Talking tech, impact, and heritage, co-founder Marjorie Hernandez takes us to the surreal world of The Dematerialised.
“I’m a geek at heart,” says Marjorie Hernandez, a declaration more than a confession. The entrepreneur utters this at 11 AM her local time, bare-faced and clad in a psychedelic Marine Serre ensemble, salamanders printed all over her turtleneck and skirt.
She’s in Berlin, from where she usually manages her digital companies, LUKSO and The Dematerialised. Her keen interest in fashion is unmistakable at first glance, but once we speak, her expertise in architecture, strategy, innovation, and design emerges. She can’t stop talking about technology.
This attraction eventually manifested in the form of two companies she co-founded, each acting as a complement to the other. LUKSO, which she founded with her husband Fabian Vogelsteller, is a next generation EVM blockchain. It’s a back-end system; infrastructure that’s beautiful, but designed to be invisible.
On the other hand, The Dematerialised is more user-centric, as a result of Marjorie wanting to be a more active participant in co-creating digital culture. Identifying as a “digital department store,” The Dematerialised aims to make digital fashion accessible, without needing to understand the intricacies of the metaverse.
Match Made in Paris
Marjorie has thought about digital fashion for years, but often felt that the idea was misconstrued. She recalls reading an article supposedly on digital fashion, but was disappointed when the journalist ended up discussing e-commerce.
And so the prospect of a digital fashion company remained tucked at the back of her mind, until one serendipitous visit to Paris in September of 2019. At a sustainability conference, she met Karinna Grant, a fashion educator and strategist, with whom she bonded over a shared curiosity and enthusiasm for fashion’s dematerialization. They kept in touch through texts where they exchanged ideas, then met physically again in London in February of 2020, where they shook hands to the creation of The Dematerialised.
At the beginning, it was just Marjorie and Karinna, their organic chemistry propelling the company forward. Though they didn’t work together prior nor start off as close friends (like many business partners), the partnership felt natural. Fondly speaking, Marjorie muses, “With Karinna, I have, potentially, one of the best relationships in my life, in many ways.”
When asked to describe the company, Marjorie offers that it’s a way to fulfill things that don’t exist in reality. She gestures to the printed top she’s wearing, saying that the pattern wouldn’t exist if not for the work of humans.
That’s exactly what the metaverse is, but to an exponential degree—it’s a complete fantasy. “[Digital fashion is] not limited by the laws of physics. Designers can fully and completely lift their creativity to a hundred percent,” she says. Ideas are actualized.
Another facet of digital fashion’s appeal is that it can be experienced by all kinds of individuals across countless places. Coincidentally, this rings true to the company’s own origin story. Due to Covid lockdowns, The Dematerialised was built by a decentralized team, with nobody being in the same room.
The platform officially launched in March 2020, and two years later, they are made up of 14 core members, from marketers, developers, and creative producers, to a network of freelancers, primarily 3D artists. They have collaborated with around 29 creators, forming partnerships with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Rebecca Minkoff, and Vogue Talents.
Even with the influx of opportunities ahead of them, Marjorie believes that curation and tastemaking are vital. For brands and artists to land on the website, multiple meetings and reviews are conducted by the team members to ensure that visions and values align. Whether bringing in a 3D garment or a traditional-to-digital design, the team prioritizes a brand’s ethos. The collaboration needs to be true to both parties; it needs to be one that is not a gimmick, that is not pretending to be something it is not.
Attentive process aside, the team strives to remain as inclusive as possible to designers and creatives who want to experience digital fashion. “We do want to make sure that we are representing everyone who wants to be part of the movement,” shares Marjorie. “They should have the opportunity to be displayed.”
Democracy of Heritage
What may make digital fashion challenging to take in is its supposed disconnectedness to craft. Weaving, for instance, is a part of many Philippine cultures, with techniques having been passed down for decades. And this can only be practiced and best appreciated through touch, something that cannot be replicated online. In that way, digital fashion and heritage seem
But Marjorie begs to disagree. Digital craftsmanship is a very real thing, she asserts, and is equally complex and detailed as weaving, among other things. In fact, she continues, given all of these digital tools, we are now able to more easily and efficiently keep alive any type of heritage.
Her perspective can be regarded as a democratic approach to craft, which broadens its scope beyond long-held legacies of traditional methods. To fashion a garment on a computer requires the touch of hands, too.
“I think the reason why I love building companies,” Marjorie shares, “is because you can take something that used to be scarce and you can make it abundant.”
That’s exactly what she and Karinna did with The Dematerialised. They took an artform so respected for its precision and beauty, and made it something that anyone could create, share, and own. They’ve helped usher in a new dawn of creativity, where the limit does not exist.
This story originally appeared in Vogue Philippines’ December – January 2023 Issue. Subscribe here.