Recently, fashion designer Francis Bitonti spoke at Rutgers for Rutgers Geek Week – yes, Geek Week. Instead of the conventional fabrics, laces, and leathers used on the runway, Bitonti utilizes 3D printing to create his pieces.
I personally never knew that much about 3D printing, but from the lecture I can say a bit about this transformation of numerical algorithms into solid pieces. Bitonti briefly explained the process, and a large chunk of it requires innovative uses of mathematics and science. Bitonti uses equations and algorithms to create overlapping lines and patterns that eventually formulate beautiful garment silhouettes. The lines that we’re used to seeing on function graphs are now the foundations to Bitonti’s designs.
The physical printing part is probably the most interesting. When coming out of the huge printer, you see something that looks like a large white cube, as material was built through layers of plastic powder. From the cube, the different pieces of the garment must be carefully extracted and dusted off, almost like uncovering a fossil from the ground. When all cleaned and pieced together, the material looks very flexible and light; although the printed material doesn’t look quite like fabric, Bitonti makes it work with his designs.
Bitonti’s most notable piece is a black netted gown fitted for Dita Von Teese. After partnering with designer Michael Schmidt, Bitonti was able form a dress built of multiple overlapping spirals. The Golden Ratio was used to make the dress perfectly hug every curve of Von Teese’s body, while the lines created a cool effect as they got closer and tighter in narrower spaces. The structure of the dress also does a good job presenting the high potential of 3D printing. The bottom flows very nicely like any other dress when twirled around, while the top tightly wraps around the body. Bitonti also purposely structured the shoulders to demonstrate the material’s abilities to be sturdy and voluminous. To top it all off, thousands of Swarovski crystals embellished the dress.
Bitonti ultimately infuses elements of both fashion and technology to manufacture garments as well as accessories that are very wearable – and that is one of his top goals: to create items that are very practical and made for everyday usage. While I personally cannot see 3D printing replacing regular fabrics in the fashion industry in the near future, 3D printing does have potential in becoming a more popular element in high fashion runway shows. There are still some setbacks within costs, along with environmental safety hazards (as some materials used have potentially harmful effects on the environment,) but 3D printing for clothing demonstrates innovation, intelligence, and customization in new ways; as to quote Bitonti, “my design process is a collaboration with artificial intelligence.” Bitonti is one of multiple designers that can possibly build a larger foundation for 3D printing in the fashion industry, as his first full collection will be up for sale in the fall.
If more garments were created through 3D printing, would you try them out?