Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s eleven-piece collection entitled “Voltage”, including two 3D printed pieces, hit the runway this week in Paris. The high tech portion of van Herpen’s haute couture collection is the result of collaborations with Austrian architect Julia Koerner and MIT Media Lab professor Neri Oxman. Unlike traditional garments these ensembles were designed using CAD software (Computer-Aided Design) and then sent to a 3D printer, no needles or thread involved.
3D printing is a process used to make three dimensional solid objects. A 3D printer creates the desired physical object by adding layer upon layer of liquid, powder, or sheet material. More often than not, objects created using the 3D printing process are made of hard plastics; however, the clothing for van Herpen’s collection was printed using “an experimental new material” which allowed the creation of flexible, soft dresses.
The 3D pieces in the Voltage collection were printed by Materialise, a Belgium-based company specializing in additive manufacturing (another term for 3D printing) and Stratasys, a 3D printer manufacturer. Currently a lecturer at UCLA Los Angeles, architect Julia Koerner’s collaboration for the collection came in the form of a dress with a highly complex, parametrically generated, geometrical structure.
“New possibilities arise such as eliminating seams and cuts where they are usually placed in couture.” -Julia Koerner
Oxman, an artist, architect and designer collaborated on the second of the two 3D printed pieces, an elaborate skirt and cape. By using Stratasys’ unique Objet Connex multi-material 3D printing technology, Oxman was able to combine both hard and soft materials when printing the skirt and cape. She describes the results as a “second skin” acting as armour-in-motion. The inspiration for the collaboration, van Herpen says, came after seeing Oxman’s Imaginary Beings: Mythologies of the Not Yet, which also featured 3D printed objects.
“The incredible possibilities afforded by these new technologies allowed us to reinterpret the tradition of couture as “tech-couture” where delicate hand-made embroidery and needlework is replaced by code.” -Neri Oxman
While you may not see these particular outfits out on the town just yet, if Voltage is any indication of what’s to come, it may not be long before we’re all wearing 3D printed clothing — on special occasions at least.