Zac Posen 3D-prints celebrity looks at this year’s Met Gala


Zac Posen used 3D printing techniques to create four custom outfits for celebrities attending the annual Met Gala yesterday, including two gowns and two accessory pieces.

Jourdan Dunn and Nina Dobrev wore dresses that were 3D printed using their exact body measurements; Deepika Padukone wore 3D printed embroidery on her design; while Katie Holmes and Julia Garner were outfitted with 3D printed accessories.

Posen collaborated with GE Additive and Protolabs for 12 months to design, engineer and print the concepts respectively, for the Costume Institute’s annual event at New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

“We flew to Pittsburgh to see a printing facility, and learned about plastics and polymers and polyamides and all these different materials,” Posen explained to CNBC. “Then I started to learn with different materials what was possible, what’s not possible. And really the answer is, almost everything is possible.”

The custom dresses took a long time to create especially, he explained, with multiple versions being designed and improved upon over the course of the year. Both gowns were fitted exactly to the wearer’s body, using body scanning technology that took up to an hour of standing still each.

Jourdan Dunn’s rose-petal gown took over 1,100 hours to print and finish. The dress is made up of 21 individual durable plastic petals that are fastened together through a titanium cage. Every batch of three petals took up to five days to print.

For Nina Dobrev’s translucent mini dress, 200 hours were spent on the bustier alone – one of the four pieces that made up the dress. To give the dress a glassy appearance, it was then sanded and sprayed with a clear coat, going through two iterations before it was deemed transparent enough by Posen. The final dress was assembled in New York ahead of the Gala, requiring five people to put the bustier onto Dobrev due to its extremely delicate nature.

Katie Holmes and actress Julia Garner wore 3D printed accessories; a collar and a headpiece, which took 56 and 22 hours to print and finish respectively. Meanwhile, Deepika Padukone’s gown was embellished with 408 printed 3-D embroidery, which took over 160 hours to print and finish.

The designs were inspired by the idea of capturing natural forms in motion, befitting the “camp” theme of this year’s gala and corresponding museum exhibition, which celebrates all things “artifice and exaggeration”, as interpreted by Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay, Notes on camp.

The technology used for the dresses, as well as Katie Holmes’ headpiece and Deepika Padukone embroidery, is called stereolithography (or SLA), which involves layering very thin pieces of liquid plastic (thinner than a piece of hair) on top of each other. These are then shaped by a laser to take incredibly intricate shapes. The gowns and accessories were manufactured in Protolab facilities in Germany as well as North Carolina.

This year is not the first time the designer has put a focus on using technology to bring innovative new design ideas to life for the gala. In 2016, he made headlines for creating a dress for actress Claire Danes, which glowed in the dark.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more