Fashion and technology: in the first part of a series focusing on designers who are introducing the fashion world to new technologies, Dezeen speaks to architect Julia Körner about how advances in 3D scanning, modelling and printing are creating a "revolution in customised fashion pieces within ready to wear"
3D-printed garments have become a common sight on the Haute Couture catwalks of designers like Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen.
Austrian architect Julia Körner, who collaborated with Van Herpen on these digitally fabricated garments, is now working on transferring the technology used to create the elaborate garments into everyday clothing production as part of what she calls an "exciting moment in fashion design".
Photograph by Michel Zoeter
"Body scanning and 3D-modelling techniques allow you to design towards a perfect fit, and through minimal changes in the code I can create variations of adaptations in the design," she told Dezeen. "This automated process is a revolution in customised fashion pieces within ready to wear."
Körner believes that developments in the properties of materials that can be fabricated on a 3D printer, including greater flexibility and density variation, are enabling more practical clothing to be produced – taking digital manufacturing out of the world of Haute Couture and making it more accessible.
"Now that materials inherit textile performance, I believe the technology adds an incredible advantage to fashion design," said Körner. "It is now possible to custom fabricate a garment which fits perfectly without refitting."
Körner, a lecturer at American architect Greg Lynn's Suprastudio at UCLA, utilises computer modelling software from the architecture industry to create 3D fashion designs that can be tweaked and adjusted for custom fit, which she believes could revolutionise the way we buy clothes.
"This means, if you have a 3D file of the fashion garment, only a few changes need to be made in the algorithm and the pattern, size, design of the whole piece changes in a few seconds," explained Körner.
"This parametric design process derives from architectural design and allows for custom mass fabrication, which will have a big influence on online shopping and the whole fashion industry."
Encouraging cross-disciplinary work at the "convergence of fashion design, architecture and industrial design" is necessary to maintain standards and continue to push boundaries, according to Körner.
Van Herpen, whose collaborators include architect Daniel Widrig, MIT professor Neri Oxman and Körner herself, has paved the way for the fashion industry to accept and experiment with digital manufacturing through her Haute Couture collections – Hybrid Holism, Voltage, Wilderness Embodied and most recently Bio Piracy.
"Especially within Haute Couture, additive manufacturing had its break through because Iris collaborates with architects who bring this technology into her discipline," said Körner.
But further experimentation with materials is needed before printed textiles become the clothes on our backs.
"Currently I am focussing on integrating flexible material within fashion design," said Körner. "I find the new material Polyjet Flex interesting as it inherits different densities and stiffnesses within the same material. Computationally you can control which areas of a surface should be more rigid and which areas should be more flexible."