Co.Design

3-D Printing Comes to Couture, With Insanely Detailed Dresses

The latest collection from Dutch designer Iris van Herpen exploits rapid prototyping to produce stunningly futuristic high fashion.

The future of fashion has arrived, and it comes straight out of the printer. Exhibit A: The new collection from Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, which throws rapid-prototyping onto the catwalk, with scaly minis and sculptural ruffles that could pass for something Marie Antoinette might've worn on the set of Blade Runner.

Van Herpen is a rising star in fashion for marrying high-tech production methods to the old art of couture. (One writer wondered recently whether she'd be the next Alexander McQueen, which is the fashion-world equivalent of nominating her for a Pulitzer Prize.)

For Escapism, her spring/ summer 2011 collection, she partnered with the 3-D printing service i.materialise to generate thousands of strips of plastic, each cut using a selective laser sintering machine. The strips were then arranged into clothing, according to designs van Herpen created digitally. None of these forms would've been possible — not the armor-like tulip skirt nor the ostentatious epaulets that put the French Republican Guard to shame — without rapid-prototyping technology. As she tells it: "All pieces are very difficult techniques that I cannot only do by hand.?

Couture that takes its cues from machines isn't new. We've seen everything from 3-D printed shoes to vacuum cleaners on the runway. Rarely, though, do you see work that's done so well, that doesn't just ape the old aesthetic but exploits technology to create entirely new forms — albeit forms that look really god damned uncomfortable. Guess that's one thing in fashion that'll never change.

[Images courtesy of i.materialise]

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