science | January 22, 2013

3D Couture: Neri Oxman Prints Clothing For Paris Fashion Week [VIDEO]

Haute couture clothing is designed to conform perfectly to a person's body; it's meant to feel almost like a second skin. Thanks to Neri Oxman's new method of digital fabrication, models at Paris Fashion Week wore couture designs that literally conformed to their bodies. Oxman, an award-winning designer at the MIT Media Lab, teamed up with fashion designer Iris van Herpen to create a 3D skirt and cape for a recent runway show. Produced using 3D printing technology developed by Stratasys, the clothing is designed to mimic the movements of the wearer's body. Being able to control how a garment moves is a difficult part of the design process—something that new printing technology has been able to solve.

"The ability to vary softness and elasticity inspired us to design a 'second skin' for the body acting as armor-in-motion; in this way we were able to design not only the garment's form but also its motion," Oxman says of the design concept. Both hard and soft materials are melded together in the design which contributes to its unique shape and texture. Without the use of 3D printing, achieving this type of movement while also maintaining a structured sihouette would be extremely difficult. This new design process has tremendous potential to revolutionize the way that we construct clothing. "The incredible possibilities afforded by these new technologies allowed us to reinterpret the tradition of couture as 'tech-couture,'" Oxman says, "where delicate hand-made embroidery and needlework is replaced by code."

Oxman's design principles focus on the overarching idea of material mimicking nature. Instead of creating designs that work independently of their environments, she strives to create pieces that fuse seamlessly with their surroundings. Oxman's designs breathe and grow with the world around them and provide a sustainable solution to traditional construction methods. Her work is avant garde, yet accessible, and in her keynotes she shares her vision for how innovative design strategies can tackle some of our biggest problems.