Francis Bitonti, a New York City-based architect and fashion designer, has debuted a 3D printed mask at the Wearable Futures conference in London. The Francis Bitonti Studio has been actively exploring how 3D printed materials and design engineering can be used in fashion. The mask for Wearable Futures was created with an Objet Connex multi-material 3D Printer from Stratasys.
Bitonti shared some insight with us on how the mask was made and what it represents regarding his design ethos: “In this project we are printing in both PolyJet VeroClear rigid and TangoBlack rubber-like 3D printing materials. The project is about superimposition. It’s not about producing a second skin for the body but a body on a body. We created a complex network — a flexible and rigid material. We wanted to see how these complex networks could collide with the human body. We are creating a new body, a new skin.”
Bitonti has been working with 3D printing technology for several years; his studio’s past projects have included a curved bike rack prototype for the New York Department of Transportation, housewares such as a set of flatware, and a chair and stool 3D printed in ABS plastic using Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology.
Bitonti’s embrace of technology has a long history; he has been tooling around with computers and programming since he was a child. His cohort at Pratt, where he earned his architecture degree, was among the first to use computers in design courses. He noted to Aradna Sharma, in an interview for Diane Pernet’s A Shaded View of Fashion blog, that it was also “the first time I encountered computer controlled fabrication technologies.” Rather than finding inspiration in nature or planned geometries, he allows the technology to lead the way in his designs. “I never know what I am going to make when I start. I don’t make sketches, it’s all very intuitive, it’s very much a material exploration in spite of everything being digital….I am interested in designing through processes and systems. I set up simple systems that produce complex results. It’s collaboration with artificial intelligence, me and the machine.”
Bitonti’s use of 3D printing to bring his designs to life reflects how he believes the technology is on the cusp of changing manufacturing. “This is Industrialism v2.0,” he told Sharma. “The work we are doing in the studio is going to redefine mass production. This is not a technology that depends on economies of scale. Mass production is not mass production in the way we understand it anymore…The factory will become ubiquitous.”
In 2013 the studio made a huge splash into fashion with a show-stopping, gothic-inspired gown 3D printed by Shapeways, studded with 12,000 Swarovski crystals, and worn by actress Dita von Teese. The team also used 3D printing in the creation of metal belts. More dresses are in production, such as the Verlan dress, as well as a clutch purse (an invaluable accessory!) that has a web structure 3D printed on an Objet500 Connex multi-material 3D Printer.
Bitonti’s wholehearted embrace of 3D printing sets him apart from many of his contemporaries in the fashion and design worlds. He has no hesitation of where the technology is leading him. “We are redefining manufacturing by transforming design processes, our way of thinking about form and material requires we use these technologies,” he explained to the Stratasys Blog. “Our design methodologies, our understanding of culture demands we use these technologies for production. It’s an exciting time to be a designer; we can no longer produce meaningful form without these technologies.”