Magnetic dresses by Iris van Herpen and Jólan van der Wiel

Dutch designers Iris van Herpen and Jólan van der Wiel collaborated to grow these dresses with magnets.

Product designer Jólan van der Wiel approached fashion designer Iris van Herpen with the idea to grow clothing using magnetic forces. To do this they manipulated a material made from iron filings mixed into resin.

This composite material was added to fabric in small sections then pulled by magnets, creating a spiky texture and patterns in a similar to the way van der Wiel shaped stools at Dezeen Platform in 2011.

“The technique still uses magnetism but with a new material that’s much more flexible and tactile, like a hairy skin that’s soft to touch,” van der Wiel told Dezeen. “The material moves with the body much better than what we’ve used previously.”

Before creating the dresses, van der Wiel experimented with the material to achieve the optimal flexible structure and dark pearlescent colour. Van Herpen then sketched out the shapes of the designs and made the cloth bases.

“The first dress we made was shaped like the moon,” said van Herpen. “With the second, I wanted the material to grow around the body more organically.” Each of the two garments took three weeks to construct.

The dresses were shown as part of Iris van Herpen’s Autumn Winter 2013 fashion show in Paris earlier this month, where outfits were accompanied by 3D-printed shoes that look like tree roots.

“The original idea was to have a dress growing live during the show through magnetism… so people could see the birth of the dress, how the dress would grow,” van Herpen said, though this proved too complex and potentially unsafe for the models.

We interviewed van Herpen for our print-on-demand magazine Print Shift, during which she told us about how 3D printing could transform the fashion industry.