This series of interviews is based the Test_Lab “Clothing without Cloth” which took place at V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam, May 2011 and featured: Emily Crane (UK), Carole Collet (UK), Christien Meinderstsma (NL), Grado Zero Espace (IT), Pauline van Dongen (NL) and Freedom Of Creation (NL).
Pauline van Dongen is an emerging talent in the Dutch fashion scene who has been experimenting with high-tech textiles and manufacturing technologies. Conceptually-based, but materially finessed, her designs make us re-consider the objects we adorn on our body and their possibility to transform us. Her “Morphogenesis” collection (2010) featured an inquiry into organic transformation which resulted in an exquisite 3D printed shoe done in collaboration with Freedom of Creation. Pauline presented the shoes, discussed their genesis and gave us a peak into technological innovations to come in her upcoming collection “Stereopsis” during the Test_Lab “Clothing without Cloth” event.
Working with unconventional or new materials triggers me to explore and research the processing and finishing in a garment and allows me to work like a researcher.
What is your background?
In 2008 I graduated with a BA in Fashion Design from Artez, Academy of the Arts in Arnhem Netherlands. It was there that I first developed an interest in developing my designs by draping fabrics directly on a mannequin. This is how I translate my conceptual approach into a visual aesthetic around the body.
Subsequently I started the Masters Program at the Fashion Institute Arnhem. During these two years I was also offered a shoe design course. Here I discovered a love for product design and also further developed my personal signature that has been described as “organic science”. Working with unconventional or new materials triggers me to explore and research the processing and finishing in a garment and allows me to work like a researcher. My fascination for the relation between human and their surroundings is something that keeps feeding my inspiration. In 2010 I graduated with my collection “Morphogenesis” in which I researched the space between a body and a garment. In September 2010 I started my own label.
I’m very interested in the human body and mind.
What led to your interest in fashion and technology?
When I was little I always wanted to become a doctor. In high school I was doing a lot of different things. I was still very interested in science and biology, but on the other side I was also doing a lot of creative stuff like drawing, dancing and following a preparatory course for the conservatory. I think within fashion design all these different elements come together. I’m very interested in the human body and mind. My beta side is reflected in my way of working. Doing research, working with new materials is always challenging. It triggers me to find solutions and invent new ways of construction.
– Pauline van Dongen “Morphogenesis 3D Printed Shoe Sketches” –
Please describe your studio – where are you located, how many designers/technologists work with you, and how are the garments produced?
At the moment I am located in Nijmegen. I have a big studio where I work together with two interns. I make all the garments myself. I am quite a perfectionist so I focus on quality and refinement within the whole process. I always start out with draping on the mannequin. Sometimes I continue and finish the garment that way, but most of the times I translate these “moulages” into patterns which I then further develop.
How does the environment you work in influence the designs you make (i.e. access to technology/ specialists)?
I go to different fairs to source new materials and I also source them online. I like wandering around in hardware stores or other stores that aren’t fashion related. When I need a specific machine or someone with a certain expertise I try to get in touch with companies that can help me create my design. I often go to different FabLab’s to work with a laser cutter machine. I develop my 3D printed designs in collaboration with Freedom Of Creation.
In my work I combine high tech materials and new technologies with traditional fabrics and craftsmanship.
What kinds of materials and technologies are used or integrated into your designs?
In my work I combine high tech materials and new technologies with traditional fabrics and craftsmanship. In my latest collection I’ve used knitted metal fabric and I worked a lot with a laser cutter to create patterns in leather and silk. Also I work a lot with a material called buntal, which is a wood fibre from the Philippines. It may seem quite rigid from a distance but it actually acts very sculptural on a body. The shoes I developed with my previous collection are 3D printed. For my last collection I created shoes which are constructed from laser cut perspex lined up in layers in the trenches of the wooden sole.
Do you collaborate with technologist/laboratories, and if so, whom and how does this effect the choice of technologies and materials?
