"There is something very unique about the group that I haven't seen anywhere else," says Scarlett Yang about Digi-Gxl, the global community network specializing in 3D animation and digital innovation that she joined in 2019. "I [was looking for] an opportunity to share my digital portfolio because of my background in fashion. I wanted to go down this route, find opportunities and clients, ask questions, share information, and I found this."
Digi-Gxl was created by Cat Taylor in 2018, originally as a personal Instagram page to share her own work and support that of others. It quickly grew into a 300-strong worldwide community — members hail from Australia, America, Dubai, South Korea, the UK, and more — and commercial agency, which, among other projects, has since worked to digitally transform the designs of Maison Margiela, Chloé, Raf Simons, and Rick Owens for Selfridges' first fully 3D-digital campaign.
"There was someone who worked on that project who had just graduated, and because of that project, they ended up getting a full-time position with Selfridges as a motion graphics designer — being a part of Digi-Gxl accelerated that. [It's about getting] a foot in the door among the people who have contacts," says Taylor.
A Chelsea College of Art and Design graduate at the time, Taylor, now 26, was part of a skate collective called Sibling and had been impressed by its democratic approach. "I was like: I can adapt what I know through group learning and togetherness and apply it to Digi-Gxl," she recalls. "I spoke to a few people I knew and followed and [who] were interested and said, 'Let's all on one day share a post that says 'Digi-Gxl' on it and if you want to join us, DM us.'"
There's one proviso. "You need to be not a male," says Taylor over the phone. "It sounds so mean — we're super inclusive, we're not against men, we're just pro women, trans, nonbinary people."
If the latest Google Diversity report, per Forbes, is anything to go by, the tech world still has a long way to go when it comes to female representation — with female employees "dropping from 33.2% of global hires in 2018 to 32.5% in 2019," it says. "I would love to say I think it's getting better," says Taylor, admitting that from her point of view, it's hard to think that it isn't. "I'm submerged in it and I see all of the amazing work from my peers."
The point of Digi-Gxl, therefore, is to provide a "no excuses platform/library," and the responsibility of the members now extends to coders, those with a background in science, as well as 3D animators. "We're creating a new level of role models, so you don't have to be of a certain age, you don't have to be at university. If you're studying at school and your parents allow it, you can be on our chat," she explains. Not only is it about connecting, it's about confidence-building, too.
"I feel like a lot of the work from the members of the group pass as really powerful, but also [there is] a feminine energy. You can see the technical part is done really well, and there's really sensitive storytelling behind narratives," describes Yang of how Digi-Gxl inspires her.
It was during Taylor's final year at university that a digital lightbulb moment came. Having always been "quite good at technical bits" and "more excited about learning how to do things than by the actual outcome," along with memories of playing Grand Theft Auto while growing up, she turned to Google one day to ask: "how to make clothing in 3D." A couple of weeks before her final graduate show, she was teaching herself CLO 3D and Marvelous Designer — programs that specialize in garment visualization and simulation — day and night.
"For my graduate show, I didn't have anything resolved, but what I did have to show was my learning practice — an exploration into moving garments — and it was something that could carry me on after graduation. It was like the learning had just started," recalls Taylor. She felt like she'd seen the future (which, to be fair, she had). Next came a job at Merlin Entertainments as its "3D fashion person," further setting her on the pathway to what has now become a new burgeoning industry, especially in the wake of COVID-19's acceleration of the digital world.
"There's a massive pivot to digital as a quick fix for COVID. For a lot of people, it's about replicating what we've lost and replicating exactly into the 3D world, but what people forget and what we try to tell them is that you have this digital landscape with which you can do more and do differently, so why do we need to replicate what we already had? We need to understand the sophisticatedness of the digital landscape," proffers Taylor.
As part of Yang's final-year submission studying fashion at Central Saint Martins, she created a film showcasing her digital work, and was subsequently shortlisted by industry platform SHOWstudio for its Class of 2020 project, spearheaded by the photographer Nick Knight and Adam Andrascik, the former creative director of Guy Laroche Paris. "It saves a lot of waste during the design process, and is definitely more efficient; [you can] do a lot of trials," says Yang of its sustainable benefits. The multidisciplinary designer was recently named a winner of the LVMH Maison/0 Green Trail Prize 2020, a sustainable incubator, and is now working on the development of a platform to connect tactile materials and virtual digital design.
Because just as Taylor notes, IRL and URL "have to live in unison and each has their own purpose" — and the exciting thing about the latter is that we're just beginning to see the effects: "It's a whole new territory."