Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 23, 2013

Paris Fashion Week Debuts Tech-Couture, 3D Printed Garments

Believe it or not, there is a technological aspect to the fashion industry, and this year Paris Fashion Week will be all the proof you need.

Stratasys Ltd. has partnered with Belgian-based manufacturing software company Materialise to create 3D-printed, wearable, collaborative designs to be showcased during Paris Fashion Week 2013.

Stratasys Ltd. is no Marc Jacobs or Valentino, but the leading manufacturer of 3D printers and production systems is a veritable pioneer when it comes to 3D technologies. Materialise, on the other hand, deals in Additive Manufacturing software and solutions.

Renowned Dutch designer Iris van Herpen will debut the 3D technological outfits at her Haute Couture show entitled ‘VOLTAGE.’ Though the show will showcase 11 separate pieces, only two of them will be 3D printed ensembles--one a skirt with a cape, the other an intricate dress. 

Image via photos.prnewswire.com

The cape and skirt were constructed using Stratasys’ unique Objet Connex multi-material 3D printing technology, while the dress was designed with Materialise’s Mammoth Stereolithography machines and a process called laser sintering, which creates a lace-like texture with precise lasers.

Van Herpen expressed her interest in the project, saying, “I find the process of 3D printing fascinating because I believe it will only be a matter of time before we see the clothing we wear today produced with this technology, and it’s because it’s such a different way of manufacturing, adding layer-by-layer, it will be a great source of inspiration for new ideas.”

Can’t picture it? The idea is certainly something straight from science fiction, but there is no fiction about it: the outfits are wearable, and could change the future of the fashion industry entirely.

Neri Oxman, a designer and professor from MIT’s Media Lab who was involved in the project, describes what the visual appearance of the pieces will be, for those who can’t make it to Paris Fashion Week to see them in person.

“The ability to vary softness and elasticity inspired us to design a ‘second skin’ for the body acting as armor-in-motion; in this way we were able to design not only the garment’s form but also its motion. 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,” Oxman explained.

Austrian architect Julia Koerner also worked on the project, and described the exciting technological implications of the tech-infused fashions.

“Exploiting computational boundaries in combination with emergent technology selective laser sintering, of a new flexible material, lead to enticing and enigmatic effects within fashion design. New possibilities arise such as eliminating seams and cuts where they are usually placed in couture,” said Koerner.

The language being used to describe Stratasys and Materialise’s creations is somewhat heady, but every person involved in the project clearly feels that it goes way beyond just clothing.

Oxman, for instance, described the products as, “myths that one can wear,” adding that her team was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings, which include “human augmentations inspired by nature; but not all are wearable.”

For Van Herpen’s VOLTAGE line, Oxman and her team had to instead “design algorithms that could map physical movement and material behavior to geometrical form and morphological variation in a seamless and continuous wearable surface.”

While the scientific jargon may not seem to mesh with the dreamy descriptions of Parisian couture, Stratasys and Materialise have somehow managed to combine the two worlds successfully with their 3D printed garments.

One thing the two industries have in common is the constant push to innovate and create.

“My work very much comes from abstract ideas and using new techniques, not the re-invention of old ideas,” Van Herpen noted.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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