3D printed fashion is not new at this point. Printed accessories, jewelery, and even dresses have been showing up at Maker Faires, 3D Printing shows, and other technology/fashion showcases for several years now. Last year, I wrote about some of the 3D printed fashion at the 3D Printing Conference and Expo in New York City and the exciting intersection between art and technology being represented at that show.
This weekend, I feel like I witnessed a sign of a big step forward for 3D printed fashion within culture. I went to the Museum at FIT (at the Fashion Insitute of Technology in New York City) to check out their new Fairy Tale Fashion Exhibition. The show examines how fairy tales inspire high fashion, from red cloaks to glass slippers to gowns fit for a swan princess. It’s an exhibit in keeping with many of the other fashion art museum displays put on by the Museum at FIT, or the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of art, or other museums/galleries of that nature. The focus is not on technology or high tech.
One display featured garments inspired by the story of Cinderella, including, predictably, several fancy shoes inspired by glass slippers. Among them, I was excited to find a glass slipper by Noritaka Tatehana: a clear acrylic, heel-less high heel, faceted to reflect light. The explantory placard in front of it casually mentioned that it was a 3D printed shoe. I read the card and said to my companion, “whelp, it looks like 3D printed fashion has arrived.”
The inclusion of a 3D printed item in this exhibit seems to signal a step forward because this is a fashion art show. Not a special “3D Printed Fashion” show or a “Technology in Fashion” display or a “BEHOLD… FASHION OF THE FUTURE!” -type event. The topic is not meant to highlight 3D printing technology at all. The placard doesn’t scream: “Look at this crazy 3D printed shoe! What a wild new technique!” It simply explains that 3D printing was the technique the designer used to achieve the effect he wanted. This matter-of-fact presentation of 3D printing, placed right alongside all the other techniques in an art show, is a signal that 3D printed fashion is taking a step from the sideshow onto the mainstage.
Cinderella Slipper and photograph © Noritaka Tatehana, 2014