3D Printing Goes to the Oscars — And Wins an Academy Award!

3 min read

3D-printed statement piece with beading

When designer Julia Koerner called us up to work together on a 3D-printed design for a movie costume, we had no idea the ride would lead us all the way to the red carpet. From the 3D-printed mantel and crown worn by the character of Queen Ramonda in Marvel’s Black Panther to an Oscar victory for the film’s lead costume designer Ruth E. Carter, our latest collaboration with Julia Koerner has been a star-studded adventure!

3D-printed statement piece
The 3D-printed statement piece by Julia Koerner - Image by Julia Koerner

A series of firsts: Black Panther’s Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design

As if working on one of 2018’s highest-grossing films wasn’t impressive enough, Julia had another pleasant surprise coming when she heard that Ruth E. Carter had been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume. To Julia, the nomination is an acknowledgment of the innovation in design that Black Panther demonstrated.

Black Panther actress in a movie scene wearing a 3D-printed shoulder piece
3D-printed mantel and crown worn by the character of Queen Ramonda-Courtesy of Marvel's Black Panther/ Costume Design by Ruth Carter

I felt very excited about the Oscar nomination. Black Panther was my first time working on a movie, and it is very rewarding to be a part of this success.

— Julia Koerner

With the victory, explains Julia, it’s become even clearer how important it was to incorporate novel technologies like 3D printing to enable the complex aesthetic and elevated designs that the story called for.

3D printing goes couture with Ruth E. Carter

The collaboration between Julia Koerner and the costume designer didn’t stop at the 3D-printed pieces for Black Panther. Academy Award winner Ruth E. Carter wanted to wear something special to the 21st Costume Designers Guild Awards and the Vanity Fair Oscars Party, something that would pay homage to Black Panther. To do so, she was counting on Julia Koerner’s design genius. And Julia, in turn, knew she could count on Materialise to bring her inspiration to life.

Using her years of experience in designing for 3D printing, Julia created a 3D-printed statement piece for Ruth that gave her a special look while also showcasing the possibilities of 3D printing in couture and fashion.

3D-printed statement piece in white on a black background
The 3D-printed statement piece designed by Julia Koerner

The neck accessory was inspired by African designs and patterns, together with gala dresses by Balenciaga from the 1950s and the oeuvre of Malian photographer Seydou Keïta. The result was a filigree design, with high-detailed structures that resembles three-dimensional lace with enough stiffness to stand on its own.

Combining digital technologies with traditional techniques

Once Julia’s design was ready, it was printed by Materialise in PA 12 using SLS technology and sent back to the designer within the week. Then, Julia hand-embellished the ornament with Swarovski crystals to make it sparkle in certain orientations.

Ruth Carter and Julia Koerner posing at the Oscars
Ruth Carter and Julia Koerner holding an Oscar award
Woman holding 3D-printed statement piece

Julia Koerner with Ruth E. Carter at the Costume Designers Guild Awards 2019 - Image by Annabelle Azadé Julia Koerner holding the 3D-printed statement piece - Image by Ger Ger

The crystals intensify, even more, the detail of the piece. This was also the first time that this process of trickling crystals was performed on a 3D-printed piece: it’s a great combination of digital and traditional craftsmanship.

— Julia Koerner

The accessory is unique for one more reason. The design itself was entirely customized for Ruth E. Carter, starting with a 3D scan of her head and shoulders. While her designs are usually based on measurements, explains Julia, this was one of her first times using a 3D scan to design a custom accessory.

To create a cohesive visual statement, even the dress worn by Ruth on the red carpet was designed by the New York-based designer b michael America with the 3D-printed neck accessory in mind.

All in all, we’re convinced the 91st Academy Awards will prove to be an unexpected landmark for 3D printing in fashion, and we’re proud to have been a part of it.

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