Computational Fashion Design And How Will It Make Us All Look Awesome

Walking into the “New Skins” workshop was a bit like fast-forwarding into the future of clothing. Here’s what we saw there.

Computational Fashion Design And How Will It Make Us All Look Awesome


Francis Bitoni, the mind behind Dita Von Teese’s curve-hugging 3-D-printed dress, recently teamed up with Lagoa and MakerBot to host a 10-day workshop on the emerging field of 3-D garment design. Designers from every industry gathered at the Metropolitan Exchange to collaborate with Francis on his next creation.

Computational design is the newest trend slowly penetrating the fashion industry and high-powered rendering engines and MakerBots are the new pins and needles of couture. Learning it means learning a new set of four tools:

  1. Maya by AutoDesk
  2. Rhino by Rhino3D
  3. Processing by Ben Fry and Casey Reas
  4. Lagoa by Lagoa

Along with this new set of tools comes a vocabulary that sounds as though it’s been “extruded” from a Neal Stephenson novel. Luckily, we’re here to get you acquainted with computational design lingo and have you 3-D printing in no time with our main takeaways from the workshop. Here’s our crash course.

Maya is used for generating designs from polygons. A polygon mesh is a 3-D image comprised of vertices, edges, and faces. The faces are generally made up of triangles, quadrilaterals, or other simple convex polygons which result in a delicate tessellation. A polygon mesh can only generate curvature with a series of vertices.

As seen above, we were able to design dresses to be printed in Maya. Creating curves with polygons requires a different approach to design than when sketching by hand.

Rhino (below) is for generating designs from NURBS. Nurbs (also known as Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines) allow for a designer to draw curvature and surfaces accurately by creating 2-D lines, circles, arcs, or curves mathematically. This makes for generous flexibility in generating a printable model as the geometry can be altered precisely.


Processing is for programming for mathematical visualizations

Programming languages that include a physics engine allow simulations of physical systems. The most recognizable application being video games, physics engines can also be used for data visualizations and for real-time simulations of all sorts. Visualizations rendered in processing make beautiful inspirations for products created through algorithmic design.

Using Processing, we can simulate a Maya-rendered object both repelling and attracting vector lines. This technique builds a firm foundation for computational design.

Lagoa is for browser-based rendering. Rendering can be thought of simply as artistic rendering, like a painter conveying abstraction or hyper-realism to an established scene. This is done by generating an image from models in a “scene” file, which can be altered with geometry, viewpoint, texture, lighting, and shading to create a virtual scene. This data can be processed then output into an impressive presentation.

Computational design requires a language and skillset that belonged solely to animators and architects before it found its ways into fashion. If you’re interested in taking a trip through the timewarp of the New Skins Workshop, consider signing up for their next workshop in England.


So, to polygon, or to nurb? The answer is both. See our interview with Frances Bitoni below.