42 j THE DYNAMIC ISSUE The future of FASHION?
TECHNOLOGY 3D PRINTING is being heralded by some as a paradigm shift in technology with the fashion industry reputedly feeling its impact more keenly than others. But has its transformative effect been overstated? Ellie Pithers investigates Wave if you like: a 3D-printed dress by Noa Raviv (left) and Medusa-style shoes (below) by Iris van Herpen for the United Nude brand surely couldn’t have been made any other way Pity the humble wardrobe, soon to be banished from bedrooms across the land. Haven’t you heard? 3D printing is replacing it. In the halcyon future, instead of doing battle with hangers and mothballs in a quest to recover an elusive shirt or pair of shoes, getting dressed will be as simple as that curiously dated cliché: pressing a button. Just purchase and download a design, customise it according to your body measurements, and print off a garment exactly tailored to your size and taste. Radical as it sounds, the technology behind this kind of rapid production is nothing new. Large corporations have been 3D printing prototypes for years in a process also known as ‘additive manufacturing’, where successive layers of material are built up to create a shape (unlike machining, which is a subtractive process). But fashion designers – by and large – have been relatively slow on the uptake. The main exception is Iris van Herpen, a 30-yearold Dutch couture designer who has been working with 3D printing techniques since 2009 and has become something of a techno poster girl in the process. “I found a Londonbased architect called Daniel Widrig who was good at 3D programming and we started experimenting,” van Herpen explains in soft, clipped tones over the telephone from her studio in Amsterdam. “At the beginning it was just a side project but I found it gave me so much freedom in threedimensionality and complexity that I started developing a range of dresses for my collection. Now, I combine 3D printed pieces with handwork. I think of it as just another useful tool.” Her inaugural range of sculptural pieces was launched in 2010 and was the first catwalk collection ever to feature 3D printing. Her latest, the wonderfully titled Magnetic Motion, features a 3D printed plastic resin dress developed in collaboration with the architect Niccolo THE DYNAMIC ISSUE j 43