With some imagination, a lot of work, and the help of some CGI specialists, we created a video where fashion meets technology. The full video will be released tomorrow on Highsnobiety but until then we want to share some making-of snapshots and an interview with The T-Shirt Issue – the art collective that is the focus of our video. Born out of a frustration with the current approach to clothing design, two friends joined forces and their design backgrounds to start reconstructing the basic T-shirt.
Using 3D applications that aren’t ordinarily meant for clothing construction, the T-shirts take on a conceptual format which sets them apart from their apparel counterparts. We spoke to The T-Shirt Issue to find out a little more about their design process, operating in both the art world and the retail industry, and their upcoming exhibition in New York. To find out more about the project visit vice.com
Can you introduce yourselves and what brought you together to form The T-Shirt Issue?
The founding fathers of The T-Shirt Issue, Murat Kocyigit, Hande Akcayli and Linda Kostowski, met at a birthday party in 2008 where they discovered they had a mutual frustration – or issue if you will – with the way T-shirts and clothing design (especially from Berlin) were approached and perceived. It came as a nice surprise that both Hande and Linda had an experimental fashion design background, while Murat held an industrial design degree. Experimenting started and a collection of three 3D pieces was shown at Create Berlin goes London in the same year. The T-Shirt Issue was supposed to be a one-off project but the success of the exhibition called for more concerted action. Rozi Rexhepi was added to the team soon after, and the project turned into a company.
Can you explain the concept of The T-Shirt Issue?
The underlying concept is a digital reinterpretation of how clothing is constructed. Instead of doing everything by hand as is common practice, we created our own digital environment that gives us the freedom to do pretty much whatever we like, whether it’s daily wearables or less-wearable extensive installations. The T-shirt is as basic as it gets, creating massive leeway for us to experiment with. No matter how complex it gets, you’ll always understand it’s a tee. In addition to its neutrality, jersey is also soft and approachable, making the technology behind a bit less scary.
You use an especially unique process to create your designs, can you shed some light on it?
We combine 3D applications that are not necessarily meant for clothing construction, which is a big challenge and inspiration at the same time. By mixing functions from software that is normally used in architecture, 3D animation and product design, we can freely sculpt, cut, and edit geometries and integrate them into our clothing. The polygonal structures are part of the programs and as such have a fundamental influence on the aesthetics of our work. We unfold the designs and transfer them onto 2D sewing patterns, which are subsequently translated to fabric and sewn together again by hand. This process pretty much parts with classic pattern construction, lifting restrictive parameters like seams. Seams are nothing to us anymore.
Your process is heavily conceptual and yet the finished result is a highly aesthetic product. How do the two help/hinder one another?
The aesthetic end product is a direct result of our conceptual approach, there is hardly a paradox. Considering how visually obvious the technology we use is, it’s only natural for us to work in a narrative way. All we did is analyze the techniques and turn them into something comprehensible. We could work in abstract forms, but that would undermine the possibilities of the technology. There’s a definite rise in 3D exposed fashion over the last years, but the ability to precisely shape clothing is still very underdeveloped. We like having that full ability.
As a collective you operate in both the art world and the retail industry, do you plan on moving further in one more than the other?
We are very keen on producing more extreme and experimental pieces. Our main focus however remains on combining both and showing the connection between wearable and more sophisticated objects. Although perhaps not immediately evident, all of our pieces are interrelated, showing different gradations of the technology. Now we’ve set the extremes, we can start showing the possibilities in between.
Can you explain the concept behind your recent Muybridge installation?
The Muybridge installation is a study set out to capture temporal change in 3D. It’s a sequence of a bird spreading its wings. As the change in the wings’ position is a function of time, each wing’s plumage is rigged into successive arrangements to portray the spreading motion and then exported and sculpted into three shirts. The study leans on Eadweard Muybdridge’s photography work in the late 1800s, with which he pioneered in the field of capturing animal and human motion.
What fuels and inspires The T-Shirt Issue?
We get inspired by other disciplines and like borrowing their ideas. There’s so many opportunities, too many maybe, but we try to collect the best ideas and render them into something that all of a sudden makes sense. Stepping into unknown territories and getting so comfortable we can play around in them is the most fulfilling and inspiring part of what we do, and never gets old.
What do you have planned for your upcoming exhibition in New York?
We will be presenting the latest Muybridge installation and some selected pieces of our older work at the “Out of Hand” exhibition at NY’s MAD Museum on October 16 (sneak peek on October 14). In addition to that, we’re hosting a couple of workshops in which the public gets to make something of their own.
What’s next for The T-Shirt Issue?
There’s a wide gap between the basics and conceptual pieces, so we’re currently working on a “2.5D” collection, consisting of actually wearable pieces with integrated 3D elements. It’s coming together pretty nicely in so many different ways. We’re also venturing into applying color and graphics to our basic T-shirts, just for the fun of it.