Additive Manufacturing Strategies

NY Designer McCharen’s 3D Printed Nylon Jewelry is for Androids & Humans

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j4Do an image search for “futuristic fashion” and, chances are, you won’t find much in the way of the ultra-feminine styles of the past, no elaborate evening gowns featuring yards of expensive fabrics and miscellaneous adornments, no crinoline, no gauzy, silky, frilly underthings. It seems that when fashion designers imagine the future (or, really, the now), at least where clothing is considered, the rule of thumb is “less is more.” Perhaps the second rule is “the more outlandish, the better,” but since when is haute couture supposed to make a great deal of sense, much less be particularly comfortable or practical? The third rule surely must be “employ cutting-edge technology whenever possible.”

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All of the above seem to apply to New York City fashion-tech designer, Becca McCharen’s futuristic-looking garments and accessories, which are very much, however, dedicated to the here and now. McCharen’s company, Chromat, has made serious noise in the fashion world. Quite literally, her designs can be seen on the likes of Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Madonna. Her signature garments are fascinating references to clothing of yore as much as they are feasible as daily apparel. It’s as if McCharen threw out the ball gown and kept the bustle.

In fact, McCharen draws from her background in architectural theory and urban design so that clothing and accessories function as what she refers to as “wearable exoskeletons” and “structural experiments for the human body.” In j3many cases and certainly with her newly released jewelry line, Chromat x Metalepsis, McCharen uses 3D printing to realize her often fantastical designs.

The Metalepsis line of jewelry, which features rings, cuffs, and chokers, were 3D printed in nylon. With the process, nylon powder is laser sintered layer by meticulous layer into an object’s final shape. Once a piece is 3D printed, it is cooled, removed from the powder, and dyed black.

The new Metalepsis line was inspired by the Autumn and Winter 2015 Mindfiles Collection of garments, which imagines “humans” of the future as less flesh than synthetic, mechanized, computerized, “bionic bodies” and clothing as more apparatus than garment. That translates, for McCharen, to “laser diodes [that] simulate synthetic neuron connections within the brain,” thermoplastic polyurethane, latex, leather coated in patent surfaces, synthetic hair and Swarovski crystals, and, of course, 3D printed nylon as with the new jewelry collection.

The jewelry, which was, says McCharen, “developed as miniature architectural monuments for human adornment,” certainly underlines the mechanistic aesthetic. The chokers, which are intended to refer to buttresses (as in “flying buttresses”) resemble traps as much as anything else. The Bar Ring and Buttress Ring and their Cuff (bracelet) counterparts, are off-putting, edging body decor that seems far less about adornment than about donning one’s armor. Most impressive is the seamlessness of each piece, a uniformity enhanced by the solid color and made possible by the high-tech production process, 3D printing via laser sintering, a process which seems made almost specifically for McCharen’s brave new fashion.

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