Would you wear robotic clothes? Ying Gao designs a collection inspired by the digital world

Not for the everyday wearer, Ying’s garments are made with a new flexible material used to mimic the effects of virtual clothing.

4 October 2022

We’ve all seen what happens when fashion collides with the Metaverse: avatars wearing Balenciaga, luxury clothes redesigned as NFTs, and body-less models strutting their stuff down the runway to name a few examples (think early work of Digi-Gal). But what if things were switched the other way around, and the digital world influenced the very clothing we put on our backs – just like how we saw it on the screen?

This isn’t entirely a new idea, but the way it’s executed in Ying Gao’s new collection 2 5 2 6 is completely fresh. In a world where robotics work in harmony with fashion, Ying, a Montreal-based designer, has created a bewilderingly futuristic collection of garments with moving, floral features to boot. An exploration of materiality in fashion design, the collection is mesmerising and almost science-fiction in the way that each piece twists, breathes and pops, simulating (effectively) the effects of virtual clothing. “If the role of the fashion designer is to imbue a form and a function to materials intended to dress the body,” says Ying, “I wonder about the question of the immaterial garment and the virtual body, devoid of substance when the digital has become a real ‘second nature’.”

Ying Gao: 2 5 2 6 (Copyright © Ying Gao, 2022)

In response to this, Ying pulled inspiration from the NFT space and digital fashion world to inform her designs. Working to the title of 2 5 2 6 – which refers to the number of hours it took to create these garments from start to finish – Ying utilises an innovative palette consisting of an “entirely new” flexible material made of glass, precious metals and silicone. “Woven, hand-screened and consolidated materials have been specially designed to create these clothes that simulate the effects of virtual clothing,” she explains. All in all the result is experimental and free of material constraints.

It’s also worth noting that, although wearable in many ways (and definitely for the type who wants to stand out), the collection is far more fictional than it is functional. So much so that Ying describes the garments as observational – an acknowledgement of the rise in digital fashion. “Most of the time, my work is an attempt to remind us that clothing is not only a consumer product to be bought, worn and thrown away; that fashion design can be thought-provoking,” she explains. 2 5 2 6 is a welcomed turn away from the usual.

So, you might think, what’s the point? Well, with the likes of the Metaverse becoming ever more embedded in society (and the creative industry for that matter), we’re becoming less and less surprised by its impact. Perhaps one day, the relationship between computer and man might become so normalised that we might not even notice it anymore. Ying’s collections and work in general, then, is a stark and beautiful reminder of the physical. “As our jaunts with the Metaverse become more frequent and less surprising, digital fashion inevitably unfolds into an infinity of possibilities and uncertainties,” she says. “So, I think it’s important to remember the importance of the materiality of things around us.”

GalleryYing Gao: 2 5 2 6 (Copyright © Ying Gao, 2022)

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Ying Gao: 2 5 2 6 (Copyright © Ying Gao, 2022)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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