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Istituto Marangoni Boosts Metaverse Presence With AI-Powered Fashion Show, Interactive Labs

MILAN — “I feel we’ve stepped into fashion design 3.0,” said Istituto Marangoni’s managing director Stefania Valenti on Tuesday evening, when she presented a new digital format developed by the fashion and design school.

Dubbed “I Am AI,” the project consisted of a fashion show grouping the work of seven students from its international campuses that have developed digital-only collections with the help of artificial intelligence. Presented in the metaverse space that Istituto Marangoni unveiled last year, the event was intended to transcend the geographical boundaries across the institution’s different schools and invite a global audience to partake the experience, all the while showing a different take on graduates’ fashion shows and the overall progress it has made in offering students new skill sets.

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Each fashion design graduate represented a different campus — hailing from Milan, Florence, Paris, London, Mumbai, Shanghai and Shenzhen, China — and presented three looks digitally crafted in CLO3D, after exploring AI tools during their research and inspiration processes. AI algorithms also played a key role in the show’s artistic direction, generating the different backgrounds that acted as sets of each collection, for example.

“The students were selected by an internal commission with different criteria compared to those we generally apply for our traditional graduate shows,” noted Valenti, underscoring that innovation was considered a key aspect in this process.

The collection designed by Jin Leiyao, from Istituto Marangoni's Shanghai school.
The collection designed by Jin Leiyao from Istituto Marangoni’s Shanghai school.

The immersive experience is open to all users from desktop or mobile devices. They can access the school’s metaverse space, see the show and additionally delve into the creative process behind each collection or interact with it via a gamification element, as they are invited to style their avatars with items hailing from different lineups or change backgrounds.

Users can also vote for their favorite collection, which will add to the preferences of a jury of professionals from the luxury sector asked to evaluate the students’ work based upon different criteria, including best execution and customization, among others. The winner will be granted extra tutoring by the school, which will also facilitate opportunities to work with brands.

Istituto Marangoni already toyed with a phygital format to mark the opening of its Dubai campus last year, when a student fashion show was staged both IRL and in the metaverse space through a 3D catwalk and realistic avatars of each model and look.

Valenti highlighted the importance of the new project in providing students with even more skills, further amplifying their creativity as well as proving the possibilities and benefits that technology offers to both young talents and companies. For example, she touted the positive implications in terms of sustainability — with less waste generated during the creation of fashion prototypes, for one — as well as in pushing talents to take risks. “It’s really propelling more daring choices, they are less afraid to make mistakes,” said Valenti.

The collection designed by Gong Wenze, from Istituto Marangoni's Shenzhen school.
The collection designed by Gong Wenze from Istituto Marangoni’s Shenzhen school.

“We see digital as the enhancement of physical. These two worlds are no longer separate but need to converge. They fuel each other, sparking a creative potential to the nth degree,” she said.

The executive said the school embarked on such a journey already during the pandemic, when it revisited and updated courses to integrate new tech tools with the mission to further empower talents in their training experience. “But theory was not enough — we felt they needed a proper gym to train and experiment,” said Valenti.

Hence, the school will soon launch laboratories in its metaverse space. If so far the accessible pavilions on the platform mainly included areas dedicated to collecting information on courses and showcasing the work of the best students and projects in partnership with companies, now it is to offer digital counterparts to classes such as pattern-making, product design, and visual merchandising, among others.

“Last year our metaverse space was like a window, now we’re bringing classes into it,” said Valenti, as a demo showed an interactive space recalling Istituto Marangoni’s classrooms in its colors. She pointed to how each student will have their avatar and they can all attend the same lesson from different campuses, unlocking the opportunity to network beyond physical borders.

The collection designed by Najjar Tia, from Istituto Marangoni's Paris school.
The collection designed by Najjar Tia from Istituto Marangoni’s Paris school.

Accessible via desktop and VR, the immersive classes will have a high element of “gamification to explain how things are made,” as in the case of the pattern-making course that will leverage a digital library of 45 fashion patterns usually taught to fashion design students in their first year.

“We think this approach gets them more involved. At the end, gaming is semiotics, their language, which is completely different from ours,” noted Valenti.

The executive underscored that another goal is to increasingly invite brands to experiment with the school and its students. She stressed the overall effort Istituto Marangoni is making is aimed at answering the industry’s demand for better professional figures, equipped with advanced digital and tech tools and able to bring innovation to companies.

For one, the master’s degree course in “digital design for immersive experiences” launched last year garnered the attention of Ferrari. The brand asked students to envision a new concept for an experiential temporary store in Milan that could have interactive elements. A tie-up with Poltrona Frau challenged students of interior design to imagine Martian home concepts developed in a context of limited resources, in an exercise that could push their creativity in finding alternative solutions and therefore designing real homes in a more sustainable way, too.

The collection designed by Shreya, from Istituto Marangoni's Mumbai school.
The collection designed by Shreya from Istituto Marangoni’s Mumbai school.

In addition to the aforementioned campuses, Istituto Marangoni has a school in Miami, currently offering a full slate of programming to celebrate Art Basel.

The collection designed by Ummehani Kanchwala, from Istituto Marangoni's London school.
The collection designed by Ummehani Kanchwala from Istituto Marangoni’s London school.

Founded in 1935, Istituto Marangoni is controlled by Galileo Global Education Italia, the Italian branch of the international private higher education company GGE. Private schools operating in the fashion, art and design fields under GGE Italia’s umbrella also include Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti — better known as NABA — and Domus Academy.

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