Chatting career moves and Chinese heritage with Stephy Fung
Take a look at the incredible work of Stephy Fung and hear about her creative process.
Interview by Jade Ang Jackman
Ethereal yet graceful, a disembodied cheongsam glides towards the screen… But rather than meeting the ghost of my great-grandmother, I am met by one of Stephy Fung's distinctive renders. Her clientele alone, such as Vogue Singapore and the Face, would make Fung a standout voice within the digital sphere. But, it is her neon-tinted celebrations of Chinese culture that highlight her innovative scope.
RH: Hey! Thanks for making time to chat with us today. Could you introduce yourself and describe your practice?
SF: I'm Stephanie Fung. I'm a 3D generalist or a 3D motion designer. I predominantly work with programs like Cinema 4d, Adobe, After Effects Photoshop, Illustrator.Of late, I've started experimenting with digital fashion, and a current theme in my work is a celebration of Chinese culture, which I'm quite passionate about. While I graduated LCC as a graphic designer, I slowly transitioned into a motion designer, learned 3D, and watched many YouTube tutorials!
RH: I always find it so crazy how much people learn from YouTube. What tips do you have for people who might want to learn 3D motion design but don't know where to start?
SF: I get this question all the time from people who want to learn 3D, but they don't know where to start. I always recommend YouTube as a resource; there is a lot more on there now as opposed to four years ago when I started out! There used to be a handful of people but, now, there are 100s! Once you've begun, don't take too long to show other people. Don't get stuck making something alone! So, I recommend joining online communities with people who share the same learning mindset, understand the technical terms, and have people more senior than you! They're going to be the ones that can guide you through it! Most likely motivated through a pandemic-induced desire to socialize, I set up my own community called 3D wizards. Here, I collate resources and information so people can learn while meeting like-minded people.
RH: What skills should people bear in mind when making the transition from 2D to 3D?
SF: It is a whole different mindset; it took me a year to get my head around 3D. There are so many elements; lighting, texturing, animating, rendering, modelling! So, I would recommend looking at real-world settings. If you are interested in photography, check that out because it is a perfect reference for examining how light works. For example, with scale, you wouldn't have a 6 feet tall car and a human just 2 feet tall next to it, so exploring the world around you is really helpful.KARLIE KLOSS X ADIDAS - Image credit: Stephy Fung
RH: Let's chat a bit about your career trajectory… You've had a pretty impressive journey already since graduating. Can you talk us through getting your first freelance gigs and your job with Selfridges?
SF: Two crucial factors that helped me get where I am today would be internships and connections made through networking or posting work online. At university, I had an internship year, which meant I could get experience before I graduated. That made a huge, huge difference between those who didn't have any experience and just graduated; they found it really hard to find jobs in the industry because they had no connections. In that year, I landed three internships in different areas. When I did the one at an animation and VFX studio, I knew that was for me. It also helped me see the jobs that were available in the industry. Before I graduated, I had begun to freelance on the side. I would say for anybody, if you don't get the chance to intern, you can do your own projects in your free time at university. On my Instagram, you can see I do a lot of personal projects. I don't really view it as work; I view it as a mode of expression or a creative outlet. But, it is where I get most of my freelance gigs. People aren't going to hire you for things you haven't done or work they cannot see! So, currently, I'm striving to expand and play with what I create.
With Selfridges, I had an alumnus who actually recommended me after doing a pitch as a university project. So, I can't stress how important it is to create connections within the industry because it'll help people find out about your work and you. Be productive, show your passion and share your portfolio! There are so many places to do that online now.
Image credit: Stephy Fung
RH: Touching on your personal projects, you mentioned that this year it became important to you to celebrate your Chinese heritage through your practice…
SF: I got really interested in looking at Chinese graphics. But being brought up here, I felt like I didn't really know much about my Chinese culture. Through my practice, I can simultaneously learn more about the culture while sharing it with others. It is like a learning experience! When I started making digital fashion, I didn't see many other people of colour and felt like I was in the minority alongside being a woman. On YouTube, there were a lot of older white men. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that, but it inspired me to explore my Chinese heritage within the design sphere, so I could be the person I wish I could've looked up to. While it is a stereotype, it is not very desirable within Asian culture to be an artist. The career path conventional route is often thought of as studying to be a doctor, accountant, or lawyer. This only compounds my passion because I want other people of Asian descent to see that we are doing this and we're making money, and it is a viable career route!
Image credit: Stephy Fung
RH: Not only are your designs stunning, it feels like 3D modelling could be a really sustainable way to market clothes. Do you have any thoughts on that?
SF: Originally, the inspiration for my digital pieces came from when I was studying at university. I thought about combining my graphic design skills to make a fashion brand with a very distinct Chinese influence. But it just never happened. In lockdown last year, that idea came up again, but I figured I should make it digital... You don't need to make it physically, and the great thing about digital is that you can make ANYTHING you want. I love how I just need my computer and my programs; I don't need a manufacturer and create waste with trial and error testing. There are already so many clothes in the world! With Augmented and Virtual Reality, I think the digital fashion world is set to expand in the future. Some companies are already experimenting with VR outfits or AR outfits, or in-game outfits!
Image credit: Stephy Fung
RH: What should we look out for from you next?
SF: I’ve got a Crypto Art drop next Thursday with Known Origin that you should check out! I will be releasing a one of a kind art piece. Then, people who are crypto art collectors can collect it with their cryptocurrency.
RH: Who else in the digital sphere should we be checking out?
There are two people who I really look up to for my work. The first is Alexa Sirbu; she was one of the female 3D artists I found and whose work blew me away. Her technical skills are out of this world; I aspire to be of that level because whatever they create is so beautiful. The second person is actually one of my friends called Catty Tay. She founded the group Digi-Gxl which is another community of women, intersex, trans and non-binary people specialising in 3D/animation. She also does a lot of kick-ass digital fashion initiatives and even founded the Institute of Digital Fashion. I actually started experimenting with digital fashion because of a project that I worked on with her!