Fashion designers using 3D printing, and pushing the boundaries of art and science

3D printing has entered many facets of craftsmanship, and fashion designers are adopting the technology to push the boundaries of design. Admittedly, it takes different skill sets to model 3D objects; therefore, artists with aptitudes for math-heavy projects have a penchant for this rising technology. On the other hand, some designers are using 3D printing as a means to reach a wider audience, using its flexibility to customize products to individual's taste.

Michael Schmidt


Michael Schmidt, the celebrity wardrobe designer and sculptor, collaborated with architect Francis Bitonti to create a fully articulated nylon dress modeled by burlesque performer and model Dita Von Teese. The project was custom made onto Von Teese’s body and printed in 17 pieces, with 3,000 articulated joints so that the floor-length gown would allowed her to move and (sort of) walk. The dress was dyed black, lacquered and bedazzled with 13,000 Swarovski crystals, and debuted at the NYC Ace Hotel in 2013.

This project was the highlight in the 3D-for-fashion at the time. Though 5 years ago, this form of fashion design is still nascent, but growing rapidly. It’s hard to estimate whether the technology made it quicker or less expensive to produce the grown, as at the time, it took hundreds of hours to print and $100,000 to finish it. Let's remember it as a great example of a creative ideal, an experiment in the realm of high fashion.

Laura Thapthimkuna aka Laura Taka Taka


Laura Taka Taka designs were first in fabric, which she felt limited by, but when she discovered 3D printing, it opened doors she could have never imagined in the past. Much of her work is inspired by medicine and physics, like a sculptural neck cuff that is built off the concept of an endotracheal intubation. "Inspired by endotracheal intubation and the fusing of biological material and synthetic. I am intrigued by medical procedures that alter the human form and wanted to manifest that intrigue into a sculptural neck piece." Says Thapthimkuna.

While watching a documentary on the universe, Thapthimkuna started a fascination for artistic renderings of black holes, specifically the interpretation of things twisting in and out of dimensions. She then began experimenting with entire 3D garments, and created the vortex dress modelled in 3D Studio Max. She later launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of a full size version.

Anouk Wipprecht


Anouk Wipprecht takes elements across disciplines from design and engineering to all things scientific, and creates interactive garments. Wipprecht uses 3D printed components combined with microcontrollers to create dresses with the capabilities to sense emotions leading to functional behaviors. The Spider Dress has articulated legs that spread out to protect the wearer’s personal space when sensors spot a certain level of stress and danger. The Smoke Dress emits smoke that surrounds the body, and becomes a connective element between the wearer, the dress, and the bystander. “We use fashion as a display or an interface into our world. What I like to see is that these interfaces speak for themselves, and make something irregular or uncontrolled.” Wipprecht actually made 8 different forms of the Smoke Dress for a display at the auto show in Frankfurt, Germany.

In another application, Wipprecht created a sensor in the shape of a unicorn horn to help researchers of ADHD in children. The horn is equipped with EEG sensors (an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain), and makes the testing experience more comfortable and playful, while tracking changes in brain waves and focus levels. When it detects an increased level of focus, it triggers embedded cameras that begin to capture what is holding the wearer’s attention. Wipprecht hopes to expand Project Unicorn to help people with ADHD as well as those on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) to acquire an unprecedented depth of knowledge.
Since they “often have problems reading other humans, which gives them stress,” with additional sensors and feedback components, “this system would be able to monitor, compute and question a person’s communication with others. It will act as a learning system or agent for the wearer.”

Seth Aaron


Seth Aaron, the two-time Project Runway winner debuted a runway collection of 3D printed shoes created in collaboration with sustainable footwear label Feetz. Seth Aaron and Feetz are committed to making a product with a low carbon footprint and recycled materials that don’t require any water to produce. They are also committed to the "Made in USA" movement. Another big perk, the collection offers custom fit and custom color schemes at no extra cost. While many of the 3D printed fashion projects, we’ve mentioned, are pretty much in the realm of fine art: one-of-a-kind, cost-prohibitive, or impossible to wear as everyday apparel, Aaron's footwear line is accessible. The kicks are on sale for only $200!

As you can see, 3D printing has opened many avenues in fashion. Once 3D printers are more ubiquitous as a household device, we might all be emitting plumes of smoke when people bump into us on the street ! Either way, this technology is encompassing the paradox of high unattainability and utilitarian armor.

Photo Credit: cover via Laura Taka Taka, and subsequent photos via their respective designer

Fashion, TechIvory KingComment