Vojd: filling the Void in Luxury Design with Additive Manufacturing

Additive printing brings new dimensions to luxury fashion.

CEO Christian Hartung and Creative Director Hristiyana Vucheva

The co-founders of Berlin-based additive manufacturing luxury jewelry house Vojd (pronounced Void), CEO Christian Hartung and Creative Director Hristiyana Vucheva, transformed their business in 2013 knowing that advancements in 3D printing would disrupt the traditional relationship between couturier and client. The history of couture fashion is one of extreme luxury in which a few elite houses, including Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Givenchy, provided handmade garments and accessories to ultrawealthy, discerning clients. These clients could purchase whatever garments they wished, so fashion houses aimed to wow them with a level of intricacy and customization that could only be provided by the hands of skilled tailors and seamstresses. These professionals made the garments to the client’s physical specifications and incorporated both the artistic designer’s and prospective buyer’s visions into the final product.

Vojd’s Défilé ring for Akris

No longer do artistic directors, seamstress, and tailors monopolize the understanding of how a client’s body is best complimented by materials, shapes, and compositions. Using selective laser sintering (SLS) and other additive printing techniques, Vojd has worked with numerous fashion houses including Akris, Louis Vuitton, and Prabal Gurung to create high quality, technically intricate jewelry designs. In 2016, Vojd worked with Akris to produce its Défilé ring using SLS, which was inspired by the polyhedron geometric structure known as the Naoshima Pavilion which is perched on Japan’s Kagawa’s shoreline.[1]

Naoshima Pavilion

Prior to the entry of Vojd, many luxury fashion houses relegated additive printing to rough prototyping, as post-processing costs were seemingly prohibitively expensive. Hartung and Vucheva determined that focus on three key areas of production; product, materials, and finish, would create a design process that produced minutely detailed jewelry economically in smaller quantities.[2] Vojd’s printing processes use schematics that can project geometric designs formerly too delicate to create traditionally, new materials that preclude the need for assembly, and an in-house knowledge of the finishing process that simplifies the 10 or more steps required to create a final product.[3]
The organization continuously explores breakthroughs in 3D manufacturing, including topology optimization and voxel control, to provide fashion houses with increasingly edgy ways to provide clients with one-of-a-kind goods at lower costs. Hartung cites that while the cost of traditional manufacturing has increased since 2013, the costs of additive manufacturing have decreased 10% a year, every year.[4] Vojd is using these decreased costs and increased capabilities to create its own line of goods, including necklaces, rings, and bracelets.[5] In marketing campaigns and media, the business promotes its local design aesthetic and potential for increase customer personalization.
In the medium-term, Vojd does not simply want to partner with fashion houses on their individual projects, but also create manufacturing programs that can be licensed to each individual brand. This would allow Vojd to capitalize on its technical knowledge and secure market share in what is sure to become a large portion of the fashion industry.
I recommend that the company focus on partnerships that enable it to publicize intricate, scalable product design at economical prices, while creating an eponymous line that allows for experimentation and the showcasing of products created using novel technology. Though McKinsey cited customization for individual clients as one of the hottest trends, I caution against this approach for the mass market. Firstly, mass market product customization is kitsch and counter to the high fashion niche that Vojd has entered. Secondly, given current production costs, it is unlikely that mass market customization will be profitable for some time.
Questions for classmates:
1. Would knowing that a piece of jewelry or garment is made by additive printing influence your purchasing decision?
2. What if you were told that something was made “locally, using cutting edge technology to create the perfect fit and decrease the level of waste for which the fashion industry is infamous?”

