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Finding Community in 3D Clothing Tutorials
Designer Stephy Fung talks to Rumfoords about helping students learn 3D garment design, the influence of her Chinese heritage and the freedom of digital fashion.
Stephy Fung is a big self-learner.
“I started to learn 3D garments during lockdown,” Fung, a motion graphics designer from London who’s creating some of the most stylish virtual fashion content on Instagram and Twitch, told Rumfoords in a recent Zoom interview.
“I must have seen these tutorials on YouTube, and I thought, ‘Wow, it looks so cool! How can I do that?’ And that’s how I started,” Fung said.
But Fung’s lifelong path to 3D garments started with an unlikely childhood inspiration: 2D animation.
“For some reason I was really drawn to animation,” Fung said. “When I was a kid I loved Disney, I loved anime, and Studio Ghibli was a big inspiration, like ‘Spirited Away.’”
While styding graphic design at university, Fung stumbled upon those YouTube tutorials for 3D animation, reigniting her passion for motion.
“I’m ever so thankful for all the people who put tutorials online, because four years ago there were none,” Fung said.
But when she found a community of likeminded 3D garment designers, her work took a decisive turn toward the virtually sartorial.
“I worked on a project with a community I’m in called DIGI-GXL, this community who highlights 3D artists who are non-binary female and LGBTQ, the ones that are minorities in the industry,” Fung said. “We were commissioned by Selfridges at the time to create this collection for their new digital campaign that they did last year.”
That experience opened up multiple doors in Fung’s mind, not only the possibilities of 3D garment design but also the excitement and belonging of finding community.
“At that time I didn’t know how to do 3D clothing. All I knew was how to do 3D environments,” Fung said. “But I met people who did and it just really fascinated me how magical it looked when these garments were moving by themselves and they were created from nothing to something in digital.”
“I was so inspired by DIGI-GXL I decided to create my own community,” Fung said.
When Fung began documented her process on Instagram, TikTok and Twitch, her pages blew up, and that’s when she started a Discord server for other aspiring 3D garment designers.
“I wasn’t really scared of showing my process,” Fung said. “I like showing my learning, I like showing my process.”
It was through this transparent, open sharing of her process that Fung found even more connection to young designers all over the world just getting into 3D motion design like she was.
“You can create things, but if you don’t have somebody to give you feedback or people who have the same mindset you’re talking to a blank wall,” Fung said. “So to have other people there who actually understand your process or might know more than you or who are just interested, it’s quite nice to have a community to support you.”
The idea to share more of her process, rather than just her finished work, was, like so many things these days, a product of the pandemic lockdown.
“I found that I had more time to think about myself, to think about what I wanted to help out with,” Fung said.
Students, Fung realized, had no one to looks to for help learning how to design 3D garments. She decided to fill that void through her Discord and her process-documenting content.
“I realized there’s a disconnect between university students and the 3D industry,” Fung said.
“I feel like there needs to be a bigger bridge between the two because, I found, after university they say, ‘OK, you’ve got your degree, off you go, good luck!’ In the 3d industry unless you go to a conference and you get to see the breakdowns of how people create things, you don’t really see how people create things.”
Fung’s Twitch streams, in which Fung will design a 3D garment and answer questions live from fans, are particualrly rewarding.
“I enjoy talking to people and this back and forth feedback and hopefully helping somebody understand or learn something new,” Fung said.
There’s a reason this content pops on social media as much as her actual 3D garments do.
“In my opinion, people are more fascinated by seeing how things are created when it’s more relatable, when it’s more down to earth,” Fung said. “So I’m just opening that door, showing people that it is possible and this is how you can achieve it.”
Community even inspires the elegant 3D garments that Fung makes.
“I’m very into streetwear, it’s what I like to wear, and you’ll also see a lot of hanfus in my work, a traditional Chinese dress” Fung said. “I like to pour a bit of my heritage onto my 3D designs because you don’t see a lot of that and if you do see an Asian-inspired garment or 3D work it’s usually not by an Asian person.”
Fung was born in London but her family is from Hong Kong.
“As I’ve grown up I’ve become more and more prooud of showing my Chinese heritage more with my designs,” Fung said. “Even it’s streetwear, the graphics are still very Chinese-based.”
Chinese heritage is not the only ingredient that goes into her 3D garment designs, though. One notices a distinct flavor of dance in the figures, especially the virtual model in what Fung calls “the Spider-Man pose.”
“I’m really into hip-hop and hip-hop dance,” Fung said. “These garments have a personality about them that you can’t really get with a physical piece. You can almost create a story, a setting, an environment.”
Maybe it’s that specific and unique mix of influences, a mix that doesn’t exist in physical streetwear, that only Fung can bring to a piece that creates the moentum to create more.
“These are things that I wish I could wear,” Fung said. “The digital fashion allows me to create whatever I want and a style that I’d love to wear and it just doesn’t cost as much.”
Fung recently worked on a recent collaboration with Greater Goods, a London-based upcycling brand, in which she made one of their pieces in 3D. The piece Fung recreated is itself a collaboration between Greater Goods and technical outerwear OG Arc’teryx.
“I never imagined myself working with garments,” Fung said. “But for some reason I am drawn to fashion, it was never my intention but I don’t see a reason I will ever stop.”
Like many other things in Fung’s work, the allure of working with apparel like those made by Arc’teryx might be the opportunity to learn in front of her community.
“You can see with the Arc’teryx piece, I made a lot of mistakes, you can see it on my Twitch,” Fung said. “It was a lot of fun!”