Wednesday, February 5, 2014

3D Printing hits the fashion industry

3D printing has become the latest craze. It is the manufacturing process through which any three-dimensional object can be created using a digital model and involves the consecutive layering of material in different patterns to create the object. Although 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, it was only around 2010, and even more recently, that it became more commercially available and viable to use in different industries. 3D printers can now even be bought online, which are industrial robots able to follow computer-given commands.

It was in March last year that burlesque dancer and model, Dita Von Teese, had created a stir when she unveiled the world's first fully articulated 3D-printed dress. The gown, dramatic and revealing just as Dita loves it, was designed by Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti and revealed at the Ace Hotel in New York. The dress was said to be based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers and was assembled from 17 pieces, dyed black, lacquered and adorned with over 13 000 Swarovski crystals.

You might be surprised that 3D printing was also used to create some of the items worn at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in November last year. Who would’ve thought! Victoria’s Secret, Swarovski, and 3D printing manufacturer Shapeways – who had also worked on Dita’s dress – had collaborated to give the Victoria’s Secret models 3D printed angel’s wings.

The wings were actually designed by an architect and not a designer, Bradley Rothenberg, who first 3D-scanned Victoria’s Secret angel Lindsay Ellingson to ensure they will accurately conform to her shape. Shapeways then 3D-printed the filigreed snowflake wings, which were finally encrusted with the Swarovski crystals that give Victoria’s Secret their trademark bling.

A pair of black wings was also created by the team, which were worn by fashion’s new “it” girl, Cara Delevingne. These wings took a lot less time and effort to make than the snowflake ones as they weren’t as intricate and dramatic. But they were still as beautiful, giving Cara an edgy look as the wings fanned out in a ribbon-like movement as she walked down the ramp.

These results of 3D printing have proved to be beautiful and unique and the sophistication of the creations did not give away that the items were not handcrafted. This definitely sets a standard of the possibility of many industries combining to create distinctive and different products. It also changes people’s perspectives on the fashion industry; that something as technologically advanced as 3D printing can be incorporated and used to, perhaps one day soon, create wearable and fashion-forward wear.

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