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Zac Posen’s Met Gala Collection Elevates 3D Printing to High Fashion

Zac Posen, designer and founder of The House of Z label, teamed up with 3D printing experts, GE Additive and Protolabs, to outfit some of the world’s biggest stars in an unprecedented 3D-printed collection at the Met Gala on Monday night.

Posen and company said they designed the collection to replicate the effect of seeing a natural object in motion—but frozen in time. The result, they said, was a new kind of high fashion that truly demonstrated the possibilities of 3D printing.

Zac Posen x GE Additive x Protolabs created four confections be worn by model Jourdan Dunn and actresses Julia Garner, Katie Holmes and Bollywood star Deepika Padukone. Each wore a gown created specifically for the occasion, designed by Posen, engineered by GE Additive and printed by Protolabs. Most were printed at Protolabs’ 3D-printing facility in North Carolina, one of the largest in the world.

Additionally, actress Nina Dobrev wore a unique, one-piece Zac Posen x GE Additive x Protolabs bustier.

“With his vision and foresight, Zac Posen is demonstrating that almost anything is possible with 3D printing,” companies said in a statement. “He and his team are not afraid to push the boundaries of what is possible. His latest collaboration is a continuation of his vision of incorporating cutting-edge technology and innovation in his sophisticated and glamorous style.”

Dunn wore a gown made up of 21 3D-printed rose petals, each weighing about a pound and averaging 20 inches in size. Posen designed the petals to be fastened to a “modular cage” made of titanium to be worn underneath and kept invisible from the outside. According to the group, the creation of Dunn’s gown took more than 1,100 hours of work.

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Holmes did not have an entire gown made for her appearance. Instead, she opted for a “palm leaf collar accessory” that draped elegantly over her shoulders. To keep it in place, the accessory was attached at the clavicle of a custom Zap Posen watercolor tulle gown. In contrast to Dunn’s massive gown, this only took Protolabs around 56 hours to complete.

Padukone also wore a custom Zac Posen gown accented by 3D-printed accoutrement. For Padukone, Posen created 3D-printed embroidery and sewed it onto a metallic pink Lurex jacquard gown. Each of the 408 embroidery pieces was also covered in a metal alloy through a process known as vacuum metalizing.

Following in her peers’ footsteps, Garner also opted for a smaller 3D-printed accessory instead of a complete gown. For Garner, Zac Posen x GE Additive x Protolabs designed a plastic crown of vines, printed as a single piece and made from Nlyon 12 plastic finished with brass plating.

The odd woman out was Nina Dobrev, who was outfitted in a clear body-hugging 3D-printed dress paired with an elaborate 3D-printed bustier that was polished and covered in a clear coat to give it the appearance of glass. The bustier consisted of four separate pieces and took more than 200 hours to complete at a separate Protolab location in Germany, the group said.

All were Zac Posen designs, though the designer was reticent to take all the credit considering the hundreds of hours it took GE Additive and Protolabs to execute the collection.

“I dreamt the collection, GE Additive helped engineer it and Protolabs printed it,” Zac Posen said in a statement celebrating the gowns and accessories.

The Met Gala effort shows how wide-ranging the possibilities of 3D-printed fashion can be, the group added. Their partnership, in which the mechanical and industrial design experience of GE Additives was coupled with the 3D-printing capabilities and industry-leading knowledge provided by Protolabs, could be a sign of things to come as the fashion industry becomes increasingly influenced by advances in technology.

“3D printing offers unique capabilities, such as near-complete design freedom, enabling the manufacture of designs that would have been difficult to achieve using other traditional methods of fashion design,” the group said. “What might seem like an unlikely collaboration of design engineers and Zac Posen—one of the fashion industry’s leading lights, at the forefront of innovation —in fact, makes complete sense when you consider the transformative impact 3D printing is having on our everyday lives.”