Chinese Designer’s 3D Printed Clothing Nominated for International Innovation Award


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Typically held in London during the first weekend of June, this year’s Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) held by the Graduate Fashion Foundation had to be canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the charitable organization found a new way to support initiatives from fashion graduates, as the organizers decided to introduce a new series of digital awards encompassing 22 categories – from childrenswear and fashion marketing to accessories and textiles – to make sure students still got a chance to promote their work.

Shortlisted for the Innovation Award in the Materials category was Xie Zimeng, from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing, Western China. Her work leveraged 3D printing technology as she explored future trends in fashion in a semi-apocalyptic world consumed by plastic pollution, deforestation, and carbon emissions. In her presentation, titled Worship of Light and Shadow, the designer combined 3D printing and hollow projection light to form a circuit that illuminates a large area, instantly taking the viewer into Zimeng’s dark “cyberpunk” world. Particularly demonstrating how her creative design incorporates technology and light into a feminine silhouette that is both beautiful and elegant.

Backside of the 3D printed design by Xie Zimeng (Image courtesy of Artron/Xie Zimeng/Sichuan Fine Arts Institute)

“My design concept is mainly based on the vision of the future world. In the future, people will cause an irreversible impact on the Earth due to various factors. In tens of thousands of assumptions, my design is aimed at the formation of the “polar night”, phenomenon due to environmental pollution in the future. At that time, people’s demand for light must go first,” said Zimeng to the Graduate Fashion Week Foundation. “In the future cyberpunk dark world, darkness makes people pay more attention to light and shadow, and gradually forms a unique aesthetic and demand for light and shadow.”

3D printed design by Xie Zimeng (Image courtesy of Artron/Xie Zimeng/Sichuan Fine Arts Institute)

Like many before her, Zimeng’s focus to explore fashion outside of the limits of traditional textiles and craftsmanship led her to disruptive technologies. After creating her designs, she built a 3D model that was used to repeatedly test a light source in order to draw the figure that would eventually be hollowed out on the final printed model. The designer chose photosensitive resin material to 3D print the creation that went on to compete for the GFW award and then used an electric drill pen for hollowing out and polishing it. Followed by a coat of white matte and silver chrome spray paint to increase texture, and finally the installation of a LED light source and power controller to form a color slow flash effect.

3D printed design by Xie Zimeng with LED lights (Image courtesy of Artron/Xie Zimeng/Sichuan Fine Arts Institute)

Zimeng suggested that “in such a world, our demand for the role of clothing is not only to cover the body and keep warm; it is particularly important to let clothing itself become a light source that illuminates. The presentation of light and shadow on clothing has become a new aesthetic standard. In the way of expression, I chose the combination of 3D printing and hollow light to highlight the sense of future and technology.”

Inspired by cyber future designs of neon-lit cities that rely on everlasting technology to counter the effects of a permanent night sky, Zimeng created a bodysuit, complemented by a set of light-powered “wings” that irradiate color, as well as a protective neck covering and a leg holster. Once completed, the work was submitted to GFW and later showcased at the Chongqing Grand Art Market Blooming June Art Tour of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, at the Longfor ‘U’ City Paradise Walk in University City, China; as well as on the Chongqing Art Market’s newly launched Cloud Exhibition Hall, on the WeChat platform, which gives students the opportunity to display the entirety of their work.

Neck covering of the 3D printed design by Xie Zimeng (Image courtesy of Artron/Xie Zimeng/Sichuan Fine Arts Institute)

During an interview with Upstream news, Zimeng said she was very interested in studying the future and functional direction of fashion, especially through 3D printing technology. Describing her creations as more of an accessory concept, she suggested that they may not be comfortable enough to wear yet, but she is already looking into the aesthetic needs of the future to make a few upgrades and improvements. Furthermore, as part of her particular vision, she outlines that her cyberpunk style has a sense of Avant-guard women soldiers living in a future society that struggles to survive in a slump while heavily relying on the rapid development of technology.

3D printed design using LED lights by Xie Zimeng (Image courtesy of Artron/Xie Zimeng/Sichuan Fine Arts Institute)

Designers have been using technological innovation to explore future trends in fashion and showcase their inspiration for years. 3D printing particularly has become a great tool for unconventional minds to create beyond the limits of traditional designs, moving away from the constraints of the industry and the standards of beauty in clothing, to make unique, daring, and powerful pieces. The need to express her vision led imaginative designer Zimeng to combine 3D printing with light to fabricate an eye-catching suit that makes a powerful statement about the future of our world. After all, at the forefront of her work is the environmental impact of our actions and the importance of taking care of Earth’s limited resources, to avoid her take on a futuristic sci-fi society living in “eternal night”.

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