Behind the Scenes of the Substance Source – Textile Collection

Nicolas Paulhac on April 14 2017 | Substance Source, Stories, Design, Architecture

A few days ago we added the 2017/2018 collection of more than 150 fabric materials to Substance Source. In this interview, we will talk to fashion designer Zoé H. and Nicolas Paulhac, Product Manager and Color, Material and Finish Designer at Allegorithmic, who both oversaw the selection and creation of the Collection.

Hi, Zoé. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Zoé H.: Hello, I have a university degree in multimedia design and visual communication. I immediately immersed myself in the world of fashion as a fashion photographer, and later as an art director of photo shoots. Materials, images, art and aesthetics have interested me since I was young, and it has not changed since. Design, creation and development have become my work, so it is a real joy for me.

Nicolas. Tell us a little about yourself. N.P.: Hi, I joined Allegorithmic’s team in early 2017. Prior to that, I worked for 9 years as an industrial designer for consumer electronics brands such as Motorola, Acer, Nokia, and Microsoft. I specialized in material technology at the Nokia Advance Design studio in London where we developed new technology enablers for future product innovations.

What do you do at Allegorithmic?

N.P.: I joined Allegorithmic as a colors, materials, and finishes (CMF) designer and product manager for Substance Source. Most of my work is dedicated to the definition of material creation briefs, monitoring of trends, sourcing of material and follow-up of the digital material production.

Z.H.: I made the first selection of the physical textile samples and built the color palette based on 2017/2018 trends. Using my industry knowledge, I provided guidance on the association of colors with fabrics. I defined a complete color range organized across two cycles. The total of more than 100 different colors are split into seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Each season is composed of themes I have connected to each category of fabrics.

Artificial Brights are composed of vivid hues. They are fearlessly outrageous and express the demands of the deep current of self-expression as it moves towards more confident self-assertion. Combined with complex geometric textures driven by new processes to enhance fabric performance, it conveys the idea of the era of high-tech in sports.

Everlasting Chics is a choice of flawless natural tones and carefully balanced associations of classic but perfectly crafted weaves and knits which define the new codes of luxury next season.

Natural Pastels. Pastels are shifting perceptions. In 2018 they symbolize the Better-Being and the expression of a more sensitive hedonism through a new sensorial language of natural – almost mineral – tones.

What’s your connection to textiles and fabrics?

Z.H.: It is a perpetual relationship and a work that permanently stimulates the senses. It’s a joy when I see a beautiful outfit worn well by someone. There is the interplay of a qualitative material in harmony with its forms and colors, and with the way it’s used. I work even when I do "nothing". I stroll in the city or elsewhere, always finding shapes and colors that inspire me. So I have a sense that observes the existing materials and another that imagines the possibilities. In the creation phase, it is the tactile experiences that give me ideas about materials, and thus open a door to colors and motifs – inspired by various sources – that I associate through pure creativity. In the creation phase, my relationship is intimately linked to the observation of a result. That is to say to touch but above all to see my ideas coming together on the same object: the finished product. In the case of virtual materials, the process is different.

N.P.: Textiles are simply everywhere. As a designer, I was always curious about the techniques behind textile creation and constantly inspired in my work by fashion and interior design creations. I was fascinated by the properties that such materials could provide – especially where it’s the least expected.

In a way, textiles in their many forms are literally landmarks of our times. They define context; for example, looking at the way people dress tells you so much about them. It’s a mirror of who they are as individuals and where they position themselves socially as well as their aspirations. As creatives, we feed on these insights to put the user at the center of our design process.

Spring color inspiration
Summer color inspiration
Fall color inspiration
Winter color inspiration

Zoé, as a stylist, what is your connection to digital materials? What are your hopes and expectations for a digital fabrics collection?

Z.H.: This is a very strong trend, and of course as a fashion designer I rely on virtual tools every day. Today, I believe that it is necessary for professionals to work with digital materials. I create materials for a virtual world as well, but the virtual visualization step of a possible design is strongly recommended. This is also the case for textiles and fabrics which are intended for physical manufacture.

