Scroll @ spicy.objInstagram, you’d be forgiven for confusing what’s real and what isn’t. A simple mirror selfie is followed by an eerily realistic image of herself sitting between two digitally generated clones, then a posed photo where she wears otherworldly makeup and some of the craziest digital sneakers on the internet. It’s fascinating and slightly confusing at the same time.
The page is edited by Nathalie Nguyen, a multidisciplinary artist known for her reality-distorting visuals and 3D virtual characters who play with the limits of the physical world. Her work has caught the attention of the fashion industry, with clients such as Balenciaga, COACH, Bvlgari appealing to her for her reality-defying designs.
What will also strike you as you browse her feed is her love of color in both virtual and real worlds, and her latest project with ON for the latest ROGER Clubhouse collection brings that to the fore.
Released today, the new Clubhouse version introduces color to the silhouette for the first time, breaking with the monochrome look typical of tennis-inspired shoes. Taking advantage of the Clubhouse’s multi-piece upper, ON applied bold ’90s-inspired colors in four different variations, clashing with hot pink, orange and yellow, with more subdued greens and blues.
To mark its launch, we asked Nguyen to bring the sneakers to life through animation, which she did – literally – by creating two characters that capture the playful spirit of the sneaker.
When did you first get interested in design?
I was interested in design by illustration. I started drawing at a very young age – three or four – and I never really stopped. Once I decided to pursue it in college, I realized that all mediums follow or break the rules of design. Design is just a vessel for an idea and I love visual storytelling.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
My aesthetic is mostly what I’m doing at this time. It is constantly changing, but I am greatly influenced by the characters in cartoons and video games.
What inspires you at the moment?
Right now, I’m inspired by 2D animator Shinya Ohira. I studied his work a lot while working on this animation. He is an extremely meticulous 2D key animator. I am immensely inspired by his dedication to this profession and his discipline during long working hours.
Why did you switch from 2D design to 3D design?
Technically, I never made the transition completely, I still work in both mediums. I first studied 3D animation at university as a compromise with my father. He really wanted me to study in the field of computer science – engineering, programming, etc. – but I liked art and design. We met in the middle and he approved of the 3D art. I actually didn’t graduate in 3D because I hated the program so much that I opted for visual development, which is basically concept art for animation, games, and film, and I graduated in San Francisco. After struggling for a few years as a freelance illustrator, I decided to move to New York to seize more opportunities. I fell into a tech startup job where I said I could do 3D and had to learn, literally, on the job.
Your work often mixes the real and the virtual. How do you see this crossover developing in the future?
I think the crossover has already taken root in the fibers of our society, but specifically I think the advancements in AR would allow people to experience virtual worlds in the real world. I am also very optimistic that I will experience a “full dive” VR simulation in this lifetime!
What are the first steps you take when creating a new visual?
I draw everything – even a chicken scraper helps. I also like to start in the morning when my brain is clear of all stress from the night before. I find my best work comes early these days!
What role does color play in your work?
Color is everything! Color can convey moods, create silhouettes, even direct movements! I am a very colorful person both online and offline so it shows in my work!
What inspires the colors you choose?
I am fortunate to live in New York where there is an abundance of color and design stories all around me, so I will often be consciously or subconsciously influenced by the colors I see people wear in their outfits put together. .
What aspects of the sneaker have inspired you?
The colors marked me the most. I think it helps to highlight the separate parts of the rod. I also love the cloud foam soles!
How did you create the ON characters?
I wanted a game that looked like two rival friends in a way. I believe that good compatible friendships are those where both parties respect each other and aspire to question each other. I don’t think the competition is necessarily bad because every time I see a friend or peer doing a really good project it makes me really excited to shoot for the moon too! The colors were taken from the ON Clubhouse sneaker and I wanted the characters to feel like anthropomorphic versions of their respective shoe colourways. The beauty of animation is that the characters and features are often personified and exaggerated to instantly make the viewer feel like they understand who they are without verbally explaining it. Hope people see the characters as the shoes themselves!
The ROGER Clubhouse retails for € 159.95 / $ 149.99 and is now available at ON.com.