Dita Von Teese did it. Lady Gaga just did it. The Victoria's Secret Angels are in on it. 3D printed fashion is now the “hot thing” for celebrities to be seen in. Maybe it’s because of the novelty value, or perhaps it’s the the unique aspect; no one wants to be wearing the same thing as anyone else and this pretty much guarantees you’re one of a kind.
However, the whole point of designer fashion - we mean high end couture that we can’t afford - is that it ALREADY offers one of a kind clothing that’s celeb worthy. So why the move toward tech?
Not surprisingly, Lady Gaga is the latest celeb lining up to coat their bodies in something tech-licious. The dress in question is the Parametric dress. It's a long piece of fetish-like fashion, called “3D printed body architecture,” by 3D printing company Materialise that Gaga wore to the launch of her album, ARTPOP, in the UK last week.
While Lady Gaga can be seen as a little esoteric, 3D printing has been adopted by the most mainstream of TV enterprises, the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Model “Angel” Lindsay Ellingson will be strutting her stuff in a 3D printed snowflake, glistening with millions of Swarovski Crystals. The glitter isn’t anything new for Victoria's Secret, but the costume is rather unique. It’s a collaboration between architect Bradley Rothenberg and 3D printing company Shapeways. The outfit was based on a 3D scan of Ellingson’s body and the filigree design was created inside a computer program and then parts were printed out and hand assembled.
Image via Victoria's Secret Twitter
It’s one thing when we read blogs and news stories about 3D printing changing the world. Another when we see cutting-edge designers play with material and structures. However, as pretty as 3D fashion looks, it’s still a far off dream for most people.
The items that celebrities are wearing are not the click and print styles that are seen on Shapeways and Thingiverse websites. These are intricate, time-heavy designs that probably take longer than hand stitching the piece. They cost A LOT more. Where Thingiverse bracelets can be bought for as little as $10, custom 3D fashion-wear is so pricey that we don't even have figures to share with you.
The designers who use 3D printing this way are not 3D printing fashion to save time, they are using it to create something beautiful and new.
Dita Von Teese in a 3D printed dress from Francis Bitoni/ Albert Sanchez photography
Designers feel creating this way will lead to mass adoption. This kind of creation allows for experimentation. The hope is that as 3D printers improve and home units become more sophisticated, this will filter down to the high street. Or the home.
High couture clothing has always been expensive, time heavy and labor intensive. The current wave of 3D fashion follows that theme. The hope, however, is due to the nature of 3D printing that the time intensive element would be eliminated. In a similar way to how the sewing machine overtook knitting and embroidery.
Iris Van Herpen, a Dutch designer who has won awards for her 3D fashion said, “I believe it will only be a matter of time before we see the clothing we wear today produced with this technology.”
That statement might be key in understanding WHY celebrities are so enamored with 3D printing. It’s new. It’s buzzy. It gains public attention and gets articles like this written.
We may think mass 3D printed fashion could become ordinary, but we are a long way off. Put it in the same bucket as Amazon delivery drones and standardized solar panels for offices. Not unthinkable, but unlikely anytime soon. But the potential and the possibilities continue to enthrall us, and celebrities whose basic modus operandus is to cater exactly for that want to shine a little brighter.
A possible reason that we don't see more of this on the catwalk might be down to how 3D printing could threaten fashion houses. Copyright has always been a big issue for fashion, and the slough of fake Chanel handbags sold in Chinatown testify to how hard it is to maintain a brand. 3D printing adds a whole new level of headache to the mix, and one that many brands might want to steer clear of, by avoiding 3D fashion for now.
However, 3D printed fashion is high on celebrities wishlists as they know that wearing these outfits will get them attention, by the fashion AND technology press. We can expect to see more high profile collaborations in 2014 and as long as 3D printing stays a hot topic, the everyday person (by this, I mean us) will get a little closer to getting some 3D couture of their own.
Just be prepared to be very, very patient.