in the finishing touches of clothes. Some prestigious designers apparently add uneven stitching on purpose — very subtly, of course — to show that the garment was handmade. This is a technique I liked to use when I was sewing clothes.

Now that I create 3D clothing, I use the Substance 3D Painter Stitch tool, and I apply the stitches with a graphical tablet, with as little automated help as possible: I intentionally don’t press Shift, and so I don’t get perfectly straight lines, and I rarely use the smart mouse function.

I also added in a few small imperfections, as if the needleworker had broken the thread and had to sew one more line on top of the first one. Even though these are tiny details, that probably nobody else will see, I believe this adds a realistic narrative layer to the design.

Embroideries and Lace

For the embroideries on the jacket and pants of the explorer sitting in the cave, we used Substance 3D Designer to create procedural kite shapes. The principle is fairly simple; we begin with 4 basic shapes, which will be ‘symmetrified’ to get the general shape of a kite.

At the same time, we create variations of lace that will be assigned to different zones in this kite shape, selected via Edge Select, or with the Histogram.

With this done, we can create infinite variations of the base shapes until we get to a selection we like. What I find interesting in this process is that each variation has the same graphic base, which allows us to maintain design consistency.

The kite shape has an important place in the universe of Unexplored Fields. It is sometimes used as a means of locomotion, but it also has a very strong symbolic role. One tradition is to tie the kite to the horn of a yak to find water, guided by the wind.

During my physical textile experiments, I had the opportunity to use a thermal press to merge lace and fine plastic from recycled plastic bags. This combination produces a very light, waterproof material, with a structure that solidifies the whole while providing a graphic framework. I used these experiments as a reference to imagine the construction of the kites.

Shoes

We designed the Unexplored Fields shoes with Charles Raberin, a footwear designer who works on bio-manufacturing and experimental production systems. We both have a fondness for organic shapes, and I felt we could work well together to design a pair of shoes that fit into the UF universe while keeping a fairly contemporary design.

For these shoes, I wanted to mix some raw materials like compact straw, wool, and a dark rubberish material applied with vulcanization on top of the shoes. The upper part is made with a Frog Leather material I found on Substance 3D Assets. The laces are also made with a rubber material, which appears as if it has been thermopressed. The Unexplored Fields logo is embroidered at the back of the shoes, in gold yarn.

Finishing touches in Blender

Substance 3D Designer was used to create material bases, but everything really came together in Blender; this was where I adjusted values, mixed in procedural elements to get a better close-up quality, and so on.

Textures

Sometimes I do all the textures directly in Substance 3D Painter; in these cases, I can quickly apply textures to my model in Blender. But this time, I wanted to proceed differently so that I could control every layer separately in Blender, and adjust parameters as needed depending on the lighting.

Simple masks were exported from Painter, such as the ‘bonding’ touches created with the UV Border Distance generator, the topstitches that I drew by hand, and the embroideries previously generated with Designer. The nodal setup in Blender was pretty easy, as it was only a repetition of mix shaders mixed together, layer after layer.

Environment

The creation of the cave

We had certain constraints regarding the environment. Essentially, we had to create an entire cave that we could place cameras in. And it had credible both from afar, and reasonably up close.

To achieve this, we came up with the idea of creating a fully procedural material for the rock that had little or no texture. It would have to add a layer of detail to the rather basic modeling, a rocky element at medium and small scale.

First, I composed a relief system with various noises directly in Blender, which I used for the base color, metallic, roughness, bump, and displacement. The idea was to create a rock in blue/green tones with some metallic ore veins like gold. Once this was done, I created a system to change the color in the hollows, to make it darker and more saturated, a kind of procedural cavity map, which added dynamics and contrast while making it easier to mix the different meshes.

The modeling of the different rocks, stalactites, stalagmites and walls was thought out in a very simplified way. The idea was to be able to quickly make a lot of variations and have the procedural material do most of the rock work. So I assembled various simple extrusions from primitives that I voxelized to get sets. Having them all voxelized in the same way made it easy for me to control the density of polygons to get a clean deformation through material displacement.

At this point, the cave was starting to look like a cave, but it still lacked relief. So I decided to add an extra layer of information to the bump and displacement with a height texture chosen directly from the Substance 3D Assets rock material library. This gave me more rugged relief; I was happy with this. I think that’s my favorite thing about Substance 3D Assets for this kind of natural element — I like to do the base myself, efficiently, and then see what I can find in the Substance library to add essential little nuances. Combining pure procedural and textures really allows for a level of detail that makes it much easier for the person setting up the camera and shot system, whether this is for close-ups or long shots.

