Where Nothing is Left but Stardust, with Alex Manrique
In celebration of our launch of the exclusive digital streetwear film, "Stardust," Rumfoords sat down with the 3D artist to talk anime, cyberpunk and more.
What’s left after we’re gone?
Questions like this one inspire Rumfoords to think about a future when clothing can no longer be held in one’s hand.
And questions like this one inspire 3D artist and digital streetwear auteur Alex Manrique, who created a piece of virtual style content worthy of the cinema exclusively for Rumfoords.
Manrique’s work is polished, immersive and spectacular, working on a scope and with a pop cultural vocabulary rarely found in the digital streetwear world, making him one of our favorite designers currently creating.
In celebration of the glorious film “Stardust,” Rumfoords sat down with the director and animator to discuss his piece and more.
Rumfoords: So tell me about this piece. What’s the story behind it?
Alex Manrique: As I was completing this piece reminded me of the movie “Sunshine.” That’s where the quote in the opening is from.
The planet that they’re looking at is what Earth used to be. It’s dead, it’s gone. And these people are looking off in the distance and there’s not really anything to show that humanity was ever there. There’s a shot with a tree branch and a skull. That’s hinting at a prior civilization. And now there’s just these sand dunes and dust, there’s nothing really there. There’s nothing reminiscent of humanity except for stardust, like the quote says. And these people discover it, stumble upon it.
R: What do the clothes the characters are wearing in this piece say about the characters themselves?
AM: First of all, they’re not supposed to be human. But I wanted them to be human-ish, so I kept the regular style of human clothing like t-shirts and pants.
There’s a theme, tough. There’s a cross in all of their clothing. That doesn’t mean anything religious, I just wanted something identifying them as a part of the same group or clan.
R: The first piece of clothing that jumps out at me is on the guy who’s kneeling and then gets up. It’s his pants. Were those pants particularly fun to simulate?
AM: Yes. In Marvelous Designer manipulating cloth and simulating it is insanely easy and it’s really, really efficient. Pants can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. The shapes are really simple. But Marvelous is so powerful that if you just press play to start simulating the cloth interacts like real physics. And it’s powered by GPU so it just drapes over the character naturally. Then I can add wind, I can add turbulence, things like that to spring it to life.
For this in particular the guy standing up is motion capture data of a person standing. I apply that to the character and then I simulate the clothing naturally with the movement.
R: What about the other outfits. Are the two male characters wearing two different outfits?
AM: Yes, the pants are the same but the tops are different.
R: How important is the sound you shaped for this piece?
AM: I’d love to shout out Stefan, the sound designer. He does awesome work. He’s done one sound design for a piece of mine that’s selling on MakersPlace right now. Really, really, really good. I think he and I align a lot, I don’t really have to give him a lot of direction. Usually the first thing he delivers hits all the marks I want. Yeah, he’s great. Pelican Sound, that’s his moniker.
R: Were you inspired by any works of popular culture or science fiction?
AM: Yeah. Have you played Cyberpunk?
R: Of course.
AM: Since that came out, even before, I’ve thought the whole cyberpunk aesthetic was really cool. It reminds me a lot of streetwear, commodifying tattered clothing and making it super expensive. I feel like cyberpunk is like that, where it makes streetwear, like tattered clothing, an aesthetic people want. That’s what inspired a lot of the direction for the clothes.
As far as the alien world, it just happened as I was creating it.
R: What about the collars?
AM: The inspiration for that really high collar was “Naruto.” You know those coats they wear, the super big ones? That’s where that came from.
And then the rest of it, I always gravitate toward this style. Color schemes are always something I would wear, like earth tones, not too colorful. The harness, I’ve always wanted to add one of those, like the Louis Vuitton harnesses they’ve started making, so I incorporated that.
So the inspiration for the clothes comes from cyberpunk, my own aesthetic and random things like “Naruto.”
R: I see loneliness and nostalgia in this piece.
AM: Yeah, you’re exactly right. That’s exactly what I was going for. The whole concept of a found environment, where nothing is left but stardust, is exactly what I was going for. Specifically, I think Stefan really hit the mark with the sound. If this had really intense, cinematic sound it could be a whole different story. But I think the sound with this really captured the somber loneliness and empty big space. It just feels grander in scheme with the music.
R: Do you consider this piece you made for us crypto art or is this something different?
AM: No. I think anything can be crypto art but I don’t intend to sell this. This was just a short I wanted to make.
R: So you consider crypto art more of a commercial attribute rather than a medium?
AM: Yes. I think crypto art is a collectible at the end of the day.
R: Did you come to 3D clothing work from the fashion space?
AM: I don’t have a background in fashion. Ever since starting 3D I’ve always liked cloth simulation. I didn’t think I could create that until I discovered Marvelous Designer and I realized it was really easy to pick up. Considering also that there are so many free resources online to learn how to use it. It’s actually pretty intuitive, even the most basic shapes can look really pretty once you simulate it. Now I’m just trying to make more and more complex garments.
R: Why does so much of your work come out in the form of streetwear?
AM: A lot of the art and media I’m attracted to has emotional responses, really emotive stuff, and since I’m not a character animator, my way of conveying that emotion is through clothing on a character.
The clothing someone wears can say a lot about a person. So for the character that I’m creating, I can convey a message just posing the character and then the clothing is what I can add to the overall story.
In the context of a piece I did called “Aftermath,” you can tell that it’s a soldier because they’re wearing camo, and the other person is supposed to be a refugee. In this fictitious world, I gave the refugee a regular t-shirt versus a costume.
And in the alien world for “Stardust,” that really high collar is the non-human clothing.
AM: Nifty reached out to me in July of last year. I don’t know how they found me, probably Instagram, and they just invited me to sell on their platform. I had never heard of NFT or crypto art before that.
When the first drop happened and nearly sold out I was like, “Wow, I did not think this was going to happen!” Then they invited me a second time. Now I’m on MakersPlace selling other stuff.
R: What do you sell on a marketplace like Nifty Gateway?
AM: Animations. I think I have one still image up there.
It’s hard to understand for most people including myself, but I think at the end of the day it’s the artist that’s benefiting, so I’m all for it.