Iris Van Herpen Brings 3D Printed Couture to the Runway


Most of think of shoes, or guns, or even computers when thinking of 3D printing, but almost none of us will think of clothing. However, Iris Van Herpen, a fashion designer in the Netherlands did, and has been designing 3D printed fashion for the last three years. Her styles are not only 3D printed, but flexible, often include other materials, and are receiving high praise on the runway. Are 3D printed garments in our near future? They might be, just not Iris’s designs. Iris may be revolutionary, but her clothes have attracted the attention of, and been worn by, Lady Gaga, so they’re still a long way from the street.

Iris van Herpen, Voltage

Her Inspiration

Iris van Herpen debuted her first 3D printed clothing collection on June 14th of 2010. The clothing line was a collaboration between herself, the Dutch architect Daniel Widrig, and the design company .MGX. At this particular fashion show, she had only designed one 3D printed garment based on the designs of Widrig, and then brought to life using laser sintering. However, van Herpen started out her journey with 3D printing some years earlier in 2008, where she began working with printing children’s umbrellas and other devices.

Designs on the Runway

Since then, Herpen has released a number of different designs including her most recent 3D printed couture, the Wilderness Embodied Collection, which is her most massive and ambitious collection yet. The new collection is a mesh of silicone, flexible 3D printed fabric, and 3D boning and creates a very unique, almost alien like appearance for the garments.
Last years collection, Escapism, is slightly more impressive to those looking for 3D printed garments in that almost everything is purely 3D. Escapism featured intricate boning, huge flared hips and sleeves, and non-flexible fabric, which makes it more than a little impractical for wear.
Early in 2013, van Herpen created what is quite possibly her most impressive work in that it shows the most potential for practical use. The 11 articles of clothing printed for her ‘Voltage’ line featured an experimental material that can not only be printed, but also worn like a regular dress. Women who touched the dress described it as ‘liquid honey’ which leaves no doubt about just how soft and flexible the material is. Like many of her other designs, her latest use laser sintering to create the fine lines and details that she seems to love.

What It Means for Fashion

While no one is going to halt cotton production anytime soon, the idea of 3D printed clothing is most definitely going to catch on. Currently the demand for cheaper, more durable clothing is at a high, and 3D printing would be the perfect answer. While materials might be slightly less cost effective, a 3D printer is faster, more accurate, and cheaper than hired labor which would cut costs at almost every corner. New, flexible, materials make 3D printed fashion possible and practical, especially once those materials are developed enough to lower costs. While most of shouldn’t expect to be buying a 3D printed pair of pants anytime in the near future, we can already purchase other 3D printed fashion including shoes and jewelry.