ITW | In talks with Stratasys’ Creative Director, Art Fashion Design Naomi Kaempfer

The latest developments of the firm on 3D printing fashion & next developments in the field

in brief

Following on many articles about 3D printing with designers such as Iris Van Herpen, it seemed only natural to go deeper and meet the pioneers who made it come true. We had the chance to speak with Naomi Kaempfer Creative Director, Art Fashion Design at Stratasys.

Leader worldwide, Stratasys is one of the major 3D printing firms, with 30 years worth of experience in 3D printing in various industries including carmakers, medical, aerospace or consumer goods. So it is with no wonder that the company is also on the cutting edge of fashion. The company explores the possibilities of 3D printing cross border in the creative disciplines and with their experience enable and promote designers and artists to stretch the creative envelope.

Naomi Kaempfer est en charge de la mise en place des collaborations marketing avec la mode et design chez Stratasys depuis 2014, en tant que directrice de la création pour l’art, la mode et le design. Elle établit des relations et collabore avec les musées, les institutions d’art et de design, le secteur de la création et les collectionneurs.

Naomi studied Law and Philosophy, owns a Bachelors in product engineering, and a MSc in Design Management. She is specialised in bridging business strategies with international design and creative markets. After managing the ONL Non-standard architecture show for the Pompidou, she was asked to establish the renowned MGX and design art Platform at Materialise in 2003, which she directed for 7 years. Naomi has set up numerous prestigious collections in collaboration with top artists and designers at leading museums such as MoMA, V&A, Pompidou, Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt, and many more. She led the technology department at the Design Academy as Chair professor of LAB between 2008-2011. Between 2010-2013, she drove the strategic design development of Delhaize Group as the Design Strategy Expert and worked as an independent consultant for 3d printing companies and emerging design platforms.

We took the opportunity to sit down and talk with her about the latest developments of the firm on 3D printing fashion. These past few years, the use of 3D printing in fashion has continually been evolving and we are witnessing a notable increase in awareness and interest in the technology from designers. As Creative Director, Art Fashion Design, Naomi is watching this growth in curiosity coming from across the fashion spectrum – from high-end fashion to the low end and in various fashion applications.

“We believe Fashion education is playing a key role in this. Many academies are now integrating 3D printing within their education programme. High Fashion has previously had a traditional methodology, so the fact that fashion education is now embracing these innovative technologies is an encouraging step forward.” Naomi Kaempfer tells us.

Indeed, educating a new generation of designers, and introducing 3D printing technologies and software to all the parties involved, she tells us, is a gradual and ongoing process.

“This might explain why the shift in the industry is perhaps not immediately apparent widespread in mainstream fashion, but is likely to emerge in the not so distant future.” she continues.

We have previously explored how 3D printing techniques can be used for textiles and fashion, allowing fashion designers to expand beyond the traditional boundaries of design, turning some of the most challenging design concepts into reality.

“We are seeing an evolution from traditional textile production methods, such as pattern-cutting and sewing textiles together, and moving towards a textile being totally 3-dimensionally grown.” notes Naomi.

Digitally-created materials are offering up vast possibilities as every element of a garment or textile can now have its own individual digitally manipulated physical properties. For example, Naomi told us how one can create a specific textile that is waterproof, opaque, flexible or rigid, and then combine these elements together, so that these properties can all be present in a single garment.

Getting rid of the need for a specific mold, designers are now free to create intricate geometries and structures, which are not only aesthetically pleasing, but can also add smart functionality.

“For example, when we create a garment that needs to be fastened, instead of using traditional buttons we can integrate a locking functionality directly into the textile itself, by making certain areas adhesive. We’re still in the early stages of developing our geometrical understanding and working out what is feasible, but the possibilities are vast.” she specifies.

The immense opportunities for customization that 3D printing offers is another important benefit for the fashion industry. Apparels can now be created to perfectly fit the size and curvature of each part of the body, giving space for a true personalization. As this is a new domain, Naomi believes there is still a real need for industry experts to challenge themselves to envision the next steps and embrace this new design freedom in order to open up its true frontiers.

To this end, she tells us how strategic material developments are to accelerate the adoption of 3D printing within fashion design.

“At Stratasys, we work with leading fashion companies to address various design challenges, supporting them to explore uncharted grounds in contemporary fashion that can be realized with 3D printing.” she says.

Presented on February 23rd, 2016, and part of a couple 3D printed dresses designed by the New York based label threeASFOUR in collaboration with designer Travis Fitch. “The entire design, from its initial conception was intended to maximise the potentials inherent to this technology. As artists and designers, it is our prerogative, and our nature, to explore the bounds of new technological opportunities, and to push the limits of the way in which forms are created,” Adi Gil, one of the label’s designers, said at the time.

Advanced designers in the field such as NYC fashion label threeASFOUR, world famous Iris Van Herpen, German designer Julia Koerner or Tel-Aviv based Noa Raviv, to name a few – have been leveraging possibilities in terms of materials, aesthetics and colors, and therefore making the diversity of fashion design applications constantly evolving.

