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Iris van Herpen: Re-Fashioning Couture

Dutch designer, Iris van Herpen has been pushing boundaries in the world of high fashion since her eponymous label’s founding in 2007. van Herpen’s design process incorporates elements of rapid prototyping as she and her team collaborate on developing wholly new materials with maker-experts in fields ranging from 3D printing to biomorphic design to sustainable architecture. Watch a short film about her initial foray into 3D printing.

Assignment Idea: An Unconventional Challenge


The field of fashion is ever-changing. Fashion designers and shoppers continue to look for the latest and the most innovative fashion. As goes the old cliche, what you are wearing one day may be in style and the next, out. Imagine designers creating your clothing with 3D materials that mimic actual fabrics. Would consumers think of this type of fashion as couture or could it become the next fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a term used for clothing that is typically worn less than five times and then thrown away. These cheaply made garments are a major contributor of clothing waste. The production of clothing contributes to 10% of all carbon emissions on the planet according to Forbes.

Think about clothing items that are popular with you and your peers and then look up how the company that makes it goes about producing those items. Now, think about the item being made out of 3D printed materials: How could the development of rapid prototyping, 3D printing and other tools radically alter the design and consumption of our clothing from head to toe – and cradle to grave?

Subject Areas

Business, Marketing, Supply Chain, Sustainability


  • research the effects fast fashion has on the planet, the economy or human conditions
  • write an essay or short paper explaining the information uncovered (optional)
  • Identify a clothing item (from above) and then imagine how it could be re-created with less environmental or social impact using 3D printing
  • present to the class a sketch of the item that could be made out of 3D printed materials