Art Direction Students Balance the Real and Virtual World with New Lifestyle Platform

A fashion, art, music & lifestyle community

Following the successful final presentation of their innovative platform Ravevar, Polimoda talked to Fashion Art Direction graduates Gaia Cantatore, Xinyu Cao and Yael Veldheer about their start up that turns dreams into reality and merges the real with the virtual. 

Hello Gaia, Xinyu and Yael! Who are you, where are you from and what did you study at Polimoda?

Gaia: I’m Gaia, by name and by nature, I’m 23 years old and I’m from Bari, Italy. I studied Fashion Art Direction for four years at Polimoda, learning how to be creative and face difficulties within the work environment.

Xinyu: I’m Cao Xinyu. I'm from Shanghai. I studied Fashion Design for one year and a half before changing my major to Fashion Art Direction.

Yael: I'm Yael Veldheer, originally from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and I just finished the undergraduate Fashion Art Direction course at Polimoda.

Polimoda mentor Niccolò Sbaraglia was very impressed by your final presentation, saying Ravevar was "an extremely relevant project that has given students the possibility to wonder and deeply analyze future developments in the fashion field, exploring contemporary means of communication by researching about the impact of virtual realities." Coordinator Silvia Tolaro also added that you worked on "the necessary integration of virtual and augmented realities in our current life, focusing in particular​ on post-pandemic reflections on how they could merge with our physical reality, rather then becoming a sterile alternative." Can you tell us more about your project?

Gaia: Ravevar is a fashion, art, music & lifestyle platform that turns dreams into reality, both online through a website/app and offline thanks to the organization of events, exhibitions and parties using mixed realities — a merging of the real and virtual via immersive technology such as augmented reality and virtual reality.

The plan is to organize events each month with a new theme and in different cities around the world. The Ravevar team will cast new talents — a promising new generation of creative individuals — and create content (editorials, interviews and collaborations) based on their identity, later uploaded on our online platform where anyone can tune in from anywhere. The events will be special never-ending raves: the people not able to physically join can still participate by entering a virtual reality space online based on the real event, interacting with content and artists. Our space is a collective consultancy and non-judgmental community; it allows people to come to greater self-realization and you can just free yourself by joining our raves! 

Xinyu: I've always wished there was a platform that could offer an immersive experience both online and offline that involves music and art. Then, I could go to the physical event or I could also visit the art exhibition or music festival immersively online if I couldn't attend because of a location or schedule limitation. At the same time, I could meet more people who share the same interests and aesthetics with me there and hopefully have the opportunity to collaborate with them. But this kind of platform doesn’t exist yet, so we wanted to see if we could do something to make it come true.

Yael: We wanted to create something that didn't exist on the market yet, so we decided to work on the idea of “how to go from real to virtual and how to go from virtual back to reality.” Therefore, we launched

The platform is the offline event itself, re-created in 360 degrees by filming events with a VR camera. Due to the lockdown, we were unfortunately not able to organize our first offline event, so we created a complete digital experience to launch the platform. Visitors can connect and explore new talent and visuals by the many links the homepage connects you to.

"The virtual world is not the opposite of the real world."

What was the concept behind the project?

Yael: The concept behind the project was to create a virtual community because the content visible on the platform will be constructed with the help of our users and participants. As a lifestyle platform, we are constantly searching for creative individuals to collaborate with and are seeking more awareness. We offer experimental projects by bringing the imaginary to another level, with content in the form of editorials, interviews, videos and music tracks, but all based on the identity of the artists' work itself. Participants can become part of our project by collaborating with us on future content, making us highly interactive. Viewers can become part of the Ravevar community by joining our events and being featured on the website.

Xinyu: The virtual world is not the opposite of the real world. A good mix and balance of the real and the virtual can bring us to a higher stage of the world where all the limitations of dimension break. We wanted to create a world where people can travel between the real and the virtual world as they choose and where they can free themselves physically and mentally without worrying about judgment from others or society. People can find and share inspiration and creativity here.

Gaia: Everything started from the need to experience a new sense of reality — a false reality that acts as a convincing illusion — in the most authentic way, being able to go from real to virtual and vice versa. Ravevar’s concept is born from this need, where the real world meets the virtual one to produce new environments and visualizations, where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real-time. It came to life months before the pandemic and that’s exactly what I needed during the lockdown: to feel, to see, to listen, to discover, to be in contact but still stay safe thanks to the newly formed “reality.”

Gaia Cantatore during her final presentation

What was the hardest obstacle you had to face during the research process?

Gaia: I think one of the hardest things we still face to this day is reaching people that understand and appreciate mixed realities because of the lack of knowledge, education, accessibility and resources. The majority of people are aware of the potential of the VR immersive experience but still think it's just advanced technology for a niche. We want to change this belief. Luckily, the sudden change in communication pushed our research to a more concrete level.

