Catherine Wales: Experiments in 3D Printing


Headpiece by Catherine Wales | Photo: Christine Kreiselmaier

LONDON, United Kingdom — Catherine Wales began her career in menswear tailoring, worked on the “skinny” menswear silhouette for Hedi Slimane’s Autumn/Winter 2000 collection for Yves Saint Laurent, joined Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and worked at Gap before she started experimenting with 3D printing.

“With 3D printing we now have the ability to realise our creations almost instantly, speeding up the development process in a way we never thought possible,” Wales told BoF. “This technology holds the promise of a world where imagination has no boundaries and in time there won’t be a material that cannot be reproduced as a 3D object.”


The initial result of Wales’ experimentation is ‘Project DNA,’ an eight-piece collection of digitally fabricated accessories and artefacts, inspired by the visual structure of human chromosomes and produced using white nylon. The standouts are a headpiece with gilded horns (above), a feathered shoulder piece (left), and a “scaffolded” corset, featuring individual ball and socket components which wearers can assemble themselves, like Lego.

3D printing has long been used for rapid prototyping across a number of industries. But as printing systems become better and cheaper, the process is increasingly being employed for the direct digital production of finished products in materials ranging from plastic, rubber and metal to ceramic and nylon.

“The development process involved with 3D printing means we can also tailor-make designs to specific body shapes and eliminate the need for categorising product into traditional size groups,” added Wales, alluding to the technology’s capacity for manufacturing perfectly customized products.

“I start by scanning the body and importing that data into a 3D software programme, then design the product around the curves of the body, so that they fit like a second skin. I also use my pattern cutting and fit knowledge to add or cut away from that shape in areas that will provide lift or desired reduction, as seen on the corset,” she continued.

“Once the designs are complete in the software application, this data is then fed through to the printer, in my case the SLS machine, which laser sinters powdered nylon together in a layering format over a period of six to thirty-six hours, depending on the complexity of the data.”

Her work is on display at the Arnhem Mode Biennale in the Netherlands until 27 July and is set to be shown at the Design Museum in London next month.

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