Vault49 and Uniqlo Heat Up
Despite the fact that it's August, now is the time to look into the next season and prepare for what we should be expecting. If the trend of "autumn for a week," from the past few years holds up it's going to be cold before we know it. Earlier this year, Vault49 teamed up with Uniqlo to visualize their latest technological fabrics that brought cooling properties into the weave of their textiles, working at an almost molecular level. Through a process of 3D rendering and creative problem solving, Vault49 was able to create a visual language that explained these technologies in visceral ways. But even as we strive to stay cool in the summer, warmth is the treasure of the winter and Vault49 has been hard at work at visualizing Uniqlo’s new technologies.
Uniqlo's latest collection features apparel that activates warming and heat trapping techniques, causing the fibers of these pieces to interact with heat in a new way. This kind of fiber level activation ensures the wearer is more comfortable through winter, all without layering to a veritable puffball. "The main challenge is figuring out how these products actually work," explains Luke Choice at Vault49, who took lead on the project. There was an educational process between Vault49 and Uniqlo where Luke and his colleague Nik Ainley had to reach the deepest understanding possible of these technologies in order to most honestly convey their properties. Once they were able to get there, it was about communicating that information to the audience.
For Luke, the most exciting of the series was one that drew on the Japanese provenance of the company. Luke and Nik turned to traditional Japanese ink paintings, and the brush strokes that have defined that aesthetic, to explore how the fabric interacts with itself. In a marked break from Japanese calligraphy, they explored using this historic style using new techniques. "It was nice because we tackled doing it in 3D," says Luke. "We were trying to make it look like it was floating in space but still had that traditional Japanese calligraphy style." The 3D space allowed Luke and Nik the flexibility to look at the shapes from every angle to ensure the composition was exactly what they wanted. Once in that 3D space, the trick is to bring a sense of reality to the touchability of the fabrics. “The challenge is making sure that the fabric is realistic and not too plastic and trying to give it that tactile feel without seeming too digital,” says Luke. After all, the imagery is all about Uniqlo’s apparel and helping to bring consumers into contact with them. The information that Vault49 helps Uniqlo communicate with these images is crucial to understanding these technologies and educating the consumer. But none of it matters if the clothes aren’t impeccably put together and a pleasure to touch. And Uniqlo has never had a problem with that.