Helena Dong’s big break came via what’s surely the ultimate dream commission for anyone in the fashion world: a Vogue editorial – and for a September issue feature conceptualised by renowned makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench, no less.
For Dong, a New York-based designer and creative technologist who’s currently an art director at creative agency Buck, that 2020 project – American Vogue’s first AR-enhanced editorial – was the turning point that made her realise she could “actually make a career” using these nascent tools which fascinated her.
Prior to Vogue, she’d been dabbling with AR as part of her wider interest in “multidisciplinary practices that involve performance and different kinds of experimentation”. She started learning Spark AR software during a placement year working with fashion brand Dion Lee, which took her from her native Australia to New York. But just over six months in, the pandemic hit.
In a way, the Covid-forced career disruption helped Dong in the long run: despite the fact that the fashion world ultimately brought about her big break in AR, she also had a hunch that “commercial fashion was stifling, to a degree”, she says.