Combating Loneliness via Digital Connection w/ Meggie Van Zwieten

Wear Your Darkness

Meggie Van Zwieten is a digital artist creating works oscillating between dark and light, nightmare and dream, the monstrous and all too human. Her intricate works explore intimacy, loneliness, and the shadows cast across all human life, and she bravely digs in to discover what is underneath. Meggie's designs prompt a transformative experience for the wearers through immersive imagination, an escaping into illusory digital environments to find new perspectives and alleviate feelings of alienation. We met with Meggie to discuss her vision to create an accessible environment in the virtual world where one can find relief, beauty and build more intimate bonds with humanity and our natural world.
Did you grow up in a creative environment?

I grew up in a small village in the east of the Netherlands. There wasn't much of a creative scene there, but I've always found my own way to be creative. I mainly drew, painted, and wrote a lot. I loved creating characters and creatures.

How did you get into the digital fashion space?

After I graduated from art school, where I studied graphic design, I focussed on 3D creation and Augmented Reality. I was especially interested in the intersection of the physical and the digital world and how our identities translated to the virtual space. I started with creating digital accessories, jewelry, and face filters. This naturally grew towards creating garments.

What motivated you to stay virtual?

Once the pandemic hit, there was suddenly context for wearing virtual couture. I never chose the path of physical fashion because I sometimes feel limited in physical creation. Digital fashion allows the creation of unusual items with conceptual layers and storytelling.
A throughline with your designs is a fascination with alienation or estrangement of a person from their humanity. Tell me about that.

We live in a world with systems that control societies and influence our behavior in daily life. I've experienced alienation within our world and I am not comfortable with the life capitalist structures offer. I am convinced that capitalism, among other things, is a cause of loneliness. I hope we can build an alternative world where we can find connection and community. I believe that the curation of our own identity can provide a feeling of freedom.

How can we combat loneliness in the digital realm?

Since working in the digital space, I've connected with so many beautiful souls and gained friendships with people worldwide, people I would've never met otherwise. I hope we can work towards a space where everyone can experience this more intimately than the internet and social media currently provide.
“I never chose the path of physical fashion because I sometimes feel limited in physical creation.”
— Meggie Van Zwieten —
How has your experience within the virtual space shaped your vision of the opportunities it beholds?

The virtual space has offered me the possibility to create a new universe. I see it as an extension of the physical world - a place where we can start creation and live more sustainably and with equality. For me, the digital realm provides a place where people can find relief, beauty, and escape. You can experiment with identity, creating a virtual extension of self and are empowered to construct your own reality.

And where does digital fashion fit in?

Physical garments are currently often related to gender, stereotypes, or cultural history. Clothing in the digital environment can explore new forms and break free from these associations. Since functionality does not need to be considered, every fantasy can be visualized and translated into a garment.

What does it offer that physical clothes can't?

These garments are metamorphic; they can be animated and change based on a certain emotion or feeling. A piece of digital clothing can merge with a person's identity and contribute positively to how they think about themselves.
Do you think that could be a cure for loneliness?

I'm not sure if dressing virtually in itself will be a cure for loneliness. But the lonely find community in weird spaces and the digital environment can certainly be a weird space.

And the freedom of expression can open us up to meeting people we align with.

That has been my experience. Since the digital space is still quite young, less toxic historic structures need to be broken before achieving true freedom in self-expression. When I speak about the digital environment, I don't refer to social media or the internet since many people associate that with digital identity. I think much is wrong with social structures within social media usage.

You bring a lot of organic elements into your designs. Is this purely aesthetic, or is there a deeper purpose?

I believe that humanity, in general, has lost its core connection to earth and nature. Humans are meant to be connected to nature. Even a short walk in the forest can improve our mental state. Instead of destroying the earth for selfish reasons, we should focus on finding our way back to harmony with the planet. I hope that people who wear my garments become aware of both the beauty of digitalism and natural shapes. I want to celebrate these shapes and create awareness to take better care of our planet.

Do you think digital fashion has the power to change our relationship with the consumption of fashion?

I believe digital fashion has a different context than physical fashion. Therefore the way we consume it will also be different. I think fashion has significant psychological importance. It can complement our unique being, impact how others read us, and helps to express our inner feelings to the outer world. Within my collections, I focus on the individual to exemplify how fashion should connect to personal expression instead of consumerism.
What was your focus for your NFT, Woken Paralysis?

Woken Paralysis is about the battle between light and dark. It is about the feeling of being stuck, frozen and captivated while the urge to fight burns inside. The notion of a numb stare into the void as the world accelerates. I do not always fight my demons because darkness can provide strength too. This garment is for those who feel the same.

What collaboration opportunities do you see with users?

I love to do custom garment designs for individuals because it allows the opportunity to tell a personal story with the creation and allows the garment to be an extension of someone's identity. In my opinion, when a garment connects to the person who wears it is when it has the most powerful impact. The possibility of hybrid and interactive digital clothing can give an extra dimension. I want to show that art, fashion, and the individual can merge.
“I do not always fight my demons because darkness can provide strength too. This garment is for those who feel the same.”
— Meggie Van Zwieten —
Are there elements of interactivity you are exploring to connect the wearer with the garment?

Since digital garments are transformative, it is easy to visualize stories with them. Digital clothing can react to certain emotions or physical features, or an outfit can change color or shape in response to a certain gesture, movement, or surroundings. A garment could change from black to orange every time you smile. These opportunities will only expand with time.

How can we combat the perception that digital fashion is impersonal?

Because digital fashion misses physical fashion's tangibility, people might feel a certain distance from it. Most people I know who work in digital fashion care about how we humans connect to each other and the world, which is clearly visible in most garment designs. It's also important to realize another human being is personally tailoring the garment to make sure you will look amazing. This is a very personal transaction, just with a digital interface in between. Also, digital garments connect to photos and memories. The digital file of you wearing the garment will surely have a longer lifespan than a fast-fashion T-shirt.

Meggie has created an exclusive NFT available to mint on the Special Items Marketplace from Tuesday, 25 October.
Images: Meggie Van Zwieten
Words: Sally Paton