I collaborate with Freedom Of Creation to develop the 3D printed designs. They have over 10 years of experience with 3D printing. I am also collaborating with an Italian knitwear manufacturer (Plug and Wear). He experiments a lot on his machines and for instance develops all kinds of knitted metal fabrics. He’s very interested in technology so we are working on projects together and he helps me develop new materials. He’s working on a very interesting knitted piece for my next collection, but I can’t tell more about it yet….
I first study how the material acts on a body and see what kind of shapes I can create with it.
How much do the materials and technologies used in the designs influence the aesthetics? Or do the aesthetics dictate the technologies and materials, and how?
The materials influence the aesthetics a lot since to me the material often is the starting point of a design. I first study how the material acts on a body and see what kind of shapes I can create with it. But there are times when it’s the other way around and then I have to search for a material with which I can create the construction I have in mind.
What do you think the technology brings to the craft and role of design?
I think technology supports the ever evolving nature of design. Technology will not eliminate craft. I think in the end there will always remain a certain balance between the two. Traditional craft will remain appreciated in a technological world since it has an ability to offer different values. Technology can provide solutions for existing or future problems so we should not shy away from it. I think designers should be forward thinking and use new developments to push their ideas.
– Pauline van Dongen “Morphogenesis Collection” –
What are the challenges for you as a designer working with 3D printing technology?
First of all I think 3D printing is the technique of the future. It offers endless possibilities regarding construction, shape and its application. The challenge to me is to not only create a design that has a striking aesthetic look but also functions well. For instance with the shoe design it’s a challenge to make it more comfortable to wear.
The most important thing [about 3d printing] is that you can create shapes and constructions that you normally wouldn’t be able to create by hand or with another technique.
What are the advantages in making 3D printed designs? Time? Design? Economic?
The most important thing is that you can create shapes and constructions that you normally wouldn’t be able to create by hand or with another technique. As a designer you’re completely free in that sense. If you want to create only a couple 3D printed pieces or when you are developing a prototype, it is more affordable compared to when you have to create expensive injection molds. Also it’s a big advantage to be working only with computer files. You won’t need a lot of transportation anymore.
I think it is becoming more and more realistic that everyone will be able to print out their own designs.
What do you think the 3D printing technology brings to the craft and role of fashion? Do you think we’ll see more and how/where? For example, in the future, will we be going to the local “print” shop to make our clothes the same way we go to print photos?
I think it is becoming more and more realistic that everyone will be able to print out their own designs. There are already some online companies that provide 3D printing services. When the technology evolves, more files will be spread online, so also people who can’t work with 3D programs will be able to download them and print something. First the technique should become more affordable and there should be more soft materials available, but I do think it offers a new way of constructing garments. But expertise is the factor that will make a difference in this process. Therefore I think the role of fashion designers will be of high importance especially regarding the quality, function and wearability of a printed garment. You should compare it with a normal (2D) printer nowadays. Everyone can print out a holiday photo at home or at a copy shop, but a professional photographer will go to a professional (digital) printing office to print his work and create a book for instance.
When I started out with this idea I came across the problem that I could not create 10 pairs of shoes in a limited time period. Especially because I wanted to translate the expressive shapes and sculptural feel of my garment into a shoe design.
MORPHOGENESIS 3D PRINTED SHOES
Could you describe the work that you showcased at the V2_ Test_Lab “Clothing without Cloth” event – “Morphogenesis 3D Printed Shoe”?
As part of my collection “Morphogenesis” (2010), I developed a shoe design which is 3D printed. After my previous experience in designing and making shoes and winning the Sacha Golden Heel Award with my design “Vertigo” (January 2010) I wanted to also create a complete image for my graduation collection of my master at the Fashion Institute Arnhem. When I started out with this idea I came across the problem that I could not create 10 pairs of shoes in a limited time period. Especially because I wanted to translate the expressive shapes and sculptural feel of my garment into a shoe design. I knew about the technique of 3D printing but didn’t know if it was suitable to create a shoe with it. I got in contact with the Dutch company Freedom Of Creation, who wanted to support me with this project and told me everything about 3D printing. This innovative technique gave me the opportunity to translate the sculptural feel of the garments into a rigid form in polyamide. I was able to create without any borders, everything was possible! This resulted in a sculptural form with organic lines. The polyamide shoes, made with 3D printing, give a futuristic look and feel to the overall collection.
