Augmented reality has taken the pandemic world by storm. Sarah Mayer is one of the designers spearheading the trend, bringing traditional costume design into the digital realm. In this exclusive interview, the Creative Director for Popul-AR not only divulges her tools and inspirations, but also her perspective on the future of mankind and technology.

You are traditionally educated in fashion & design and have experience in costume design, film sets and event management. What got you into fashion design?

I grew up next to a very small town in an even smaller village in the south of Germany. When I was 16, I heard it for the first time that there is a profession called “Fashion Designer”. I did not even find out about it by myself! A classmate at that time liked the images I drew during class (mostly manga-like girls with fantasy armor, wings and all that) and suggested that I should check out this fashion design school. I was instantly hooked and applied. I got in and spent the next 7 years (3 years in Germany, 4 years in Amsterdam) becoming a traditionally trained fashion designer.

What fascinated you about augmented reality technologies at the beginning compared to now?  

I think it is still the same fascination as it was at the beginning. I love that I can express myself in so many, really endless ways, and that my creations can also instantly be worn by others.


Are there still some limits to the digital realm that you would like to overcome personally?

Hmm, I think that personally I would like to just get better and better with my digital art. So right now, my only limits are my limited skills. I would love to learn more about animation, for example.

Could you describe your creative process for us?

It is always a bit different. Sometimes I have an idea and it involves a spaceship. Instead of making it from scratch, I go check if I can find a really cool spaceship 3D model to download and then I modify it to what I had imagined. Very often I start from scratch, right in Blender, or I make a quick sketch first (with a pen and paper). With collaborations for example, I exchange ideas first, but I prefer if those ideas are still very rough, just something to start off with. If I am working with a new head or face of some person, I like to look at their style and add my touch to it. The end result should just be a visual harmony between all the elements. 

Where do you find inspiration?

One of the biggest inspirations for me are sci-fi movies. Definitely one that will always inspire me are the Alien movies and generally H.R Giger. I still think his Aliens are one of the coolest fantasy creatures ever created! The Terminator is pretty awesome, too (both the visuals and story). When I model a new creature, I do think a lot about existing species on this planet. I mean they just already look sci-fi to me, I don’t even need to be super creative haha, they already have done the job!

The sculptures I make around people’s heads are often inspired by those people. Somehow, every head needs a different model, the same 3D model rarely fits to another face. So I guess the face in itself is an inspiration. Of course, the artists listed below also inspire me greatly!

How close are these two worlds in your life: natural reality and digital reality?

I think my work, especially as an AR artist, always needs to take natural reality into consideration. However, even though I love XR, nothing comes close to natural reality, at least at this point in time. I am talking about the smell of the sea or fresh cut grass, simple things where digital reality is just a want-to-be copy. I think this is why we still appreciate the old Star Wars movies so much with their Jabba Hutt doll and the amazing, physical set props. 

As we live online more and more, do you find it challenging to stay focused on your work? 

Ah, for me, focus is not related to working online more. Staying focused is more like a habit that has to be trained, at least for me. It is also a thing of repetition in daily life (whatever your days look like). So right now, I finish work at 6pm and out of habit, I sit on the couch with my iPad and sculpt a bit, maybe for just 30 minutes or an hour. 


Can you introduce the project Popul-AR that you are part of it? 

Popul-AR is the brainchild of my boss and founder of Popul-AR @lazarnld. Early on, he saw the potential of AR. The pandemic sort of really kicked it off (I think it had a big part in it). We make custom AR filters for our clients. We do have quite some fashion brands as our customers, which is great for me, personally, but it is also good to see that fashion tries to move along with this still new technology and does not get stuck in its past-days of glory.

The physical and digital worlds will collide soon, and we have to redefine the meaning of reality. How do you envision the future of this planet, fashion-, environment- or humanity-wise?

Big question. I guess I will refer back to my sci-fi references. Movies like Demolition Man from 1993 introduced electronically induced orgasms, and physical intimacy has even become socially unacceptable and gross. In Blade Runner 2049 you can buy a holo-girlfriend. I think those things are quite realistic when it comes to future social behaviours. 

When it comes to the question of the Planet, the only thing that counts is money. If those XR technologies turn out to be sustainable solutions (for fashion and other industries) while also making money, they will have a big, positive impact on this planet. 

In the end, can you recommend some artists or designers that you admire to SWARM MAG readers?

With pleasure. Here are some, but of course, the list is endless.

@ines.alpha https://www.instagram.com/ines.alpha/  3D ARTIST AND AR ARTIST

@11v151131_m06 https://www.instagram.com/11v151131_m06/  3D ARTIST AND MUSICIAN

@harriet.blend   https://www.instagram.com/harriet.blend/  3D ARTIST

@re-plicah https://www.instagram.com/re_plicah/ POST HUMAN MUSE AND MUSICIAN

@maximequa https://www.instagram.com/maximequa/  SOUND DESIGNER

@namglam https://www.instagram.com/namglam/ MAKEUP ARTIST AND MUSE

@windowsen https://www.instagram.com/windowsen/ FASHION DESIGNER

@Waltervanbeirendonckoffical https://www.instagram.com/waltervanbeirendonckofficial/ FASHION DESIGNER

@mayziwang https://www.instagram.com/mayziwang/ HAIR ARTIST 

@waterbod https://www.instagram.com/waterbod/ WILDLIFE ARTIST

BIO/ Sarah Mayer is a digital artist and creative director in Popul-AR. She has been traditionally trained in fashion & design and has experience in costume design, film sets and event management. She now uses those skills to contribute in the development of exciting XR projects for Popul-AR and for her personal brand. While still in school, she was fortunate enough to intern at Walter Van Beirendonck, a Belgian Designer, who continues to be an inspiring and motivating figure to Sarah.

WEB https://sarahmayer.co/

IG https://www.instagram.com/sarahmayer.co/


Artworks / Sarah Mayer

Interview / Kateřina Hynková

Proofreading / Tomáš Kovařík

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