It is the perfect storm and is happening now: the collision of both the fashion and tech industries, with resulting products reflecting and refracting each industry.
While tech has been a presence in the fashion industry for years, it’s only been in the past two that 3D printing has emerged as a way for designers to rethink their processes, products and designs. 3-D processes have changed almost everything in fashion: jewelry, shoes (New Balance and Nike have them now), hair ornaments, shawls, and dresses.
A new example (see above) is the Kinematics dress, created by the design studio Nervous System. It was acquired last year by the Museum of Modern Art. The dress has fluidity and movement, and is adapted to the wearer’s body. The studio calls the process “4D printing,” a term used to describe 3D printed objects that change over time in response to their environment.
The Kinematics dress is created from 2,279 rigid, interlocking triangles, connected by 3,316 hinges, printed in a single piece. These hinges allow the dress, adapted to perfectly conform to the wearer’s body, to swing and move.
But there is another socially and emotionally transformative new use for 3D printing, one that joins fashion with health.
It is the creation of fashionable prosthetics.
3D printing is now giving prosthesis wearers the ability to express their identities in artistic ways.
At the recent London Wearable Tech Show in London, British actress Grace Mandeville showed off this new technology, when she wore a Swarovski-studded hand, created by the British company, Open Bionics.
Born with a foreshortened right arm, Grace has never been shy about wearing prosthetics, but until now she had to use the typical flesh colored plastic prosthetic hand. Now, she has a choice.
“I really love fashion, “she said, “and therefore dress to illustrate my personality, so being able to wear a creative prosthetic that shows who I am seems awesome. It’s like a one-off accessory that nobody else can wear, basically like vintage Chanel.”
Open Bionics has created custom bionic limbs in the past, but the company’s COO, Samantha Payne, said that they wanted to demonstrate the extent of what’s possible when 3D printing a prosthesis, both from an aesthetic and technological standpoint.
Payne said, “We printed Grace a socket and robotic hand in three days and because 3D printing is so affordable we can add Swarovksi crystals and create something really eye-catching. We also added four fibre optic wires to the socket so that, whenever Grace closes her hand, a blue light would shoot up her 3D printed arm.
“Prosthetics are entering the realm of fashion and we wanted to show how bionic prosthetics can be functional and fun. We’ve been very experimental with Grace’s hand. This is a completely new socket design and this is the first time we’ve experimented with placing the EMG sensors above the elbow. Grace is actually controlling her hand by the muscle signals from her back.”
Grace sees this new limb as a work of art, and a fashion statement.