Shoes that do not exist: A digital-only footwear collection inspired by everyday footwear fashion in Helsinki

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master’s Programme in Fashion, Clothing and Textile Design
This thesis is an (n)ethnographic inspection of footwear styles in Helsinki, analyzed through, and translated into a 3D digital-only footwear collection. The study investigates styles in the intriguingly famed, socioeconomically, and culturally disparate neighborhoods: Itäkeskus, Kallio, and Ullanlinna. The thesis explores footwear as a reflection of its wearer, places, and spaces; it employs footwear as a lens to identify the fashion image of selected neighborhoods. Additionally, the thesis concedes fashion adaptations to virtual and digital spaces. It recognizes the discourse in fashion design on the sensation of digital-only fashion and its benefits. The work analyzes the recent shift in footwear design and consumption, crossing the boundaries of physicality. It integrates physical and digital approaches in research and positions the design component in this new emerging fashion design subfield by utilizing digital tools to generate a digital-only outcome. The study is qualitative research consisting of two parts, theoretical and practical, which complement each other and nourish in achieving the goals: 1) inquire the value of studying the ordinary sartorial practices, 2) grasp the fashion image of selected places, and 3) translate the drawn insights from the local for global. The theoretical component builds through inductive analysis. It uses fieldwork from the practical part to develop the context of work and pin down compatible literature. Doing the research in this manner connects the two components and provides a foundation for design. The practical component of this empirical study involves physical and online fieldwork via ethnography and netnography. The collected data are photos, videos, and fieldnotes, which signal a dis- tinct diversity in local footwear styles. The visual material categorizes by developing feature mapping boards, analysis of fieldnotes generate observation reports. Visual research further filters to spot prominent footwear styles in each neighborhood. The identified styles then deconstruct, transform, and design new species of shoes as digital artifacts alternative to physical. The outcome is a digital-only hybrid footwear exploration, consisting of 6 3D modeled, digitally rendered, and animated shoe designs. This collection captures my understanding as an outsider of the distinct fashion image of select neighborhoods. It assesses the efficiency of digital and phygital environments in footwear design and experience. From a larger context, the thesis examines digital fashion as a creative, ethical, and sustainable way of making, consuming, and engaging with fashion. Incorporating a digital-only approach to design the thesis allows deeper creative exploration without physical confines. It aspires to initiate a dialogue, through practice, on the tensions and interplay between the local and global fashion. The result is a non-existing footwear collection produced from the local for digital and virtual consumption globally.
Vänskä, Annamari
Thesis advisor
Särmäkari, Natalia
Hyötyläinen, Ilona
footwear design, digital fashion, 3D tools, Helsinki, ethnography, metaverse
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