As 3D artists I’d say that we don’t seek pure realism at any cost. This cave is a good example — the important thing for us was to give it the fine and controlled aspect that interested us, while taking into consideration that it was not the main subject of the video and that we had to be efficient in creating it in the time we had. The creative choices that we made concerning the cave helped us to quickly project ourselves into the atmosphere that we wanted to create.

The organic elements

In the cave, you can see various organic elements, including mushrooms and algae. These weren’t chosen at random — we used the elements that Sylvanie found as the source of the raw materials on the outfits. We wanted to give this dreamlike environment a more realistic feel.

I made these organic elements in a more traditional way, either by sculpting directly in ZBrush, or by using the Geometry node in Blender. Their materials were then entirely procedural, with the addition of an extra layer of relief thanks to the height texture baked into ZBrush from the high-poly model.

Lighting

For the lighting, we took the opposite approach to the cave modeling. We were forced, as is often the case, to do this shot by shot. Naturally, a cave is dark, and we didn’t want to fall into a ‘Blair Witch Project’ effect. So for each shot we tried to highlight and sculpt what we saw, by playing with shadows. The idea was to create this wonderful, dreamlike atmosphere.

To perfect everything, I added some details by making a system of animation of false caustics with chromatic aberrations from the small basins of the set, as well as a real halo for the flashlight that illuminates the character leaning against the rock.

Animation, Lights, and Cameras

Etienne: I wouldn’t say that we wrote the video based on the Mixamo motion captures, but they certainly helped us to define the foundations of the narrative. By looking at the different mocaps available on Mixamo we built, and sometimes adapted, the script.

We first designed the two characters in the Character Creator software, then re-sculpted in Blender, and created a more precise displacement map for the skins, and finally rigged the characters with the Auto-rig Pro add-on, and imported the characters into Mixamo. The available tools made it easy to adjust the speed of the animations, to decide if they were linear or cyclical, and to adjust the distance between the arms of the characters, which was very helpful for the next step, the simulation of the clothes in Clo3D.

Once the mocaps were adapted to the characters, we just had to download them in FBX format.

After this, we began to assemble the entire video in Blender, which was a little more tedious. It was really a matter of stitching together the different pieces of Mixamo animation.

For this, we used the Non-linear animation tool and Dope Sheep from Blender; then, little by little, animation key after animation key, we managed to create fluid transitions between the pieces of animation, and we ended up with the skeleton of the video. We animated the cameras in parallel with the animation of the characters, so that we only had to rework the visible parts of the animations.

Our process

Sylvanie: In Hyperbase, we don’t really have one ‘standard’ process; we adapt our methods according to the needs of each project. We tend to try to find a balance between organization and improvisation. The organization side involves dividing tasks well, and managing our time. We’re experienced enough to be able to plan for several possible scenarios, but an area always comes up where we have to adapt to technical problems, or changes of direction, things like that.

We also have to be good at improvisation (being musicians, that’s something that speaks to us). This is the part where we have the most fun, because this is where we can let go and externalize something in the moment. It’s like meditation. Generally, these are micro-instants, a few hours maximum, where we forget the constraints a little, or we’re able to play around with those constraints. We explore new tools, and we try to use tools in original ways. it’s also the part where we are least stressed, because we aren’t really thinking about the result – we just discover the result at the end; that’s what’s so exciting.

For us, we can’t have order without chaos; we need both elements. It’s the yin and the yang of our creative process!

Virgile: Unexplored Fields has a transversal and multidisciplinary approach, based on the varying skills of our team members. Personally, when I start working on a project, I like to trigger my curiosity by generating randomness from a simple rule or principle. This approach makes me feel like a naturalist observing and trying to understand the complexity of nature. After multiple observations, I’ll try to capture the essence of my discoveries to show them from their best angle, and in their most truthful form.

Meet Hyperbase

Hyperbase focuses on speculative design and R&D into harmless materials, created by concept artists. We transform concept art into concrete solutions, and we anticipate what the future of textiles can be. Artists and engineers exchange creative and technical cultures to propose their vision of tomorrow, with innovative possibilities and harmless textile solutions for the fashion industry. It is our common and personal vision to bring art and care for the environment back into R&D conception through fictional stories around realistic subjects, and with a dreamlike vision.

Meet Unexplored Fields

Constantly exploring storytelling in new ways, ACID’s innovation department, ‘Unexplored Fields,’ uses its own fictional universe to develop new technologies, concepts, and artistic projects. Inspired by nature, tech, poetry, fine arts, surrealism, and magical realism, Unexplored Fields aims to create hyper-realistic environments that blur the lines between what is real and not, considering digital tools as a new artisanal medium to create narratives, content, and experiences.

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