For whom was the shoe designed?
There was not a specific person I had in mind while designing it, but I do design for a certain type of woman. She is modern forward thinking woman with a relaxed elegance, very well aware of the space around her and the interaction between her and the surroundings.
My work doesn’t relate to the Western tradition where clothes shape the body in a certain mold. Unlike that I prefer the idea that the body is what gives the garment a certain shape and volume.
For what context(s) are your designs intended to be worn?
My designs get an extra dimension when worn. My work doesn’t relate to the Western tradition where clothes shape the body in a certain mold. Unlike that I prefer the idea that the body is what gives the garment a certain shape and volume. Some pieces of the collection are quite expressive and can be worn on a special occasion but some are actually very wearable. I like my designs to be worn and not to be seen as only an art object, because I prefer to see how the wearer interacts with the garment.
Do you see a growing market and demand for 3D printed fashion? For example your 3D designs and those of Iris van Herpen have had huge media success. Are we going to see more of this in the future?
I think we definitely will, but the biggest challenge at this point I think is to make 3D printed pieces more wearable. People are very curious about the technique and it gets a lot of attention since you can create such impressive work with it. But to get 3D printed garment into the market I think we should improve wearability and also the costs should be lower, because it’s still quite expensive.
I think technology and innovation advances our idea of what fashion is or could be in the future.
Do you see a resistance in the fashion world to work with technology or would you characterize the fashion milieu as embracing uses of technology (either in production or integrated into the garments ) and how?
People can sometimes be afraid to change their routine or the system that they are used to working in. I think technology and innovation advances our idea of what fashion is or could be in the future. Fashion is always rapidly changing and can therefore incorporate the newest developments. I don’t think there’s a resistance – a big part of the industry is definitely forward thinking. But I do notice it takes a lot of time for companies to adapt and learn about new fabrication techniques. And also there’s a lot of time, patience and money involved in doing research and developments, so not everyone might be willing to invest.
The combination of clothing and technology is often perceived as futuristic. Do you see yourself as a designer making clothes for the near future or using futuristic clothes as a medium to discuss contemporary ideas?
I don’t focus on making “futuristic” garments but I do see my work as “a proposal for the future”. I like innovation because it advances our concept of what fashion is or could be. Of course I also like to create a dialogue with my work.
– Pauline van Dongen “Morphogenesis Collection” –
V2_ TEST_LAB “CLOTHING WITHOUT CLOTH”
How do you see the speculative research and design scenarios presented in Emily Crane’s “Micro-Nutrient Couture” and Carole Collet from Central Saint Martins Textiles Futures student designs translating into the fashion world of stores and runways?
I found it very interesting to see what kinds of concepts Textiles Futures students developed. I admire how they research materials and techniques to develop a concept that is applicable to the distant future. In my opinion not all of these designs can be translated to the runway right away, because they will remain too abstract. But on the other hand, some of the scenarios might become reality sooner than we expect! I think it’s good to make a statement, to create a dialogue or discussion and to make people think about our future way of living and designing. Especially, for instance, when we are talking about ethics in the case of grow living materials/tissues.
Christien Meindertsma in her “One Sheep Sweater” is using local “textiles”. Do you have an inclination to incorporate this strategy for eco-purposes?
Ideally I would of course, but at this point with the kind of materials that I use and the low quantities I order, it is very difficult to realize. I think it would not yield much profit in the ecological field unless you have the time to completely focus on the development of a program like Christien’s. Since I work with so many different materials and sources this will be hard task.
Grado Zero Espace excels in finding a form and use for scientific research. How do you perceive the overlaps between the fashion industry and science and how can they be consolidated for better design purposes?
It is important to have a team with both scientists and designers to research and invent as well as think of different applications, shape construction, wearability etc… The two disciplines can be mutually reinforcing and work together very efficiently.
What future collaborations (which you can speak of) are you anticipating with Freedom Of Creation?
We are currently further developing the 3D shoe designs to create a more comfortable and wearable design, but next to that I hope there will be a lot of new exciting projects.
Nijmegen, June 2011