“We’ve certainly achieved some important milestones in this area, most notably the introduction of the Stratasys J750, the only full color, multi-material 3D printer.” Naomi specifies.

The printer has been used by designer Neri Oxman for the Vespers collection, which comprises 15 masks in three sub-series, portraying the past, present and future, making the most of this technology to create complex geometrical designs, not achievable with traditional fabrication.

“That said, we are still only at the very beginning of discovering what possibilities can be realized with 3D printing. Material developments will be the driving force in accelerating this journey.” she concludes.

The 3D PRINTED HARMONOGRAPH DRESS is named after a mechanical device that uses pendulums to create geometric images. Its three spirals circle around the body, mimicking the Fibonacci sequence.

Continuing on our conversation, we asked Naomi about the particularities of 3D printing for fashion, textiles and soft materials, and how Stratasys envisions to make it go further, allowing fashion designers to push to boundaries of creation.

“This year, we have been focused on developing a new technique: PolyJet 3D printing directly onto textiles. Our aspiration is to uncover how 3D printing can actually work in harmony with textiles, rather than how it can replace the textile itself. With great support from R&D, led by Stratasys’ Innovative Solutions Expert, Boris Bolocon, this year marked the first time that this has been achieved using our high-resolution PolyJet 3D printing technology – representing an interesting breakthrough for the industry. By combining traditional textile materials with digitally-created 3D printing materials, we’re bridging the gap and enabling a faster integration of the technology in textile design.” she specifies.

An inspiring example of this can be seen in one of Iris Van Herpen’s latest haute couture collection “Ludi Nature” (Couture Spring/Summer 2018). The foliage dress, developed by TU Delft scientists, incorporates traditional textiles with 3D printed plastic elements utilizing Stratasys PolyJet technology. Three variations of the 3D printed material were altered on a droplet level, achieving the unique color and transparency on the dress which allows it to seamlessly fuse with the fabric material.

Presented on January 22nd, 2018, as part of Iris van Herpen’s Ludi Naturae show, the Foliage Dress was 3D printed thanks to the PolyJet printing technique. Image: Molly SJ Lowe for Iris Van Herpen.

But, as any technology out there, 3D printing also holds barriers, sometimes technical, sometimes educational. On the topic of 3D printing fashion’ challenges, and what is needed in order to overcome these barriers, Naomi believes 3D printed clothes will first have to be more comfortable:

“One of the challenges that can arise with certain 3D printed garments is the level of practicality and comfort for the wearer. This is one of the benefits of integrating 3D printing and textiles together. The interface that touches the skin of the wearer can be the soft fabric, while the complex 3D printed design elements can be enjoyed on the outer part of the garment –  enhancing the comfort for the wearer.” she tells us.

To drive the implementation of these cutting-edge techniques in fashion, and in addition to collaborating with some of the most well-known innovative designers in fashion, the company is committed to supporting the education of the next generation of designers. As such, Naomi tells us they proudly support graduation projects in the fashion domain, educating students on the benefits of their 3D printing technologies and encouraging them to explore new design solutions.

“Through cutting-edge design from collaborators, our R&D team are put to the test to find solutions that otherwise might not have surfaced.  Not only can these solutions be implemented within the fashion and arts industries, but it might be that they are also applicable to other industries which utilize 3D printing.” she says.

In a world of constant technological advancements, fashion can also be considered as a key vehicle for demonstrating the vast capabilities of 3D printing for design in other sectors – whether it be consumer goods, automotive, aerospace or many others. Not everybody can connect with technology when it derives from a very particular niche market. However, as Naomi told us, fashion opens up a new way of relating to technology and allows greater engagement with it.

About Stratasys‘ upcoming projects, Naomi told us her team is now working on a new collaboration with threeASFOUR, with whom they have previously worked on three dresses; ‘Oscillation’, ‘Harmonograph” and ‘Pangolin’.

“We’re working on a new dress for NYC label threeASFOUR’s upcoming collection, which will be released later in the year. In addition to the 3D printing on textiles work, we are also exploring how we can integrate traditional product design into fashion design and textiles, with the aim of bridging the gap between these two disciplines. This will have numerous applications for wearables, aesthetic solutions and sports fashion.” she teases.

As for the future, Naomi shares a bit of her vision for 3D printing in fashion, one in which there will be further growth in garments incorporating sophisticated physical properties embedded in specifically defined areas of the traditional textile.

“We believe the customization element will also see 3D printing branch into other areas of fashion, such as leisure and sportswear, and potentially in cases of medical care.” she says.

People sometimes mention the notion of 3D printing reaching the mass market, but we know that caution must be taken when considering the implications of mass market solutions.

“Ultimately, we hope that the fashion world returns to a more sustainable model, which involves more localized production, allowing smaller design and production houses to compete in the market. Nevertheless, it will be fascinating to witness the evolving impact of 3D printing on the fashion domain and see how it continues to challenge and transform our perception of fashion. At Stratasys, we are very curious as to what impact future technological developments will have on the fashion domain and we remain very open to all applications that might have a future contribution to the industry.” Naomi concludes.

To learn more about the intersections between fashion and 3D printing, head over to our additive manufacturing section here.

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