In the workflow preceding manufacture, it is increasingly common to use 3D technology – and here I can already mention my collaboration with the Allegorithmic team – which is a kind of preview. This allows us to save months in presenting the possible results to different decision-makers like designers, or other members of the creative and marketing teams. We live in a magical era where digital techniques allow us to accelerate creation to the speed of light, so we have the opportunity to make gigantic leaps without getting lost in dead ends. I would highly recommend this virtual simulation method to all manufacturers and designers. Thanks to personal experience, I know just how beneficial it is.

N.P.: When creating objects that don’t exist yet, designers need to communicate their ideas at various stages in the creative process. Using 3D and realistic rendering is the best way to show almost instantly the various teams involved in the project the intentions of a design that is closest to what the result will be. It is a powerful tool for articulating a vision and getting everyone moving in the same direction.

The cornerstone of our collaboration was indeed to connect our approaches. To link artistic tools and techniques to the manufacturing processes. The goal being to integrate seamlessly into existing processes from designers creative experimentation to material specification communication with technical teams as well as textile manufacturing processes or pre-collections outfits visualization and validation.

Zoé and Nicolas – Talking about this textile library you developed with Allegorithmic, what were your main goals?

Z.H.: Our goal is to create and expand the content of Substance Source for a wide variety of users, whether they work in design, textiles, video games, cinema, fashion, interior design or other industries that can benefit from 3D materials. The need has increased today because even industries that have worked primarily in 2D are beginning to replace their methods with 3D thanks to technical evolutions. Meeting all these expectations is a real challenge for us. The primary goal of this collection is to fulfill a role of inspiration with our range of color for the 2017/2018 seasons. The aim is to inspire.

N.P.: Our ambition with the Substance Source library is to connect artists and designers to digital matter. I believe this can be the space where a wide variety of materials dedicated to very different domains such as gaming, VFX, architecture, and design are gathered so that artists and designers from all over can draw inspiration from each other.

My goal was to make a selection fabric digital materials that speak to fashion designers using their codes and language so that it can be integrated into their existing creative process. Create Dynamic materials in order to offer maximum space to express artists creativity.

I also believe that it is a way to democratize textiles for a wider audience, enriching Substance Source diversity to inspire across all markets.

Focusing on the user: How do you create “user-friendly” digital fashion materials?

Z.H.: I believe creative people, whether they are designers working for the industry or visualization artists, need diversity. I think it is critical to stimulate creativity but this is just a starting point. You have to build the universe and context to create harmony across all the items in the collection. Color is at the heart of fashion, and color associations are critical to the definition of a style. It is the backbone that links the different elements of an outfit.

For each material, you will be able to see the color variations we selected directly in Substance Source. We defined a name and a code for each color based on the season it belongs to. It will simplify the process of associating materials together.

N.P.: We designed the materials so they can fit with fashion designers’ existing processes by using the codes and language specific to the fashion industry. Being able to realistically visualize the nature of the fabric according to the colors is really the starting point of any fashion design exercise.

With traditional design process, designers often have to choose the fabric separately from the colors. Working with physical samples and swatches designers face limitations both in the communication of the design intention and in the selection of concepts causing time delays in the validation process due to prototype manufacturing constraints. We believe designers and artists should not compromise between visual quality and creative flexibility. Offering 3D materials with the flexibility to combine colors with weaves allows an effortless projection of the final result with better accuracy. Therefore it can simplify decision making by reducing prototyping and trial loops.

This objective was always at the heart of our collaboration. Control over the very construction of the weave itself down to a level where you could modify the aspect of each yarn independently is my idea of creative freedom.

We created a palette of colors organized by seasons and assigned a set of color to each material taking into account the possible associations of textiles to give users the choice of between multiple workflows.

Associations of textiles become easier as the colors of each season are designed to work harmoniously allowing you to focus only on the other aspects of the fabrics.

What are your main criteria for selecting fabrics?

Z.H.: Our construction work is part of the infinite labyrinth of textiles. First of all, given our possibilities, we aimed at relatively broad and generalist selections. Users will find several kinds of fabrics: summer, winter, fashion, furniture, sports, new, and vintage, among others. The next step will enrich their diversity by completing each family of fabrics.

N.P.: From a technical standpoint we narrowed our selection based on how accurately we could capture the intricate details of each material. There were limitations linked to the textiles themselves like the patterns, the color, and the thickness as well as the ability of our scan device to capture these details correctly. Thanks to the combination of scanning and Substance Designer features, we managed to reproduce the physical samples with high fidelity.