(718 words)

1: Vicki M. Young, “3D printing firm Vojd Eyes Luxury Fashion” WWDI, 23 January, 2018, https://wwd.com/business-news/technology/3d-printing-firm-vojd-eyes-luxury-fashion-retail-technology-11114018/ , accessed November 2018.
2: Alan S. Brown, “Chain Reaction: Why additive manufacturing is about to transform the supply chain,” Mechanical Engineering: The magazine of ASME, October 1, 2018, http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=dc56893e-c43b-4eae-9519-9d8578acafc0%40pdc-v-sessmgr03 accessed November 2018.
3: Rachel Arthur, “ Loewe unveils 3D printed bracelet in new menswear campaign” The Current Daily, Feburary 2, 2018, https://thecurrentdaily.com/2017/02/02/loewe-3d-printed-bracelet/ accessed November 2018.
4:Elzabeth Paton. “In Berlin, a Design Studio Puts Luxury into 3-D” New York Times, 13 November 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/fashion/3d-printing-vojd-berlin.html, accessed November 2018.
5: Vodj Studios. “About Us.” https://vojdstudios.com/pages/about-us, accseed November 2018.


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Student comments on Vojd: filling the Void in Luxury Design with Additive Manufacturing

  1. Very interesting and thought-provoking piece. I found it very interesting that Vojd focuses on the elite fashion houses, e.g. Louis Vuitton, as targets for partnership projects. Given the positioning of the elite fashion houses of offering exclusivity and a hand-made feel, I would originally have imagined that they would be reluctant to incorporate additive manufacturing in their design processes.

    However, at McKinsey I co-authored a report, State of Fashion 2018, and one of the key trends we found was that personalization and curation is becoming even more important to the customer[1]. Hence, one could argue that additive manufacturing could enable fashion houses to create truly personalized jewelry of intricate design.

    A concern of mine, would be whether additive manufacturing would make it easier for others, e.g. mass and discount brands, to copy the designs. On one hand, if you have the blueprint it is easy to copy, but on the other hand, it requires the technology which will be expensive especially in large volumes.

    Lastly, I wanted to touch upon the concept of sustainability and fast-fashion. The fast-fashion brands H&M and Zara have become world leaders in fashion, due to their fast lead times from first draft design to placement of items in store. Additive manufacturing offer fashion companies the ability to manufacture items on demand and in store which would decrease lead times. Moreover, by reducing carbon footprint and reducing waste in the process, additive manufacturing can make the industry more sustainable. This is another key trend we uncovered in the McKinsey report State of Fashion 2018.

    [1]“The State of Fashion 2018: Renewed optimism for the fashion industry”, McKinsey & Company, November 2017, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/renewed-optimism-for-the-fashion-industry, accessed November 2018.

    1. I definitely agree with the opening paragraph of this comment. In my mind, the high-end fashion industry is predicated on providing a product that is hand-made and will enable the consumer to feel special when donning the article/product. Where I disagree is where you mention that it might be cost-prohibitive for discount brands to copy it. While copying may initially be cost-intensive, there will surely be discount brands who can generate the capital necessary to replicate this process. And if the latter happens, then there is no point-of-difference between the “luxury brand” and the “discount brand”. Therefore, it is not in the interest of luxury brands to use additive manufacturing for fear that they will dilute their brand identity.

    2. Hey! I definitely think your concern will be valid, but not anytime soon. Additive manufacturing is still prohibitively expensive for many retailers, let alone the individual person. Additive manufacturing requires a thorough knowledge of the complicated software and hardware elements required to produce the design, including the multi-step finishing process that often requires the use of dangerous chemicals.

      Additionally, I think that mass-market personalization cheapens the overall allure of additive manufacturing, and that for it to become more prevalent it should currently be rarified.

      For these reasons and the ones mentioned in my post, Vojd is an organization that is utilization this industry paradigm shift to capture value and establish their market as early adopter!

  2. Awesome article! Thanks for posting!

    I’m curious if Vojd is considering new materials as it continues to develop its 3D Printing strategy. It would be interesting to see Vojd combine their designs with metal 3D printing, and see if they could achieve delicate designs in gold, for instance, that have previously been impossible to achieve.

