AbstractThis paper is concerned with a novel embedded strong discontinuity approach suitable for the analysis of material failure at finite strains. Focus is on localized plastic deformation particularly relevant for slip bands. In contrast to already existing models, the proposed implementation allows to consider several interacting discontinuities in each finite element. Based on a proper re-formulation of the kinematics, an efficient parameterization of the deformation gradient is derived. It permits to compute the strains explicitly that improves the performance significantly. However, the most important novel contribution of the present paper is the advocated variational constitutive update. Within this framework, every aspect is naturally driven by energy minimization, i.e. all unknown variables are jointly computed by minimizing the stress power. The proposed update relies strongly on an extended principle of maximum dissipation. This framework provides enough flexibility for different failure types and for a broad class of non-associative evolution equations. By discretizing the aforementioned continuous variational principle, an efficient numerical implementation is obtained. It shows, in addition to its physical and mathematical elegance, several practical advantages. For instance, the physical minimization principle itself specifies automatically and naturally the set of active strong discontinuities.