Zoé, can you tell us how you created the color palette?

Z.H.: Ah, I could talk about colors for hours. The life of the colors and their diversity are fantastic! Some form couples or very nice groups with one but can be unpleasant with the other. With the importance of current trends, it seems necessary to define a harmonic basis for the navigation of users and not let them get lost in the forest of colors and shapes.

My goal was to create harmonies for the four seasons so that each of the colors brings both the freshness and novelty of 2017 and at the same time remain variable as a whole. So apart from my first inspirations, I thought about my 'future' motives from the beginning. They have completed or modified my color palette as and when made and rendered the result correctly usable. The most important part of my colors comes from the inspirations of my photographs.

A small part of my color chart concerns the finishing in order to harmonize the whole. This work of harmonization stems from my research in the history of art.

Have a look and zoom in at the full color palette
Have a look and zoom in at the full color palette
Have a look and zoom in at the full color palette
Have a look and zoom in at the full color palette

Can you tell us about the process of making digital materials?

N.P.: In making the fabric textures we combined scan and procedural techniques. First, we scanned physical samples of fabrics and generated maps of color, normal and opacity. These maps are the basis of the material which we import into Substance Designer.

The second step is the treatment of the scanned maps.Thanks to the new features of Substance Designer 6 the maps are cropped, tiled and cleaned from unneeded defects such as hairs, stains, and wrinkles. It allows us to select only the useful aspects of the material from the scan.

The next phase is where the material become truly dynamic. In Substance Designer we can reproduce material behaviors which are not scannable and combine them with the scanned elements of the fabric. We managed to automate the creation of masks and filters to create a tweakable material with selectively exposed parameters such as color, roughness and metallic, among others.

For more information check our blog post on Making Hybrid-Scan Materials Using Substance Designer 6.

Can you tell us more about this idea of dynamic materials?

Z.H.: What's revolutionary for me in working with digital tools such as Substance Designer is that creative work is virtually instantly viewable. During the creation process, my different inspirations accumulate in my head and a combination of these elements is what comes out as a result. Creating in traditional ways is very rewarding, but maybe not fast enough for expectations these days. For me, the first need to which dynamic digital matter can respond is this one: Unlimited creation that includes unsuccessful attempts without consequences. A door to freedom that is almost unlimited.

The availability of tools where combinations of patterns, sizes, materials and colors are endless in the way you can organize and combine together up to an extreme level of detail will make it easier for designers to communicate visions of new matters that don’t exist yet.

N.P.: Our new scan and procedural pipeline offers truly dynamic materials. We approached each fabric not as a single material but as an infinity of possibilities. An area of freedom to be creative, with a way to shape the matter according to your needs. That is why every Substance material can be modified according to many parameters.

To show the potential of variation of each material we included color presets directly visible on Substance Source.

How does each of you see the future of this library?

Z.H.: The richer the database the better it becomes but it has to be organized towards the "input" side. For creative freedom, it is better to be able to utilize existing fabrics and adapt them to your needs in terms of colors, patterns, and whatever else you might want. It's impossible not to like such a tool!

N.P.: I do consider Substance Source as a living library. Techniques improve and new materials are created every day. Substance Source materials are meant to evolve in the same way. They are becoming smarter in terms of what users can do with them, adaptive to the user's workflow and ever simpler to use. Last but not least, it is our ambition to keep it inspiring, a place where material lovers can experiment without boundaries or limitations.


Zoé, can you tell us what you think the future of 3D in fashion design will look like?

Z.H.: I believe that in our techno-society everyone can become his own fashion designer. That is, by exploiting easily accessible capabilities of personalization - such as software, applications, and databases - you could quickly create photorealistic visuals to iterate on future collections and new design approaches that are not prototyped yet while including necessary data, such as sizes, colors, and shapes for their creation. All this seems possible in the near future because the technical conditions already seem to be there. We lack only the manifestation of needs and maybe a market that can pay the price of this offer (which for the moment is not totally accessible yet). It is not necessarily a utopia, but it’s very exciting anyway!

Check out our Textile Collection in Substance Source and download the free samples to experiment with the endless variations possible with each Substance material.

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