‘Transforming Fashion’ Exhibit: Atlanta Museum Highlights 3D Printed Body of Work by Tech Pioneer Iris van Herpen


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highNothing appeals to the artistic soul like new tools that allow for a spirited combination of innovation and independence. As the world ooohs and ahhhs over each new 3D printed wonder hitting the headlines daily, most may not truly realize the impact that the self-sustainability feature–amongst many others–offers to designers.

Designer Iris van Herpen, in her quest to mix nature, geography, and fashion, and apply it to the human form, took matters into her own talented hands quite some time ago, beginning her own exploration of 3D printing, and establishing herself as the forerunner in using the technology to produce stunning apparel. We’ve been following her work since inception to a more recent crystallized look in style.We’ve seen her collections–in all their outrageous beauty and curiosity–evolve throughout the years, with an originality that is no doubt the envy of many other designers around the world.

Born in the small town of Wamel, van Herpen was struck by the fashion bug as she entered high school in a larger city in the Netherlands, and was exposed to a more cosmopolitan culture. She soon began making her own clothes and discovered a passion for using her hands to create. Studying fashion at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, Arnhem, in the Netherlands, and interning with Alexander McQueen, she was gifted with a strong foundation–and today, the 30-ish designer has already made quite a name for herself.

UntitledNow, the Dutch designer’s work is being highlighted in the US at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, running November 7, 2015 through May 15, 2016. The exhibit, Transforming Fashion, is a comprehensive display of 45 stunning outfits from 15 collections. This is her first show of this size, and the first in North America.

Event goers may be quite surprised–especially those with little knowledge of this designer or of 3D printing–to see the body of work the still quite young van Herpen has amassed, with such continued versatility. Her penchant for experimentation and classic pushing of the boundaries on several levels is celebrated in Atlanta, and should prove as enormous inspiration for all–and especially those who have not yet been exposed to her work, which is evidence of deep exploration into materials and technology and then applied to the human form.

“This exhibition documents the evolution of Iris van Herpen’s couture through a selection of her collections from 2008 through 2015 and illustrates the many ways she continues to seek inspiration beyond the world of traditional handwork and craftsmanship,” states the museum in information regarding the show.

Showing off van Herpen’s deep well of ideas, the exhibit will be also be demonstrative of the typical energy one expects from the fashion industry, with music and runway footage.

“Iris van Herpen is fearless when it comes to experimenting with 3D printing and using the technology as a means to create the innovative designs that are her vision,” says Sarah Schleuning, curator of decorative arts and design at the High Museum of Art, a Smithsonian affiliate museum. “She uses the technology not for its own sake, but to achieve spectacular effects that otherwise could not be realized.”


Close-up of details from 3D printed ‘Magnetic Motion’ dress

With years of study involving the use of 3D printing and fashion under her well-fabricated belt, van Herpen has now received a long list of accolades and awards, has collaborated with numerous other designers, artists, choreographers and dancers, and celebrities like singers Björk, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and others wear pieces from her collections during performances.

Van Hapern’s work has evolved from that of using more rudimentary materials to now more contemporary flexible and alternative textiles. As is often the case, 3D printing may be responsible for an entire piece of apparel, or it may work as a portion, fragment, or an accessory only.

One of van Herpen’s more recent pieces on display, the Magnetic Motion Dress, is one we reported on last year as she collaborated with both Italian architect Niccolo Casas and 3D printing manufacturer, 3D Systems. Responsible for fabricating the dress, using Accura Clearvue (SLA) material on a their ProX 950 3D printer, 3DS reported that it took 200 hours of printing to get the piece just right. It was made in four separate pieces, and then required post processing as well as extensive hand finishing to complete the dress which due to the material was able to exhibit great detail, along with a translucent quality.L1001992-LRG

“When working on a collection, nothing else matters,” says van Hapern. “It’s just a pure focus onto my work, and the world is not there. When I have my show–it’s the world again.”

“Because each collection is like me at that time, it’s pretty personal,” she says.

While 3D printing of street clothes and mainstream duds hasn’t quite become a thing for most of us yet, we certainly seem to be headed that way as many designers have now taken the cue from van Hapern and have latched on to the technology as a great new tool for making everything from apparel to shoes to accessories, in their own studios, and without having to go through a manufacturer. It certainly shouldn’t take much for this to trickle down to the hobbyist.

The perks of using the 3D printer in fashion are wondrous and numerous, as they allow artists to design things that often were not previously possible, as well as offering independence and great affordability. It all begins with aesthetics though, and this involves fit, and how the model looks showing off a work of fashion; otherwise, who is going to be interested? With 3D printing, customization offers precise fit–and this is precisely what makes the technology attractive for every one–of every size. With the ability to digitally design–and customize–the options for clients all over the globe, and not just strutting their stuff on the runway, are endless.14-15

Designers like Francis Bitonti (famous for the Dita von Teese dress) and Jenny Wu (an acclaimed architect delving into jewelry with the LACE collection) have certainly carved out their own niches in the industry and proceeded to evolve on their own, but they undeniably have van Herpen to thank for walking and navigating the initial and industrious path before them–and she continues to stand out apart from the crowd with inimitable form.

[Source: Smithsonian.com]

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