Style, In Another Dimension

3-D printing is merging the worlds of architecture and fashion design

Like many architects, Jenny Wu had been using 3-D printers for years; they’re essential for making scale models. She was intrigued to hear how her colleagues were being tapped to help fashion designers produce clothing and jewelry with the devices. To see whether she could play both roles, Wu set out to design a necklace. “I incorporated the same line-based geometries,” she says, pointing to the tiny twisting office towers and spherical homes that dot her firm’s Silver Lake office, “and softened them, made them more organic.”

Last year Wu wore the finished product—a striking cluster of entangled coils—to Art Basel in Miami. “It was crazy,” she says. “Every five minutes someone was trying to buy it off my neck.” Encouraged by the experience, she launched LACE, a collection of 3-D-printed jewelry made of nylon, TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), or cast silver from printed wax molds. The rings ($40-$1,000) have a Möbius strip quality, while the necklaces ($450-$900) resemble alien organisms with interlocking parts that move like vertebrae.

We are going to see more of this futuristic fashion as designers such as Iris van Herpen, Francis Bitonti, and Alexander Wang embrace the technology to create sculptural shoes and dresses unlike anything that has appeared on the runway. Wu is in the process of designing a couture piece. “What’s exciting about 3-D printing is it’s a way to engage people who aren’t into tech or architecture,” she says. “And in the fashion world it’s starting to change what’s possible.”