Thursday, 12 April 2018

Futuristic Fashion: 3D Printed Sunglasses

As well as being an ethical fashion fan and general costume and sewing nerd, I also love geeking out about sci-fi and fantasy, and the way that futuristic or alternative worlds are brought to life. I do love a good future dystopia - Mad Max Fury Road being my current favourite - but when they start being referenced by politicians in a “this country won’t end up like that, honestly!” kind of a way, it’s a sign that things are getting too real and I need to look for my escapism somewhere else.

I’ve been finding Star Trek’s utopian vision of the future very soothing, as well as loving their costuming choices (I wrote about my favourite fictional fashion icon, Lwaxana Troi, for Women At Warp) and their magical piece of zero-waste technology, the replicator. I don’t think the show has ever reliably explained how this microwave-sized machine can produce anything from a cocktail to a costume for a holodeck adventure (something to do with gel packs??) but I’m happy to suspend disbelief for the notion of a device that could make whatever you needed and recycle it for you afterwards. No trips to the charity shop or time spent separating glass, cans and plastics for the crew of the Enterprise. 

The closest we’ve come to a replicator so far is the 3D printer, which has been used to great effect to make unique costumes for fantasy films. Costume designer Ruth Carter cleverly fused tradition and technology to create a headdress and mantle for Angela Bassett as Ramonda in Black Panther. The garments feature traditional lace patterns, but were 3D printed to suggest the technological capabilities of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda. 3D printing produces show-stopping costumes, but to make use of the full potential of this technology on a larger scale we need to find a way to use it to produce everyday items, preferably in a closed loop system so we are not adding to the problem of plastic waste.

Dutch start-up w.r.yuma have done just this, making 3D printed sunglasses frames from recycled plastic bottles or reclaimed car dashboards. I supported their kickstarter in 2017 and received my fab sunnies earlier this year (just in time for the snow!) which come with a foldable case made from Portuguese cork. It was really interesting receiving updates as the making process was underway (I probably found the “outtakes” of the printers failing to print sunglasses  - and creating little abstract sculptures instead - much funnier than I should have) and a reminder of the effort that small brands are going to in order to make a big difference.

I wanted a suitable top to wear with my futuristic sunglasses, so I picked up a long-abandoned refashioning project: a cropped, short-sleeved sparkly silver sweatshirt. At some point in the past, I must have thought I’d rock a baggy cropped sweater (and been mistaken) as this is the second one I’ve had to refashion. It’s a good reminder that on-trend pieces are only worth adding to your wardrobe if they are going to work with your favourite clothes.

I had already unpicked the sleeves and hem before abandoning the project, so I marked a new side seam, and used the pieces I had cut off to add an extra band between the shoulder and the sleeve to make the sleeves a bit longer. This has added a nice little design detail to a straightforward project, and the finished sweatshirt feels much more “me”. The project wasn’t completely zero-waste, but a handful of off-cuts that are only a few centimetres long isn’t too bad.

The Barbican seemed the ideal location for some photos: it’s an amazing example of the futuristic architecture that was meant to usher in a new era of utopian living in post-war Britain, and there’s a slightly fantastical element to it (I can never find my way in by the same route twice!). Of course, the weather in Britain being what it is, it had snowed the day before we had planned to go there, so I wore a second-hand velvet skirt and vintage boots to complete the outfit.

I hope my zero-waste outfit will encourage other people to realise that futuristic fashion isn’t just the stuff of fantasy films, it’s becoming accessible to us here and now, and we can (and should!) support the innovators who are making closed-loop clothes manufacturing a reality.

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