At the beginning of December in London, during a show of the prestigious Royal College of Art (RCA), it will be possible to see a combination of the elements of Chinese tradition, modern technology, geometrical forms, and the haute couture fashion designs in a unique 3D printed costume. During the premiere of “Farewell My Concubine” – a play of the Beijing Opera, the actors will perform in costumes printed using the Sinterit Lisa printer taking advantage of the 3D SLS technology.
Fashion constitutes that field of art with which we come into contact each day – regardless whether one is observing passers-by on the street, browses through colorful magazines, or participates in cultural events. It does also happen that fashion designs play not an episodic role but one of the most important ones. In the famous Beijing Opera (which plays the role of the classic Chinese theatre) the scenography and decorations are limited to the very minimum. The symbolism expressed by props, masks, and costumes constitutes the element telling the story – placing it precisely within the reality of the show.
PhD candidates in the famous London Royal College of Art, Mingjing Lin and Tsai-Chun Huang, in terms of the Fold the Inter-fashionality project, have combined new technology with traditional craftsmanship. The designers have taken advantage of the latest developments in the field of 3D printing as well as the traditional Eastern art of pleating, in order to create a completely new textile fabric. The fabric manufactured in this way has been used to create costumes for the actors of the unique Beijing Opera play “Farewell My Concubine”, which premiere at the RCA is set for December 1st 2017. Taking advantage of completely new materials during the show will allow for following research concerning the relation between motion, the body, and fashion.
The fashion industry has already discovered 3D printing a few years ago. The possibility to complement the designs with geometrical shapes resembling sculptures has become a field in which designers can really show off. Taking advantage of a flexible fabric for SLS 3D printing – Flexa Black – to manufacture costumes for the Fold the Inter-fashionality project, allowed for a precise printing of the pleated structure designed by Tsai-Chun Huang and translated into a special algorithm by Mingjing Lin. Unlike the popular 3D printed fashion, which is often stiff and hard as a piece of armour, the costumes created with the use of the new system remain soft and movable. For the designers this constitutes a new “dialogue” between clothing and motion, which up to this point could not be achieved because of the limitations posed by stiff fabrics.
“It was important for us to create a new, groundbreaking costume, which shape and form will refer to the traditional Beijing Opera. In accordance with the previous aesthetics the project has assumed a simplification of the form – more subtleness thanks to using monochromatic colours and less decorations – says the designer, Mingijing Lin – The costumes have been printed with the use of the cutting-edge SLS technology (selective laser sintering) offered by Sinterit 3D printers. Over-designed and complex projects could not be executed with the use of classic techniques of constructing and sewing fabrics. The properties of the Flexa Black fabric allowed us to maintain the geometrical structure of the costume and a softness resembling that which characterizes traditional fabrics.”
For the designers, taking advantage of 3D printing in the show resulted from the will to include the aesthetics of digital culture in juxtaposition to how the Beijing Opera is perceived by the audience. The texture of 3D fabrics differs from traditional costumes. The new quality coming from using unusual materials may result in attracting completely new recipients to the show, those so far discouraged by the overwhelming costumes of the traditional Chinese Opera.
When undertaking their works in terms of the project, Mingjing Lin and Tsai-Chun Huang were aware that it significantly extends outside of the field of fashion. It constitutes a clear reflection of a cultural exchange, a dialogue between the East and West, modernity and tradition, technology and craftsmanship. It is a significant step which shows the scale of permeation between seemingly unrelated fields: culture, art and technology.
Sharing 3D SLS printer with designers and allowing them to manufacture specific elements in their own workshops was a revolution which Sinterit, the first manufacturer of desktop SLS printers, has already initiated in 2014. Today the effects of that revolution reach much further – fashion, and even opera. Craftsmanship, deeply rooted in tradition, has gained a new dimension and designs composed of parts printed in the 3D SLS technology are more and more often included in the prestigious fashion category of haute-couture.