    Additionally, Ministry of supply is already using a process similar to 3D printing to make their “3D Print Knit” products, spanning from blazers to dresses [1]. Can this technology be advanced to use more designer materials, like cashmere and silk, in order to achieve previously impossible designs or add new interesting shapes and structures?

    [1] Halzack, Sarah. “How a Custom Blazer in 90 Minutes Just Might Change the Apparel Business.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 May 2017, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/how-a-custom-blazer-in-90-minutes-just-might-change-the-apparel-business/2017/05/29/43852d5e-3f1a-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7c0f031585c3.

  3. This is a fascinating concept! I too have a lot of concerns about the waste created by the fashion industry and it is clearly something that designers are concerned about (here is a interesting interview with designer Stella McCartney: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-43834233/stella-mccartney-fashion-is-swamping-our-planet). I do wonder how receptive other luxury brands would be to this technology given it disrupts their traditional business model, however I do feel that they can attract more consumers and create products more efficiently at a lower cost. And while luxury fashion houses may be viewed as traditional in how they manufacture products, they are considered cutting edge when it comes to product design and extending into cutting edge manufacturing seems like a natural progression. I absolutely think that the millennial generation is generally interested in locally made, lower-waste products – Vojd can use this as a differentiator to gain market share. The average consumer may not understand the concept of 3D printing but framing the idea in the context of sustainability would certainly attract consumers in my opinion.

  4. I had no idea high-end fashion houses had been partnering with Vojd. Great article and thanks for sharing!

    To answer your first question, I currently do not think of additive manufacturing as being luxurious/high-end since it is machine made and automated. From what I have seen, most items created this way are very modern in style (e.g., the ring example). While this fits with Akris’ aesthetic, I’d be interested in seeing what they produced with more traditional brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior. On the other hand, I do really like the idea that using additive manufacturing is a more sustainable option — so that aspect positively affects my decision to purchase something made from additive manufacturing.

    It’s interesting to hear how their longer term goal is to license manufacturing programs to these fashion houses. I’d be interested in hearing how easy it is to learn how to design on these programs and how designers at these storied houses feel about having to learn something new / taking on a new designer to use this tech. My impression is that designers at high-end fashion houses and couturiers use traditional methods.

  5. This was a fun read. Would I be influenced to purchase a fashion item that was manufactured via additive manufacturing? I personally would not. That being said, fashion, especially high fashion, is about exclusivity. I can definitely see 3D printing helping to differentiate a given item and enhance the sense of exclusivity felt by a fashion-obsessed consumer. I am intrigued by Vojd’s plan to license manufacturing programs to other brands — it seems like an innovative approach to making returns on capital expenditure in a timely manner.

  6. Great post – I was totally unaware that this was being done (though not surprising and it is fascinating). Despite the fact that it’s super cool, I’m not sure I want my jewelry to be made via 3D printing. Call me old school, but I like thinking that my jewelry is hand made or designed in small quantities but a specific designer – at least for those “special” pieces of jewelry. What material is used in making this jewelry? Does it feel premium or does it feel plastic-y? I’m sure my perspective my also change if I were able to touch and feel the jewelry too.

    To answer your second question, I think this would definitely appeal to a certain group of individuals, and maybe even me one day, but I’m still skeptical about this in terms of luxury jewelry. Is jewelry a massive contributing factor to waste and the environment?

    Super fascinating to think about, thank you for writing about this!

  7. Interesting article! The biggest question to me is whether the novelty of Vojd’s 3D printing and designs can overcome the high end metals and gem stones that are typically demanded by customers in the luxury / aspirational jewelry category. Taking a brief spin through the website, it does seem like their products are offered at a range of prices (including as low as $65) which feels more realistic for a piece of jewelry that is mostly plastic. While I don’t think I’d personally care much about whether my jewelry is made via the latest technologies, I may be swayed to know that my jewelry was made locally in the US. Much of the jewelry at this price point is outsourced (e.g., Pandora manufactures in Asia) so that could be an interesting point of differentiation.

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