As he hosts ground-breaking design workshops at London's Ravensbourne college; Francis Bitonti, the genius behind Dita Von Teese's 3D-printed gown, talks to R~A~J~E
“My design process is a collaboration with artificial intelligence. ”
The workshops at Ravensbourne are quite unique, what made you want to come and work with students here in the UK?
"Ravensbourne was great location for a project like this. It's a school that supports the integration of technology and fashion. The students have been great to work with."
You've come an unconventional route into fashion, can you tell us how that happened?
"Yes, I have had a very unconventional route to fashion. I started out getting an art degree looking to go into computer graphics and animation. I quickly got dissatisfied with the work. I wanted to be thinking about physical things so I decided to go to architecture school but I then quickly became dissatisfied with the failure of the profession to engage the digital in a meaningful way. I bounced around for a few years trying everything from engineering to product design. I later found a home at Acconci Studio in Brooklyn and stayed for three years before going to start my own studio.
I became very interested in wearables and the body while at Acconci Studio and when I went off on my own I think I gravitated towards this type of work because of that experience. But really I just always kept an open mind. I don't believe in disciplines. I think our studio can design anything. I think any designer can design anything. A good designer has a voice that is their own and they can bring that world view to any medium. It's about seeing the world and seeing how people see themselves and how they relate to their surroundings. Designers structure that relationship. It's the core of what we do. Everything else is extra."
You collaborated with Katie Gallagher on her SS 2013 collection and Michael Schmidt Studios and Shapeways on Dita's gown. Can you walk us through a typical day working on a fashion project?
"We don't start with materials like most designers do. I work with the immaterial. We start with the digital. It's about image making and make processes that make digital media. I am interested in systems that do unexpected things. I call it a collaboration with artificial intelligence it's about responding to a system, because the system is digital we can use it to control a machine like a 3D Printer. I work into materials backwards. I work with abstract language first to talk to robots that make materials. It's about talking to tools before anything else."
Collaboration with Katie Gallagher on Forever Belts
What's been your favourite project to work on to date?
"I don't have favourite projects. It's one project the same investigation that only gets deeper and more interesting as we move from project to project. My greatest project is my studio and my methodology. Things don't last... my methodology will outlive me."
|The Cloud Collection|
You offer customers the chance to 3D print their own items from the Cloud Collection. The home 3D printing market is small right now, how do you see this growing?
" I certainly don't see this market reducing. I expect it will grow quite rapidly as we see more and more technologies going to the desktop and major department stores are planning to carry 3D Printers in the next year. Also patents are running out on many key printing technologies in the next ten years. This will cause an explosion of small companies developing desktop versions of these industrial machines. If we look at what happened with FDM printing, the technology used in the makerbot printer I think we can expect to see the same happen with other technologies. The competition will drive down the price of materials and machines opening up more applications. We are going to see a spike the sales of desktop printers.
The Cloud Collection is how we are explore alternative distribution and manufacturing models. As this network grows this will be a viable method for designers to distribute designs. 3D Hubs recently released that they have a network of 3000 desktop printers that can print the statue of liberty in two weeks. This network is available to the public now. Never has the public had access to such a powerful manufacturing infrastructure. These technologies are going to turn factories inside out. The future of production is in distribution."
What's in the store for Francis Bitonti Studio in the future?
"We are going to many different directions. I get interested in everything and move in many different directions at once all the time. We are releasing a collection of luxury goods Jewelry and other Fashion Accessories. We have a collection of ceramic housewares being released in September. A full colour 3D Printed Paper dress and shoes. This is going to be a very exciting year."
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
"Don't have heroes or idols. You know more than you think you do. Don't try to emulate people career paths. I see too many students thinking they have to work for some office and will some award if they want to be a great designer. Be authentic, no one is like you if you are yourself you don't need to worry about competition. What worked for designers in the past isn't going to work for you. Don't try to be part of the establishment... immerse yourself in what is your generation and make the future. There are no rules or guidelines, the world can work anyway you want it to. Make infrastructures while you make things. The avant guard doesn't need to be speculation if you think through infrastructures and systems even the most radical idea becomes a serious force in the world."
Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer our questions, we hope you enjoy your time in London!
Discover more about Francis Bitonti and his studio on his website.