FASHION FORWARD: to be or not to be 3D

Gone are the days where 3D meant your mum finally got you the flip book with the fancy glasses that made the pages move. Created in 1984 by Charles Hull, 3D printing has definitely been around the block, but when it comes to fashion influence, it’s just getting started. Thanks to 3D printing technology being reflected in the manufacturing or the designs themselves, the fashion industry has been introduced to cutting-edge productions since 2013. This includes, but definitely isn’t limited to Continuum Fashion’s 3D printed shoes and bikinis,  Dita Von Teese’s 3D dress by Francis Bitoni and Michael Schmidt and Lady Gaga’s custom 3D oriented eyewear. If you require more proof of validation, The Met Gala managed to capture the budding excitement for a hi-tech fashion future through this year’s theme, Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology. While 3D printing still continues to evolve and is explored, here is what we know so far:

Claire Danes lights up the Met Gala with fiber-optic dress. Photo: StarTraks / Instagram
Claire Danes lights up the Met Gala with fiber-optic dress. Photo: StarTraks / Instagram
Dita Von Teese in 3D print dress by Francis Bitoni and Michael Schmidt [Image: pursuitist.com]
Dita Von Teese in 3D print dress by Francis Bitoni and Michael Schmidt [Image: pursuitist.com]
HOW 3D PRINTING WORKS

Some things are better watched:

BENEFITS

It may not be completely mainstream at the moment, but here are just a few reasons some major fashions schools are adding it into their curriculums as well as established designers incorporating it into their design process. 3D printing is starting to be more eco-friendly from the process of creating the material to how it will interact with its environment later. Imagine swimming and slaying in your bikini that just so happens to help clean the oceans too! That’s exactly what engineering professor, Mihri Ozkan, attempted to do with his 3D printed eco-bikini known as the Sponge Suit. Then there’s the multipurpose clothing collection from Recycl3-D which represents responsible fashion as all the pieces in the spring collection are recyclable!

Mihri Ozkan sponge suit [Image: 3dprint.com]
Mihri Ozkan sponge suit [Image: 3dprint.com]
Having such a habitat conscious response from fashion will help cut down on the damage the fashion industry contributes to global climate change. According to 3dprint.com, China, the world’s largest textile manufacturer, produced three billion tons of air pollution, millions of tons of wasted fabric material and more than two and a half billion tons of waste water in 2010 alone to process more than 41 million tons of fibre. 3D printed clothing can not only reduce waste, pollution, labour costs and CO2 emissions, but it can also be used to create customized clothing specifically made for the wearer’s body. In addition, the computer assisted design (CAD) software in 3D printing technology could cut down lead times, cut production costs and reduce material waste by cutting out the cut-and stitch process and directly printing a ready-to-wear piece.

Manus x Machina Exhibit [Image: Courtesy of The Met]
Manus x Machina Exhibit [Image: Courtesy of The Met]
DISADVANTAGES

With every brilliant idea comes the potential threats and in this case, designers and brand owners are concerned that 3D printing will increase their exposure to counterfeiting once the technology fully develops. In particular, jewellery and eyewear that have a specific trademark and design can be easily copied and at a fraction of the price. Counterfeiters would be able to 3D scan an item and create a replica with stunning likeness. Susan Scafidi, Academic Director at Fashion Law Institute in New York, compared the situation to the kind of pirating the music industry is facing due to file sharing and illegal downloading made possible by the internet. Can you imagine a future where you can download your Louis Vuitton bag? Then there’s the concern that internal peer-to-peer file sharing will degrade the quality of the product.

[Image: Noa Raviv]
[Image: Noa Raviv]
INTERNATIONAL DESIGNERS WHO’VE GONE 3D

Trust creatives to find different ways to do one trend, even if that includes technology. There are three categories they’ll generally fall into:

  • The impractical but visually aesthetic creative

These designers will put the technology at the centre of their design, in order to translate their idea into reality. Be it practical clothing or not. One designer that has managed to master 3D print in a way that  is Iris Van Herpen. In Paris, on July 4th 2016, she presented her couture collection called “Seijaku”, which explores the study of cymatics; that is the visualization of sound waves as evolving geometric patterns.

Other designers using 3D printing to create disruptive yet creative clothing includes:

Behnaz Farahi’s Caress of the Gaze that can detect other people’s gaze and respond accordingly with life-like behaviour.

Behnaz Farahi’s “Caress of the Gaze [Image: courtesy of Behnaz Farahi]
Behnaz Farahi’s “Caress of the Gaze [Image: courtesy of Behnaz Farahi]
Anouk Wipprecht’s Spider Dress which responds to external stimuli with extending and retracting mechanical arms. Sensing the wearer’s breathe it will determine whether to assume the defensive posture or not.

Anouk Wipprecht’s Spider Dress [Image: Anouk Wipprecht]
Anouk Wipprecht’s Spider Dress [Image: Anouk Wipprecht]
See it in action below.

  • The practical 3D print clothing bunch

This is more along the lines of Karl Lagerfeld seamlessly blending tech into a Chanel product because he wants to stay true to the traditional haute-couture savoir-faire. It’s the case of keeping up with the ties but still managing to remain true to your brand style.

Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel Autum 2014 exibit at Manus x Machina [Image: The Met]
Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel Autum 2014 exibit at Manus x Machina [Image: The Met]
Other practical 3D campers include:

Knitwear designers’ Pringle of Scotland that created wearable 3D printed jumpers.

[Image: courtesy of Pringle of Scotland]
[Image: courtesy of Pringle of Scotland]
New Balance’s 3D print Sole

[Image: New Balance]
[Image: New Balance]
  • The new wave of creative, out with the old and in with the new

Danit Peleg leads the charge that believes we will one day be able to print our clothes in a short turnaround time. She’s looking to dematerialize clothes by discarding traditional fabric completely. She created her first 3D printed collection with home printers after teaching herself how to design and use the printers. The collection features wearable pieces from a mesh-effect little black dress to a bright red jacket emblazoned with the word “Liberté.

Visionaries that join Peleg are:

Bradley Rothenberg’s SS15 collaboration with Katie Gallagher reflects his exploration into creating fully 3D printed clothes.

[Image: courtesy of Bradley Rothenberg]
[Image: courtesy of Bradley Rothenberg]
Threeasfour unveiled a pair of 3D-printed dresses, named Harmonograph and Pangolin, during their Autumn Winter 2016 runway show during New York Fashion Week. They are based on biological forms and textures and are intended to demonstrate the “possibilities unfolding at the intersection of fashion, design and technology”. Due to the materials durability and flexibility, it will allow be suitable for other industries such as consumer electronics and the automotive industry.

[Image: courtesy of treeasfour/deezen.com]
[Image: courtesy of threeasfour/dezeen.com]
[Image: courtesy of treeasfour/deezen.com]
[Image: courtesy of threeasfour/dezeen.com]
AFRICAN DESIGNERS

We can’t wrap up this article without looking at how the continent has embraced 3D printing, which brought us to Modeclix. Dr Shaun Borstrock and Professor Mark Bloomfield are the brains behind the idea to create 3D clothes. They showcased their prototype collection at the Mercedes-Benz Bokeh South African International Fashion Film Festival this year.

[Image: Courtesy of Modeclix]
[Image: Courtesy of Modeclix]
Iris Van Herpen has been quoted saying, “everything imaginable is possible” and it’s evident that 3D printing for fashion is just the tip of the iceberg. Do you know any Kenyans who have delved into this level of fashion tech? Let us know in the comments below.

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