The hybrid fashion label/experimental design lab, Continuum Fashion, was first on our radar for their 3D printed bikini manufactured with Shapeways in 2011. Since the initial buzz, the design duo Jenna Fizel and Mary Huang have expanded into software, giving design power directly to the user to create their own garment.
With projects like the Diatom's SketchChair floating around, made-to-order furniture and fashion seem to be carving out their own unique—and maybe even affordable—place in the design world. Continuum's CONSTRVCT and D.dress software gives pretty much anyone a creative platform and foolproof software to act as their own fashion designer with no assembly (or drawing skills) required.
The fashion industry, like ID, is no stranger to digital fabrication—particularly with the rising fame of Iris van Herpen, the 3D printing hype is flowing directly onto the runway. With the D.Dress software, the guesswork is taken out of the avant-garde dress making completely. The CAD-savvy might recognize the D.dress's triangulated surface structure as a consideration more for ease of outputting quick .stl files than either aesthetics or sewing. To Continuum's credit,however, they make a good case that "the triangulation also ensures that almost any drawing will produce an interesting form, and in fact produces good meshes from mere scribbles."
While the triangle construction is a little limiting in terms of aesthetics, the simple interface is pretty impressive when you consider actual construction of the clothing. We are very interested to see how the manufacturing process will work, as the current online app only allows you to download a 3D model. The D.dress doesn't seem to include a viable production method included... yet. But customizing the 3D model to your specific size and finding a production outfit shouldn't be too far off.
If the D.dress project is for creating "computational couture," then the CONSTRVCT is a good alternative—crowdsourced but wearable, without having to be a pop star. The web app for CONSTRVCT is a little low on features, but shows major promise for both the interface and the collection. The online shop also features the first artist collaboration with Boston-based Nervous System, an obvious choice for those familiar with the design studio specializing in computer simulation to generate lighting and jewelry designs. While the platform for CONSTRVCT isn't quite as inventive as the D.dress, the approach to 3D pattern-making (traditionally done flat) is a smart technique stolen straight from architecture school.
Digitally printed fabric is a fundamental design decision on many levels. It allows us to produce a physical product that matches extremely accurately to the design preview online. It allows for an infinite variety in designs even before we enable editing on base silhouettes, and the results are dramatic and distinctive. It also provides built-in logistics, since we just print the sized pattern with all the customer information directly onto the fabric. Digital textile printing is also eco-friendly, as almost all the dye is locked directly to the fabric and thus does not enter into wastewater.
So it seems the real question is whether we should be getting nervous that the software guys with be designing the designers out of jobs. Maybe its not likely anytime soon, but Continuum Fashion is undoubtedly making some big moves clothing the digital generation. We applaud their innovation and ask—so where is the menswear?
Teshia Treuhaft is a Michigan-born designer. Upon graduating from back-to-back degrees, a BFA from the University of Michigan and MFA of Furniture Design from RISD, she moved to Berlin to pursue a research project considering shifting paradigms in design education. Teshia currently works at the tangible UX startup Senic.