Every time I visit a fair, an exhibition or just open my Instagram I come across interesting designers and start-ups working the the area of FashionTech. Every one of them has a unique story but they all share a passion for experimenting, creating and pursuing their dream. Inspired by their work I decided to start featuring them on my blog in a new section called ‘Discover’ (maybe with time I will find a better name for it).
I would like to start with my neighbours, the Dutch. Some people may not know it but there is a lot happening in this small country.
If you’ve been to the Netherlands you have certainly noticed that it is the flattest country in the world. It’s known for tulips, coffee shops and wooden clogs called Klompen. But there’s also an interesting music scene, great bars and this overall sense of coolness. Those who went clubbing in the 90s (like I did) remember it was where all kinds of electronic music came from: techno, hardcore, trance and so on. The Dutch don’t have designers of the same calibre as their neighbours, the Belgians (Raf Simons, Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela, just to name a few) but there is something progressive, conceptual and experimental in their way of creating fashion.
For these reasons I became interested in the work of three Dutch ladies: Iris van Herpen, Anouk Wipprecht and Maartje Dijkstra. They all work at the boundaries between fashion and technology but they have each their unique style.
Maartje Dijkstra graduated from ARTEZ/ Art Academy in Arnhem the Netherlands (Iris van Herpen finished the same school). She did an internship at Alexander McQueen in London where she developed an interest in high fashion.
After graduation she started her own label designing progressive, sculptural fashion collections, fashion technology objects, accessories, illustrations and jewellery pieces. Now she focuses mostly on creating unique high-end jewellery and striking fashiontech pieces at the crossroads of fashion, music, architecture, performance and technology. She often combines technology and traditional craftsmanship: the pieces are hand crafted which makes them truly unique.
One of her earlier creations, ‘Hard Core Vein 2.0’ takes inspiration from blood flowing in the veins on the beats of music. The piece has wired tubes that are printed in 3D using a transparent PET filament. Inside they are filled with ink so you can follow its movement as it reacts to the music. The tubes are linked together with black silk wires, all assembled manually. If you look at Maartje’s drawings you will notice how the piece follows the lines of her illustration as if she wanted to bring them to life.
‘Obstruction’ is a project developed by Maartje in collaboration with performance artist Po Ting Lee. The project explores the role of technology in people’s lives: sometimes it can open new possibilities and horizons but sometimes it can restrict us. To illustrate this Maartje created a sculptural dress which has five moving pieces that look like the scales on a lizard. When a dancer wearing the dress is in full light she can do all her movements but when there is shadow the moving pieces come out and block the dancer’s movement. The moving parts also resemble some sort of armour which gets deployed to protect the wearer.
In another fashiontech project called ‘Intimacy’ Maartje cooperated with V2 Rotterdam and Studio Roosegaarde to explore the relation between intimacy and technology in our society.
The high-tech garments entitled ‘Intimacy White’ and ‘Intimacy Black’ are made out of opaque smart e-foils that become increasingly transparent based on close and personal encounters with people. Social interactions determine the garments’ level of transparency, creating a sensual play of disclosure. These garments function as a second skin that transforms the wearer’s body into an interface.
More recently the designer created a dress called ‘Braindrain’. It was part of an exposition “Groninger dress meets fashion tech” (Groningen is a province in the Netherlands). She was inspired by the local fashion from the 1850s: the golden shells covering the dress resemble gold ear-pieces that were fashionable in the region in that period of time.
The golden parts are 3D printed a white, slightly transparent filament and hand-painted with spray paint. They have white LEDs inside and are connected to small motors that allow them move and flicker like a stroboscope. The golden shells open and close, reacting to the music especially composed for this project by Newk, computer music composer and DJ. The black parts are 3D printed manually using a 3Doodler (3D pen), each of them separately, and then bound together with black polyester and silk wires. The black elements look like a huge spider web that trapped some kind of insect.
Maartje’s main sources of inspiration, dark electronic music and nature are again visible in her ‘Surface Distortion’ project. She created it for the Future Flux Festival, which is an annual event gathering people from the worlds of technology, art, innovation and design around workshops, performances, exhibitions and experiments. It takes place in a former submarine wharf in Rotterdam and Maartje wanted her performance to match the impressive, raw space.
This was achieved by merging heavy electronic music created by Newk with stroboscope and laser light in which the dress responds and interacts with its environment. The dress itself is made of many different elements: there are electroluminescent panels that flash blue light, there are 3D printed elements (done manually with a 3D pen) and panels made of black leather all linked with polyester wires. The model wears also a piece that covers half of her face giving it a robotic, but delicate look.
In 2016 Maartje was selected as one of 12 finalists of the Fashion Fusion contest sponsored by Deutsche Telekom (read more about it in my post) For the competition she created the ‘TranSwarm Entities’ dress that secured her the 3rd place. This is a big achievement especially that the winners or the 1st and 2nd place were projects of a more commercial character.
Maartje’s dress was recognised for the seamless fusion of aesthetics and technology. This beautifully executed dress combines techniques that Maartje has already mastered, manual 3D printing of small pieces (here they look like birds’ skulls) and binding them together with leather and polyester wires. However this time she integrated drone technology. The drones, at first invisible, take off and start flying around the dress. She worked with Bitcraze who manufacture a small quadcopter called the Crazyflie. To match the dress Crazyflies were decorated with 3D printed patters which made them look like something between a helicopter and a dragonfly. The drones then circle around the dress creating a small swarm, hence the name of the piece.
If you like the lines of these experimental pieces you may also like the jewellery and accessories created by Maartje, they combine different, sometimes unexpected materials and techniques. And if you are a fan of tattoos she can also design one for you and you will be sure not to see it on anyone else.
Photos courtesy of Martje Dijkstra. Photo of the ‘TranSwarm Entities’ dress copyright Telekom Fashion Fusion