Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, who has designed outfits for Lady Gaga and Beyonce, has presented a dress at the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie in Paris that was partly developed by TU Delft scientists. The dress, part of the wider Ludi Naturae haute couture collection, was created using a new printing method that enables plastic to be combined with natural fabrics.

Foto: Yannis Vlamos

The dress featured as the opening item in the show and was created as part of Crossing Parallels, a partnership between TodaysArt and TU Delft. Iris van Herpen is one of the programme's first artists in residence. In that role, the fashion designer collaborated with two scientists at TU Delft: Jouke Verlinden and Zjenja Doubrovski. 3D print expert Drim Stokhuijzen and Industrial Design Engineering student Noor Aberle also worked on the project.

Verlinden compares the dress to a concept car: ‘Like a concept car, the dress is not intended for day-to-day use or mass production, but it presents a vision. It also makes it possible to experiment with new possibilities, such as those provided by 3D printing.’ 

Droplets of plastic

The dress was made using a printing technique in which several nozzles can print using different materials simultaneously. ‘It can be compared to an inkjet printer, but instead of ink, droplets of plastic come out of the nozzle’, says Verlinden. The droplets that emerge from the 3D printer are made up of ‘thermosetting polymers’. These have a three-dimensional network structure that sets when energy is added.  

Verlinden: ‘During the printing process, ultraviolet light was used to cure the structures, making them set.’ It took more than 260 hours to print the dress using this method. This was followed by a further 60 hours of manual finishing work by Atelier Iris van Herpen.

Plastic and textile
Since the printer is too small to make the dress in one go, separate patches of 30 x 30 cm were printed. While printing the patches, the printing process was regularly stopped in order to insert the tulle textile into the printer and enable the materials to become interwoven. Atelier Iris van Herpen then combined the separate patches to create a single piece.

Verlinden: ‘Before this, no one had succeeded in effectively combining plastic with different properties with textile and we're proud of what we've achieved.’ 

For a scientist like Verlinden, co-designing a dress in this way is an opportunity to experiment with new technologies. ‘Normally, you would start with a design. With a project like this, you take a new production method and see what's possible. It's venturing into uncharted territory.’

The digital control of traditional craft processes is set to play an increasingly important role in the clothing industry, expects Verlinden. ‘It's not only limited to 3D printing. Knitting machines can also be digitally controlled, making it possible to integrate silver threads into the fabric and enable the final garment to conduct electricity. It can also allow you to incorporate electronics within clothing fabrics.’ 

About Crossing Parallels
Crossing Parallels brings together artists and scientists to collaborate on innovative projects and new technologies and to reflect on scientific challenges and challenges for society as a whole. Iris van Herpen is one of the first participants in the programme, established by TodaysArt and TU Delft.

About Design United
Design United, the 4TU research centre for design, boosts the innovative power of the Dutch creative industry by bridging the gap between design research and the wider design community. Design United's 3D print expert Drim Stokhuijzen collaborated on this project with Iris van Herpen.


More information:

Jouke Verlinden 
Associate Professor of Advanced Mechatronic Design 
Tel: +31 (0)15 27 89321 

Zjenja Doubrovski
Assistant Professor of Advanced Mechatronic Design
Tel: +31 (0)15 27 86367

Ilona van den Brink 
TU Delft media relations officer
Tel: +31 (0)15 27 84259 

Teun Verkerk
Crossing Parallels Programme 
Tel: +31 (0)6 28 404 393

Iris van Herpen
Via Spice PR: Britt Hamersma