Artists, and most certainly fashion designers, are known for their willingness to take risks. With the advent of the 3D printer, not only could they suddenly branch out into a wealth of infinite new directions, but they were afforded previously unheard of self-sustainability in manufacturing, making everything from museum-quality couture to the avant-garde and even tribal feather accessories. 3D printing has made an indelible mark on the fashion industry, and it just keeps expanding as a powerful new tool in fashion.
Now, an Australian designer hailing from Canberra is going to make her mark at the 2017 Vancouver Fashion Week, ongoing from March 20 to 26. And while we’ve seen plenty of dresses and fashion accoutrements at this point, this will be the first gown featuring 3D printed butterflies. Designed by Charne Esterhuizen, the dress is adorned with 150 butterflies, to be exact—and each one took 5.5 hours to print.
“It is the first be made to this scale nationally, because you have big brands that have done 3D printing, but this is a completely different and experimental way of printing,” said Esterhuizen who had two different 3D printing companies as sponsors (Aussie 3D and 3DGence), paying for six 3D printers. “I used a modular system, so I multiplied the object of the butterfly, created into a fibre and connected them one by one until the dress was 175 centimeters long.
We had the machines printing for a week and a half non-stop. All together we calculated with all the time it took, all of the material and processes, the dress would cost about $90,000.”
Not surprisingly, this butterfly-laden garment does have some weight to it, but the designer states that it is wearable. Also not surprisingly, she says that she hopes to see her dress morph into a 4D design with moving butterflies later, as she continues to work on the motif. The model wearing the dress (and also a nude-colored suit underneath) will also be showing off a matching purse created from the excess rubber material.
“The idea of this dress and my collection is to express yourself freely, to just be yourself and be confident despite what other people think,” she said.
With a love of fashion that began at age 16, Esterhuizen enrolled as a student at Australia’s TAFE. No stranger to being quite the superstar in her field from the beginning, she has already won an array of awards, and is now the creator of the MAAK clothing line. As a newly minted manager at Aussie 3D, she also has great resources for experimenting further with 3D printing, and is fond of using the technology in environmentally friendly ways.
“Fashion is one of the biggest waste industries in the world and with the future technology of 3D printing we can make filament with all natural fibres so it can be biodegradable,” she said. “Mass consumption and designers competing for cheaper garments is what increases slave labor. So we are working on how locally-manufactured and environmentally ways of 3D printing can combat this. I’m educating schools and the wider community about the benefits of 3D printing to the fashion industry.”