We speak with the 'FashionTech' designer about her groundbreaking collections using 3D technologies and digital fabrication to create couture fashion and the inspiration behind her incredible work...

Stephanie Santos' designs represent a unique intersection of design and technology within fashion. Her 3D couture works fuse traditional haute couture garment construction with digital techniques and fabrication. The products are all handmade and 3D printed, using recyclable materials. We asked her about some of the technology she uses and inspiration that goes into making her garments.

When did you first realise you wanted to pursue a career as a designer?

My mom always loved clothes. She'd have so many nice and chic clothes and would day-dream about luxurious clothing, but we couldn’t afford it at that time. So I thought to myself one day, why not create my own beautiful clothes?

As far as I can remember, I was around ten years old when I realised that I wanted to be a designer, and it's been that way ever since.

Where did you study to become a designer?

I did my first degree at the ESMOD University in Roubaix, France, in luxury fashion and couture techniques.

Later on, I decided I wanted to study Fashion Technology, so did another six months at the Fabricademy Fablab, in Amsterdam.

Stephanie Santos 3D Couture | Artemis Top

What made you want to specialise in fashion textile technology?

During my studies at ESMOD, I decided to go vegan - it all started with me not wanting to use any of the animal products that high-end fashion designers use so much.

Eventually, I became an eco-conscious advocate and decided that I didn’t want to work with any material that couldn’t be easily recycled or degraded. Doing some research into green alternatives I came across new technologies like 3D printing, and I found out about Danit Peleg’s (another 3D designer) work for example.

I really wanted to keep the Couture aspect of my designs and further explore the possibilities of using technology in fashion, so I began an internship at Iris Van Herpen which opened some incredible creative possibilities in the Fashion Tech discipline that I'd never seen before.

What role do you think technology plays in designing clothes today?

Design software like CLO3D or Rhino3D and even Illustrator make the design process, garment construction and pattern making a lot easier than before. But most of all, it's a lot more time-efficient, which of course is then also cost-saving.

Another great aspect of these technologies is the small amount of waste it produces, compared to traditional garment construction and making that is notoriously wasteful and unsustainable. Most designing steps can actually now be done entirely virtually, without the need to physically create anything. Even garment fitting can be done on a 3D made-to-measure avatar.

The Rhino Design Process

Your Brand takes its inspirations partly from Nature, why is that?

Growing up at my parents' house, every morning when I woke up I would see the forest from my windows. We were lucky enough to live right next to it, and my dad had the most amazing garden with vegetables, fruits and flowers.

I became a 'nature-person' because of this fascination that I had developed with it over the years. Nature can teach us wisdom in so many ways, and I find that its beauties are unlimited and full of so many different textures.

For me, the question is rather how can one not be inspired by nature?

Stephanie Santos 3D Couture | Camelia Top

Your work is known for its incredible textiles and shapes, where do you take inspiration from when designing these?

The inspiration can come directly from patterns I see on a plant, a tree, or even just on leaves. I am also a big fan of linear arts, be it linear drawing or parametric curved line patterns.

Usually, my work is a combination of botanical inspiration and a game of lines, like my 2020 collection Morphosis.

Stephanie Santos 3D Couture | Asa Earrings

What do the aesthetics of your collection mean to you?

The aesthetics of my collection are my interpretation of beauty. I always make sure the designs that I create fit ergonomically around the curves of the female body. So in the end, the natural female body actually shapes my designs as much as my own personal ideas of aesthetics do.

What technology do you use when creating your designs?

I start with Photoshop for the collage step, then I use Illustrator to create the botanical-art patterns you see in my designs, and then CLO3D to shape the garment. Finally, I use Rhino3D to create the 3D pieces that will then be printed to form my designs.

What's the one piece of technology that you could not live without?

I, of course, love and enjoy the technologies that I use in my work and daily life.

However, in my personal life, I do enjoy apps like Audible for example, where you can feed the brain while you multitask whilst going about your day. Or a smartwatch that tracks my health and sports activities for a better understanding of my overall performance.

But realistically for me, there is no one technology I would label as ‘could not live without'.

Stephanie Santos 3D Couture | Camelia Top

And finally, looking at how the fashion industry has embraced the digital world this year; what do you think the future relationship between fashion and technology will be?

For me, I think that 3D digital fashion and being able to wear your favourite luxury brands in a video game, for example, will become the mainstream.

In my opinion, it will work in symbiosis. In the near future, it won’t be conceivable anymore to sustain the pace and over-production of the fashion industry at the rate it has been operating at for so long.

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