threeASFOUR’s Chro-Morpho collection shows the magic of 3D printing directly on fabric

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Since its founding in 2005, fashion label threeASFOUR has remained at the forefront of avant garde fashion. For the past few years, the collective’s boundary-pushing designs have often overlapped with cutting-edge 3D printing practices, making for some of the fashion-tech world’s most awe-inspiring garments. Once again, at this year’s New York Fashion Week, threeASFOUR has not disappointed 3D printing enthusiasts.

Working in collaboration with Stratasys and Travis Fitch, threeASFOUR’s fashion designers created its Chro-Morpho collection, which took the NYFW runway by storm. The collection, inspired by the iridescent and microscopic colors created by light filtering through butterfly and insect wings, was created using a novel technique of 3D printing directly onto fabric.

The collection marks one of the first times that this technique has been used in the fashion world. That is, though 3D printed garments have graced runways many times before, they have mostly been either entirely 3D printed or have been assembled with fabrics post-printing. By 3D printing directly onto textiles, new opportunities are being created, especially for the creation of modern, functional wearables. Stratasys, which helped pioneer the technique, has high hopes.

Chro-Morpho threeASFOUR
Chro-Morpho dresses at NYFW 2019 (Photo by Thomas Concordia/Getty Images for Style360)

“Within the next two years, I believe consumers will be able to purchase an array of 3D printed garments from high-fashion brands,” said Naomi Kaempfer, Stratasys Art, Design and Fashion Director. “And the result will be access to an explosion of unique color and texture combinations that are simply not possible through traditional methods.”

The magic of Chro-Morpho

Beyond showcasing a new 3D printing method for garment-making, threeASFOUR’s Chro-Morpho collection is an aesthetic revelation. The pieces in the collection draw from nature and transform the beauty of insect wings into luminous and textures clothes.

“We’ve created the skin-like illusion of switching shades and depth to portray the insect’s innate camouflage, color diversion and luminosity,” explained Adi Gill, co-founder and creative director of threeASFOUR. “With 3D design and printing, we’ve embodied the fragility and light wing movement of the butterfly. It’s a stunning display of nature, fashion and technology.”

The ethereal effects of the garments were enabled in part because of 3D printing. For instance, the Greta-Oto dress in the collection was made using a lenticular effect engineered by Stratasys. The effect itself was created by 3D printing spherical, fish-scale sized cells made from photopolymers directly onto polyester fabric. The 3D printed cells are each comprised of a clear lens with a strip of color inside. The result is a dress, made up of 27 parts and thousands of these 3D printed cells, that changes color with each movement.

The cells were 3D printed using Stratasys’ multi-color and multi-material J750 PolyJet machine and reportedly took about 17 hours to complete. The combination of the soft textile substrates and the 3D printed components makes for a truly unique and eye-grabbing dress.

“Soft, lithe fabric touches the skin, while 3D printed designs adorn the outer garment,” added Kaempfer. “This approach, developed through months of collaboration and testing, was the only way to realize the designers’ vision. It brings the intricacy, nuance and splendor of the dresses to life.”

Chro-Morpho threeASFOUR
threeASFOUR Runway Show hosted by Klarna STYLE360 NYFW on September 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Thomas Concordia/Getty Images for Style360)

Garment making of the future

According to Stratasys, the ability to 3D printed directly onto fabric could have logistical benefits in addition to aesthetic ones. For instance, a 3D printer could be used to replace a number of other garment-making machines, including 2D printing, embroidery, thermoforming, foiling and more. Integrating a 3D printer instead of these various systems could save fashion brands space, as well as money and time.

“We are always looking to revolutionize manufacturing methods, pioneer new design options, and inspire designers and students to create without boundaries,” Kaempfer concluded. “Our mission is to change the way people think about design and to redefine what’s possible.”

threeASFOUR’s Chro-Morpho collection will be traveling to museums across the U.S., including the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Designs for Different Futures” exhibit, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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