As London Fashion Week approaches, we meet the 3D printing platform that helps designers to be more creative, less wasteful, and super fast.
3D printers have come a long way since they were first developed in the 1980’s, and with their advancement, we’ve seen everything from 3D printed art, to 3D printed firearms, and most recently, even 3D printed prosthetics.
This weekend the first ever 3D printed jewellery shop popped up in Boxpark, Shoreditch.
WonderLuk, an online platform, helps fashion and jewellery designers, car designers, and even architects, to create and sell unique 3D printed accessory collections.
The process not only gives creatives greater freedom to sculpt geometrically complex forms, but helps them to be less wasteful, and to get their lines on the market in a matter of weeks.
“We are an umbrella brand that gives young, independent, talented designers a platform to showcase their designs,” explains Andre Schober who founded the WonderLuk website alongside business partner Roberta Lucca in 2013.
“We don’t have a very restrictive creative direction, it’s very open in fact. The designs just have to be original, wearable; and printable, obviously.”
The company has already worked with practitioners from around the globe, including New York fashion designer Francis Bitonti (the creator of the first 3D printed dress), the Chennai-based Architect studio D-Domain, and British product designer Oliver Smith (whose 3D printed bow ties caused a stir at this year’s BAFTA awards).
Roberta Lucca, who met Schober when they worked together at the luxury mobile phone maker Vertu, says that she was inspired to start the company after learning how reckless mainstream fashion brands can be.
“The whole whole fashion chain has been quite wasteful,” she explains.
“50% of all the garments and accessories that you see in stores will end up in landfills.
“At WonderLuk, we create jewellery on demand, so you never have the situation where we have lot of products going in the bin because the season has passed and nobody bought them.”
Customisation is also key to reducing negative environmental impact, Lucca adds.
“Once you go to the website and you put your initials on a product, or change the material, or alter the shape a little bit, it becomes yours,” says Lucca. “3D printing is democratising customisation to the masses.”
In fact, the very nature of the process has opened new doors of creativity for designers, says Schober.
“The materials that we work with, they are very versatile; Nylon is a plastic that allows us to depending on the design to be very flexible or very solid and sturdy,” he explains.
“It also allows designers to create geometries and shapes that would not have been possible before; a structure in a structure, interwoven strings, or cross sections. The same is true for metal 3D printing.”
WonderLuk allows designers to sell their products far more swiftly too.
“We’re probably twice as fast as fast fashion,” says Lucca.
“In the fashion world it would take anything between three months and six months from the moment that something is conceived as a new collection up to the point it’s out in the stores, for us it’s anything from between two to eight weeks.”
The company currently receives about 100 applications a month, of which just five or six are selected, but designers don’t have to be 3D literate.
“They design the pieces and we support them with our in house design team,” explains Schober.
“Then we sample the pieces to ensure that wear, fit, durability are all perfect, and when that is done, we do all the marketing wrap and put on the website.
“The great benefit for designers is they can focus on what they do best, which is to create.”
Although 3D printing is more expensive that traditional manufacturing methods, this streamlined business model also results in financial gain, says Lucca.
“If a designer wants to create a pair of earrings and sell to a high street store, they would need to manufacture a minimum order, and the minimum quantities are usually around a thousand.
“In our case, we don’t need to invest anything up front, we can create just one pair of earrings.
“In time, this becomes much more cost effective for everyone in the chain.”
Despite thriving business – WonderLuk will be unveiling a new collaboration with “a big London museum” in September – getting WonderLuk up and running hasn’t been all-smooth.
“It’s not like you buy a piano, and you become the best pianist in the world,” says Lucca.
“I first bought a 3D printer, sold on the idea that it was going to be very easy: you press a button, and you have a object in front of you in two hours.
“It’s much more complicated than that, and the reality is that you end up creating a lot of glitch art.”
That said, Lucca says that staying ahead of new technology has not only been key for WonderLuk, but is central to the success of all creatives.
“We work with designers from all over the world,” she says.
“The reason why they are able to now progress now in their careers is because they are totally tuned into technology and startups like ours who offer a whole new way for them to create.”
“You no longer need to be dependent on these very established high street stores picking you out of many thousands. You can partner with startup like ours and explore new ways to create products and to market those products to people.”
Fashion is democratising, and it’s doing it in 3D.
Check out WonderLuk’s great 3D printed jewellery collections over at WonderLuk.com.