Shaping the Future: 3D Printing

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION rocked the modern world from 1760 to 1820-1840. It was a time of rapid change, and that change rippled out and forever altered the way people interact. Frederick Winslow Taylor was inspired by assembly lines and created scientific management theory for Ford Motor Company. Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to criticize factory conditions and the ideology of capitalism he saw played out in industry power structures. Unions were born. The Progressive Movement began. The suffragettes began to rally together in both the US and the UK, because they wanted the right to join the work place as equals.

We are in the middle of another revolution, with perhaps even greater ramifications. The internet has changed the marketplace. This is undeniable, and as technology grows more accessible, so does the world beyond state borders. And one of the people at the forefront of the revolution is…Karlie Kloss.

Yes. That Karlie Kloss: BFF of Taylor Swift, Victoria Secret supermodel, and innovator of the “Karlie” bob haircut of 2012. One of Karlie’s most recent projects should arrest everyone’s attention, because it is on the cutting edge of the fashion and technological industries. Kloss made small, 3D printed dolls of herself, in various (fabulous) outfits, and posed these dolls in photographs all over the world. As an art piece, Kloss’s work is at the intersection of fashion, technology, and social media. This is our new world. This is how information and products are created and distributed now: people with large social media networks utilize the latest technology to connect to wider audiences than ever. Fashion is located in the immediate, and it is curated by democratic processes of likes and reblogs instead of editors. Vogue will continue to report on fashion, but may not always define it.

What would Upton Sinclair think of this brave new world? Society has not yet resolved the crises of his age: child exploitation and inhumane work hours; arguably, all we’ve done is move those problems overseas. But with 3D printing, the old factory models are likely to go the way of the iPod. If a single machine can not only produce all the parts of any product—and also infinitely reproduce itself—those worries about human labor disappear. Instead, we worry about the dwindling number of jobs, and we wait impatiently for the old economy to adjust to the new technological reality. Our problems are no longer about participation, but imagination. Kloss, social media, and a host of innovators and Silicon Valley engineers reinvented the marketplace right under our feet. Power structures in production and distribution are disappearing, and who can imagine how that will reshape the world we live in?

But whether we can imagine it or not, the moment is here. Just recently, Kimberly Ovitz showcased her very first line of 3D printed accessories at New York Fashion Week, and this sparked the conversation for downloadable designs in an industry built on sewing machines. Customization is no longer the privilege of the wealthy, fashionable “Illuminati.” Anyone with access to technology can now design clothing and accessories to their tastes. This technology, in the hands of people with true creative vision, can take an entire industry by storm. Through Shapeways—the company Kloss used to make her dolls—for example, designers can choose between over 50 different materials to create a unique product of their own. People use 3D printing software to design anything from the perfect wedding ring to an avant-garde necklace fit for NYFW.

The guard is changing. The Iron Jawed Angels and Victoria Secret Angels are on the same side. In Silicon Valley, a tech t-shirt and a pair of New Balance sneakers are no longer the extent of fashion. This new wave of innovators is prettier, more popular, and more on trend than ever before. The artist and the scientist must settle their arguments and realize their work is no longer so different. Broken power structures, accessibility, and technology have paved the way for the new revolution: customizable, this time, and at the tips of our fingers.

By: Katherine Eisenbrand
Photography by: Jonathan York
Models by order of appearance: Evan Michelle Miller, Eleonora Pinto, Ashlyn Gary
Jewelry compliments of Shapeways