On the opening night of New York Fashion Week, far away from the hordes of models in platforms and 90s era chokers, and designers showing collections inspired by the past, a small group of makers were looking toward the future.
At an intimate gathering, students from the Computational Fashion Master Class—from the art and technology incubator EYEBEAM and Shapeways, the affordable 3D-printing service—sought to take 3D-printed fashion to a new level of wearability and usability.
From a collection of accessories inspired by the microstructure of butterfly eggs, to a 3D-printed vest rigged with a hydration system meant for future survival, the garments constructed by the 15 designers, engineers, and media artists of the class show how quickly the technology behind 3D-printed fashion is evolving.
“The class is all about giving fashion designers and engineers access to both the materials and each other, to show how applicable this field really is,” says Lauren Slowik, a designer at Shapeways and one of the teachers of the Master Class. Five of the designs at the showcase are from this year's class, on display next to some designs of last year, making it quickly to see how far this technology evolves.
Take Amy Cheung, Chester Dols, and Laura Nova’s Survival Vest which utilizes a variety of printing methods and materials, combining a Camelbak-type drinking pack with an intricate interlocking 3D-printed movable chainmail made with a computer algorithm that only takes minutes to print out the gaps in between links. “Projects like this are going to push manufactures, machines, and materials to actually start to make things that people want," says Slowik. "Especially in fashion, the quality and the scale is going to get to the point where it will be hard to discern traditionally woven or knitted cloth from 3D-printed materials.”
With more of these printing programs becoming publicly accessible, the future of 3D printing our own garments is not far off. “A big part of fashion,” says Slowik, “is that people are expecting customization and a personal service, and there is nothing more personal than a personal fit. And even more, you can take this material, grind it up, and actually make something new. You could actually stay up to trend, and recycle your clothes!”
The students of the EYEBEAM Master Class have thought far beyond the generic uses of 3D-printed fabric, and have created garments that keep material at the forefront of the design. 3dTrio’s Dynamism of A Hand Weaving, a couture style dress that takes traditional weaving techniques and manipulates them through software, creates a structure that could never exist through regular draping, while Laura Forlano, Minna Kao, and Amy Sperber’s code to wear revamped traditional military wear into a deconstructed men’s dress shirt.
It’s only a matter of time before high-end designers start using 3D-printed garments beyond just the novelty, but as wearable, reusable and fashionable objects. Slowik is hopeful for the near future of the field: “When you give people the ability to make whatever they want,” she says, “they really do!”
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