On July 5, 1946, with the help of Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini, French engineer Louis Réard unveiled a daring two-piece swimsuit for women that was “smaller than the world’s smallest swimsuit”. He called it the bikini. Almost 68 years later, Réard’s swimwear innovation, which is still as popular and head turning as ever, is getting a futuristic tech upgrade compliments of Woman You Should Know Mary Huang.
With a grad school background in interaction design and fashion, Mary is the founder of Continuum Fashion, a next generation fashion house that combines emerging tech innovations with a sensibility for beautiful, wearable design. What she dreams up are crazy cool, bold designs for women crafted using 3D printing, a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model.
Pre-orders for her 3D printed shoes will be taken soon, but what you can get right now is her N12 bikini, which is as historically groundbreaking as Réard’s original design.
N12 represents the beginning of what is possible for the near future of fashion.
The N12 bikini is the world’s first ready-to-wear, completely 3D-printed article of clothing. All of its pieces, closures included, are made directly by 3D printing and snap together WITHOUT ANY SEWING.
Whereas Réard gave his revolutionary, navel bearing swimsuit its name following a breaking news item – U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean the week of his big reveal – Mary’s N12 is named for the material it’s made out of: Nylon 12. This solid nylon, but flexible fabric-like material is created by the SLS 3D printing process, which essentially involves a laser melting plastic into the geometry of a given design.
Nylon 12, which looks like slick chain link, works perfectly for a bikini because it is as strong as it is flexible, allowing it to bend without breaking, and giving it the ability to make working springs and almost thread-like connections. It’s also waterproof (we’d hope… since that’s a swimsuit must).
To create the 3D printed fabric, Mary and her team first designed a structure of thousands of mini interconnected circles. Continuum’s Jenna Fizel then wrote custom code that takes a given curved surface modeled in 3D and calculates the circle packing pattern and the connections between the resulting circles. This circle packing algorithm is not uniform and changes with the curvature of the surface and areas that need more support and flexibility.
In the end, Continuum has crafted a futuristic bikini by creating a wholly new textile material whose aesthetic design is completely derived from its structural design.
Mind blown yet? ‘Cause ours are!
If you want to be the first to hit the beach in a 3D-printed bikini this summer, you can order your N12 here now (retail price $250 – $300). But if you prefer to just dip your big toe into this “future of fashion” ocean, check out Continuum’s N12 bracelets ($60), which are super cool too!