South African Electrical Engineer and Designer Takes 3D Printing to Fashionable New Heights

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sh2Nature, the earliest and most enduring inspiration for artists combines with cutting-edge technology in the fashionable art and artistic fashion of South African designer, Michaella Janse van Vuuren. She wears another potentially less trendy hat–that of an electrical engineer who seeks to secure a place at the top of 3D printing in South Africa. Janse van Vuuren, like many contemporary designers. has the technical know-how to coax the materials and the machines into producing innovative products but also, significantly, ground-breaking new processes.

Recently, Janse van Vuuren debuted her skill as a fashion designer at 3D Printshow in New York, the premier event where the latest innovations in 3D technology are showcased each year. Models strolled down the runway in the South African designer’s shoes, jewelry, and clothing that are wearable, beautifully intricate objets d’art.

Janse van Vuuren’s fashion line is quite reminiscent of her design pieces, including her Chyrsantemum Centerpiece, for which she claimed the prize of “Most Beautiful Object in South Africa” at Design Indaba Expo 2009, Janse van Vuuren’s foray into fashion is no less extraordinary. It is also unique in that the pieces would have been impossible to produce without the designer’s extensive knowledge of 3D printing and sintering techniques, materials, and equipment.

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Janse van Vuuren combined her own efforts with that of 3D technology leader, Stratasys, whose brand new Objet500 Connex3 printer enabled her to combine multiple materials and colors in single, integrated objects. For instance, her remarkable platform serpent sandals are made from plastic of differing rigidities so that the shoes’ uppers are flexible and comfortable to the wearer while the soles and serpent-shaped heels are firmer and supportive. Further, the shoes are not of a single, solid color. Rather, color is dictated by design rather than materials.

Perhaps even more striking and innovative is Janse van Vuuren’s Stained Glass Effect Corset. Delicate, black, magenta, and clear scalloped panels shaped something like stylized lotus flowers, make up the top portion of the bodice while the lower portion, resembling body armor, is a dark gray decorated with embossed floral patterns. While the piece is unique, it can be customized for an individual wearer with a body scan and 3D modeling.

The majority of Janse van Vuuren’s designs reflect her fascination with natural forms, including sea life such as, she explains, “the jelly-like beauty of underwater creatures.” That ethereal, deep sea coloration is clearly evident in the corset.

Seemingly also modest, Janse van Vuuren shares the credit for her innovative work with her collaborator, Stratasys, to whom she submitted the digital files of her designs for in-house printing. Also claiming a portion of the glory is the Norwegian 3D-design software company, Uformia, who took on customization of the South African designers fashion creations. Janse van Vuuren’s sense of satisfaction at seeing her designs realized across three continents and then showcased in New York City, seems second only to her appreciation of the bonds she is creating between engineering, cutting edge technology, and art.  Would you wear these shoes for a night out on the town?  Let’s hear your thoughts on Janse can Vuuren’s designs in the 3D printed fashion forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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