Digital trailblazer Leanne Elliot Young on the future of technology

Digital trailblazer Leanne Elliot Young on the future of technology

Joining the Condé Nast College virtual lecture hall this week was digital trailblazer, Leanne Elliot Young talking on the future of technology. Co-founder of both Institute of Digital Fashion and CommuneEAST, her eye for creative direction plays into her ability to re-conceptualise new futures through strategy, marketing, design, and retail. 


Launching IoDF

Leanne and Cattytay co-founded the Institute of Digital Fashion after working on their individual ventures with CommuneEast and
DIGI-GXL respectively, already well-versed in the capabilities of the digital world, as well as a strong focus on representation for marginalized identities. As tech is predominantly a white cis male space, they were both interested in rebuilding fashion systems through new voices in the digital arena. The recent pivot to digital has created fertile grounds for these two to join forces on a new venture with the goal of “pioneering a new era of industry”. 


IoDF ethos


IoDF often reiterates that it is not to be confused as being just an agency with offered services. Leanne says, “we are the new guard. changing the system, asking the questions and forging the solutions”. Their aim is to push tech-use towards a more democratic and sustainable future. Their approach is a “glocal” (global-local) one which involves clients such as Balenciaga, WGSN, Harpies, V&A, Pxssy Palace and Selfridges. Their partners involve the likes of Clo3d, Daz3d, and Machine-A.


IoDF services


Their services span digital fashion, digital humans (avatars), digital environments, and digital labs, each of which has various subcategories. Digital fashion, as an example, comprises campaign, social, gaming, animation, e-commerce, AR, and VR. They are specialized in clothing that moves “exceeding physical limitations”. As Cattytay is a true pioneer of early digital fashion, they have developed a style that involves a mix of real-world physics simulation and hyper-exaggerated, or sometimes even fantastical, movement. Leanne reiterates that this is an area that wouldn’t be possible without the digital— a garment can move and bounce as it would on earth but you can also explore possibilities such as a moving garment without gravity. This creates a completely new experience and way to present a product, a consideration for IRL X URL. 


World First Digital Couture


A partnership with August Getty Atelier created one of the first digital couture pieces. It was constructed digitally, bead by bead, creating a high level of detail throughout the garment. It was similar to an atelier in that it required the same amount of hands, however, it was created by people spanning different countries using tools like Zbrush and Software Painter. Leanne explains that some would disagree on categorising it as couture, “but I think that’s an interesting question to raise”, she says. 



World First Fashion Retail Space for LFW


This past February, after valiant stints at digital fashion weeks, IoDF partnered with Machine-A to create a unique experience through an AR instagram filter. The filter created a space of a polished store with a series of ‘podiums’ which featured different brands stocked by Machine-A. Each brand was granted a podium space, in which they could include a quote on the future of fashion. This space spanned the URL into the IRL by advertising itself on billboards around London. Leanne says the idea was to make use of this unoccupied space, a result of covid-19, which then became its own commentary in turn.



Key Takeaways


  • The semantics of fashion have changed so much – we must adapt and innovate in new ways as a result
  • The digital future is not going to be humans losing all their jobs to tech, as the human in tech is very necessary and present
  • To change things as they are requires work that will normally be “philanthropic” or unpaid, but it is well worthwhile
  • The trend of the digital is here to stay, and is useful insofar as it is creating more hiring opportunity for tech-forward ideas

By Sofian Benito, BA (Hons) Fashion Communication


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