Xinyu: There are no existing references or examples we could find or study. This is a new start up, everything we wanted to do and did were new adventures, no one could show us a successful experience to learn from. And it was hard for people to understand and accept the concept, the idea of the project and the use of advanced technology from the beginning, especially before Covid-19.

Yael: Yes we had some obstacles and the hardest barrier was probably figuring out how to build and create a virtual reality/360 degree website because the VR industry still lacks resources. It was almost impossible to find the right references to create what we had in mind because the majority of the people who are working in computer engineering never worked with virtual reality layouts before. However, we did luckily find all of the right resources to create the platform we wished for.

"I think one of the hardest things we still face to this day is reaching people that understand and appreciate mixed realities, because of a lack of knowledge, education, accessibility and resources."

What inspires you and how do you stay inspired? 

Gaia: Frida. Pain, inspiration, creativity, wisdom, awareness, love, nature and the meaning of life. The strength to love it, in a body so messy and alienated. Her world, her life, her words and her art keep me inspired and give me the stimulus to think about pain from another point of view, to react to it with joy, positivity and creativity. Pain and passion, each one essential for the other, are necessary to survive, grow up and understand the world around us.

Xinyu: Daily practice is essential. I take photos, make videos, draw and make music in my spare time. Music is something I can't live without, I listen to music almost 24 hours a day at home or work. Atonal music, like techno, experimental music and ambient music, can always help me adjust to the right mood and energy for what I’m doing at that moment. Last but not least, I follow the latest technology news.

Yael: Music is my biggest inspiration source. Every time I feel uninspired or stuck with a specific idea, music really helps me get into the flow of creativity. It always surprises me how much work I can get done just by turning on my playlist.

The Ravevar team demonstrating their online platform

Who is your fashion role model and why?

Gaia: Jacquemus is a status, and I love the Jacquemus-y mood Simon communicates. Honest, sincere, transparent, lovely, romantic, poetic, smiling and chic.

Xinyu: Raf Simons. I like his aesthetic and design a lot. He is the one who can perfectly incorporate all of his taste for contemporary art, underground music and street culture with minimalistic and high fashion.

Yael: My main fashion role model is Inez van Lamsweerde. Her wild photography skills featured in both the culture elite fashion as well as in mainstream projects is something that really impresses me. I admire the wonderful signature world she is able to create of each visual, which goes beyond photography. Her vision is extremely impressive and adaptable for a wide range of industry sectors.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Gaia: Working for the master, Mr. Louboutin, but still learning a lot, for sure. I would like to become a freelance art director within the shoe industry, known for my artistic language. It doesn’t matter how long it will take to reach my goal.

Xinyu: I've worked as a freelancer in my spare time for years. I do graphic design, photography and filmmaking. I plan to have my studio in Shanghai and Berlin. I hope I can build a good team to create excellent content in the future.

Yael: I see myself working in the visual communications and event sector by working for a luxury brand. However, I would definitely want to keep working on Ravevar as a side project and hopefully one day it will become my main job. First, I would like to build up more experience throughout the years!

"The day of the second-year final presentations is my favorite Polimoda memory. It was the day that we all realized we were exactly halfway through the Fashion Art Direction course and I remember being so proud of all the new skills we had already learned in only the second year. It was a wonderful day at Polimoda and it really felt like we reached a milestone."

Share your favorite Polimoda memory!

Gaia: Can’t decide which moment from the Leadership & Public Speaking course. It was taught by professor Reinout Bosman and was my favorite, but the most emotional one was definitely in January when we had to present the final speech — prepared and practiced for months — for the whole class in Aula Magna! Before this course, the Aula Magna was a terrible place for me, full of pressure and tension. After that, it became a familiar place to stand out and be heard. Each of us listened to everyone’s voices, opinions, reactions and stories in religious silence and it was amazing to experience everyone’s feelings, but it was an exam! Can you believe an exam is my favorite memory? Polimoda gave me a lot of satisfaction. 

Xinyu: My favorite Polimoda memory was meeting talented people here and making friends. It’s always a pleasure to work and hang out with creative and professional people.

Yael: The day of the second-year final presentations is my favorite Polimoda memory. It was the day that we all realized we were exactly halfway through the Fashion Art Direction course and I remember being so proud of all the new skills we had already learned in only the second year. It was a wonderful day at Polimoda and it really felt like we reached a milestone.

Silvia Tolaro and the Ravevar team at the end of their presentation

Congratulations to Gaia, Xinyu, Yael and all of our 2020 graduates for completing a challenging academic year with courage and grace.