by Jennifer O'Connell
In 2007, the Massachusetts-based design studio Nervous System began experimenting with writing computer code to program 3D printers to make fashion accessories and wall art. By 2014, they had made a blouse-style shirt and a skirt. Prior to that, they had successfully made 3D-printed jewelry and wall art. However, later in the year, they began a project that would garner them much attention and popularity in the future: a 3D printed gown. They released four videos on the elaborate construction and design of it. A month ago, they released a video of their latest project: a “petal” dress, still made of 3D printed plastics but with a program called Kinematic, which works as a way to 3D print clothes that can move with the human body which is produced by designing and programming so that it fits together like jigsaw puzzle pieces do. Their projects have been featured in the New York Times, the Guardian, Forbes, the Boston Globe, and forums at both MIT and Harvard. Nervous System designs have also been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Modern Arts, and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, Australia.
Though they were very early pioneers of garment design from unconventional materials, they were not the very first. In 2006, the Emmy-nominated TV series Project Runway aired their first episode, aptly titled “Innovation” featuring a dozen stressed, sleep deprived fashionistas sprinting around a Manhattan grocery store to find everyday items and foods to make outfits with in place of fabrics. This one event began a yearly returning theme of yearly no-fabric challenges for the show.
This year, the theme was bringing modern style to outdated pieces of technology. This included vinyl records, Polaroid film and pictures, phone and computer cords, mouse pads, and CD's. It’s always an interest episode when you hear more hammers than sewing machines being used. From the first episode, “Innovation” kicked off not only this tradition, but a quickly growing craze for the uses of strange, recycled, re imagined, or otherwise quirky materials.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology holds a yearly “trash-ion” show, where the exhibit particularly outre garments and designed made solely out of recycled materials, things that would have otherwise been thrown away. Materials last year included iced tea cans, circuit boards, packaging materials, lamp shades, colored construction paper, paper shopping bags, photo strips, and police caution tape.
A more widespread example of technology influencing fashion is in the rise in military-imitation fashions since the early 2000s. This trend was actually predicted by Project Runway season one all star Austin Scarlett in the seventh episode. Even though he predicted the return of throat-protecting garments in turtle necks and large scarves, he didn’t predict that fashion and technology could combine in literally protective gear for people who bike in an attempt to replace helmets as well as assisting devices for disabled people disguised as fashion accessories.
This trend was brought to a broader audience 2016 Met Gala. The theme of the evening was bringing fashion into the age of technology, with Zac Posen’s gown for Claire Danes making waves with fiber-optic lights woven into the fabric of the dress. Literally glowing in the dark, Danes looked like a futuristic real-life Cinderella.
Although there was once a more profound luxury in handmade, imported products, the so-called age of technology seems to be turning that feature into an antiquated one.