Perhaps you didn’t know it, but you’re most likely an admirer of Julia Koerner’s work. She’s the architect who collaborates with Iris van Herpen on many of her incredible 3D printed couture pieces. Julia will be speaking on the second day of the Smart Fabrics Conference in San Francisco, April 23-25, 2014.
Julia was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for Fashioning Tech about her trail-blazing work at the intersection of fashion, architecture, the body and technology.
Bio Piracy Dress at Ready To Wear fashion show in March 2014 at Les Docks, Cité de la Mode et du Design, Paris, France. The piece is a creation of Iris van Herpen, Julia Koerner and 3D printing company Materialise. Photo: Michel Zoeter
Your work with Iris van Herpen has brought you to the attention of the fashion world, but you have an impressive portfolio of work ranging from fashion to interior design objects to buildings destined for space. What would you say is most challenging about moving between projects with such differences in scale and application? Do you have to do a “re-set” or are the basic principles the same?
Julia Koerner: The basic principles in the design process are similar for me. Coco Chanel once said: “fashion is like architecture, just the scale is different”. I am very interested in cutting edge technology and no matter what scale I am designing in, digital fabrication techniques are always a drive in my ideas and designs. The constraints derive mainly from material science and computational limits, such as the processor of my computer. Additive manufacturing sets no limits in geometry and the complexity of a design has no cost limitation, which is the amazing thing.
Cellular Complexity by Julia Koerner in collaboration with Kais Al-Rawi & Marie Boltenstern, 2012
Textiles are integral to both clothing and building design, but we often mean different things when we talk about architectural textiles vs fashion textiles. Do you think that new technologies like 3D printing and new materials have helped to blur these lines? How far can we push the boundaries?
JK: The ‘Voltage’ Jacket was produced with a new flexible material called TPU, which is stretchable and compressible in any direction. One can imagine it as a rubber or silicone similar material. The 3d printing technology used to produce the Jacket is called selective laser sintering (SLS) and allows us to print as thin as 0.8 mm. Since the material is non-rigid, the design had to be structural in order not to hang loose on the body. Three different structural layers are superimposed and intersect in different directions, the results are enigmatic effects which animate the contours of the body in different ways. I find it fascinating to speak about the structural logic of a garment’s design and find it interesting to design clothes with such an architectural approach.
Voltage Dress at the Voltage Couture Show, January 2013 at Hotel Intercontinental, Paris, France. The dress is a collaboration between Iris van Herpen, Julia Koerner and 3D printing company Materialise. Photo: Michel Zoeter
Ironically, a lot of ultra-high-tech design, like your work with Iris van Herpen, couldn’t be achieved without digital tools, but has an almost hyper-organic aesthetic. It is also often talked about with references to skin, cells and biology. What are your thoughts on this: is it accidental, reactionary, coincidental, something else?
JK: The most recent additive manufactured piece I collaborated with Iris van Herpen on was presented on the 4th of March in Paris at her ready-to-wear Fall 2014 show named BIO PIRACY. In a statement Iris mentions: “the 3d printing collaboration with Julia Koerner fuses the artisanal with the technical to create a kinetic dress which dances as it amplifies bodily movement”. Almost all of my designs I create are inspired by forms and shapes I see in nature – the purity of optimized form, complexity in geometry and symmetry are intriguing components I work with when I recreate specific mathematical codes on the computer.
I notice that referrals to prosthetics pop up now and then in your work. Is this something that you’re interested in exploring in a more literal sense (i.e., artificial limb design) or just a general source of inspiration?
JK: My final Master Thesis at the University of applied arts was a design for a Biomechatronic research center to be located at Manhattan, NY. “Super Human Enticement” is a project meant to create new spaces with enigmatic spatial effects inside the urban fabric of a metropolis. The fictive building is designed to inherit a combination of sports field and recreating, health care and showcasing high end customized artificial body parts. I am consistently intrigued by the paradigm change lead by Amy Mullins and other leading figures in this field. I believe that there is a certain beauty in the skeleton of the human body and the performance of the cellular system of bones is an incredible biological phenomenon I am inspired by in terms of my architectural/structural research. My dissertation at the Architectural Association in London was based on the research into cellular complex systems in nature and we developed mathematical codes to design architectural structural building components which are based on the geometrical logic of such systems from nature.
We hear a lot about interdisciplinary collaboration these days. You’ve collaborated with fashion designers, architects and engineers. What would be your dream creative partnership?
JK: I am a Lecturer at UCLA at the MARCH II graduate program and we work a lot with other industries such as currently we collaborate with BOEING. I find it very interesting to bridge between different fields and one industry I am extremely interested is the sports clothing industry. I like that they challenge cutting edge material science and technology and I feel I would love to contribute with my ideas.
You’ll be speaking at the Smart Fabrics Conference in San Francisco in April. Do you plan to go into depth on your body/fashion-related projects, or will it be more of an overview relating to ‘fabrics’ in broad terms? Or something completely different?
JK: I am excited that I am invited to speak at the Smart Fabrics conference and I intend to mainly speak in-depth about my work with fashion design and how it relates to technology and architecture.
Thanks so much, Julia, can’t wait to see your talk at Smart Fabrics!