KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — There has been a lot of talk about how the fashion industry is being revolutionised, from 3D headphones to 3D contact lenses, everything revolves around the third dimension. One of the most current technologies that is increasingly becoming more important and is receiving a lot of attention is Additive Manufacturing (AM), or better known as 3D printing.
Fashion designers are rapidly being thrust into a world of wanting the next challenge and what more for avant-garde award winning Malaysian designer Melinda Looi. Recently, working in collaboration with Belgian company Materialise, Looi presented the First Asian 3D Print Fashion Show. We speak to her about her experience in utilising this technology.
Melinda Looi Interview
You recently presented the first ever 3D Printed Fashion show in Asia. What inspired you to take such a bold move?
Materialise approached us to explore a fashion collaboration, the first in Asia. It is my belief that art transcends all boundaries, be it language, geographic location, culture, or in this case, industries. I like to use different tools to create my art. In this case, 3D printing was my tool. 3D printing is typically used in the industrial sector, but by collaborating with Materialise, we have shown the world that additive manufacturing technology can also be fashionable and artistic.
Were there any challenges in designing these pieces?
The process was different from making fabric outfits. I had to study what 3D printing can do before I could imagine what and how I wanted them to be. I got inspired by the various materials shown to me and moved on to designing, but it was not up to me to decide if what I wanted could be made. The engineers would advise me and we would make changes accordingly. That was a new learning process for me. I could not touch the pieces during the process but only visualize the outcome based on virtual images.
For the styling of the pieces, I had to imagine them instead of having the actual piece to style. For sizing, we created pieces based on a 3D body. I had to make a fabric skirt for the peacock skirt for my 3D modeller to measure. For the wings, we did a paper pattern draft to get the measurements. I could not put the pieces on the models myself; I needed a team of engineers to help us backstage. This collection is not just fashion, it is also about technology and engineering.
What materials would you want to see available for 3D printing?
I would love to work with 3D printed fabric, or something derived from plants and more environmentally friendly. I am not sure whether it is feasible from a technical point of view, but it is what I would like to see.
Where do you think this technology will take us in the near future? What does it hold for fashion?
I can imagine applications of 3D printing especially in movies and costumes. There are articles about customized 3D printed glasses, and Nike is using 3D printing to create prototypes. The flexibility and customize-ability of this technology is what makes it so perfect for the fashion industry. I think it is in the future of fashion for sure.
It is hard to grasp the idea of what 3D printing can afford us without actually seeing how it is made. Many cannot grasp the concept and its future implications. With 3D printing, you essentially will be able to print leather bags to delicate and intricate jewellery, from face masks to gold necklaces. Accessorising will never be the same again.
As they say, the future is now!