Career Advice: Working as a 3D Designer for the Fashion Industry

Career Advice: Working as a 3D Designer for the Fashion Industry

Dorian Asscherick, a recent Industrial Product Design graduate from Howest University of Applied Sciences, shares career advice in this feature for those aspiring to enter the 3D side of the fashion industry.

Dorian Asscherick, a recent graduate in Industrial Product Design from Howest University of Applied Sciences, is making waves in the design world. After completing a postgraduate in industrial design engineering and gaining experience with Manutti, a high-end outdoor furniture brand, Dorian now serves as a 3D designer at VVC3D. His innovative work focuses on pioneering 3D printing fabrication for customised 3D textiles, aiming to revolutionise French fashion. In this feature, Dorian shares valuable career advice for those aspiring to enter the 3D side of the fashion industry.

The Journey

What's your current role and what does it involve?

I'm currently working as 3D designer specialised in direct to textile 3D printing for the fashion industry.

My work consists of designing and printing 3D models for companies wishing to use the 3DFashion technology by Stratasys. When purchasing the machine I help clients with: 3D models creation, technical advice, printing, machine maintenance, etc.

The J850 techstyle 3D printer by Stratasys

Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?

I’m currently working for VVC3D based in Lille, France. Our company offers a multitude of services that revolves around digitisation of the fashion industry from textile digitisation to Textile 3D printing.

What’s amazing about my job is that there is no project like the other. One day I could be working on the most precious lace for a haute-couture runway and the other I could work for the automotive industry by printing on the dashboard of a luxurious sports car.

When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?

I have always been passionate about art and creativity. From kindergarten, one of my teachers even nicknamed me Guy Degrenne, after a French tableware industrialist. I always knew I wanted to pursue a creative career, but it was thanks to a product designer who works in the packaging industry and who has now become my friend that I discovered what I wanted to study: product design.

During my product design studies, I was able to use 3D printers, I even bought one so that I could work on my prototypes at home. This made it possible for me to improve my knowledge of this technology and gave me the desire to work in this field.

How did you get your first big break?

I've participated in several product design contests during high school. My first project that gained me some attention was Bizù.

Bizù are expandable baby slippers that can accommodate different sizes and grow along with the baby's feet. The slippers were made from recycled jeans yarn and locally produced making them environmentally sustainable as well as economical. I initiated the project, but it was with 4 others students that we were named as the Belgian runner ups for the James Dyson Awards. Thanks to this project we appeared on design pages, were featured at the Dubai design week and were exhibited at the Ghent design museum.

Why did you choose to study at Howest University of Applied Sciences?

Being from the French-speaking region of Belgium the big dilemma for me was either to study in my native language or to enrol to the Industrial Product Design bachelor's program at Howest which was a Flemish university.

After attending one of their summer boot camps, I found it to be an excellent opportunity not only to improve my Dutch but also because it felt like the perfect match.

What drew me to Howest was their hands-on training and strong connection to the professional field. Additionally, the University boasts the largest makerspace in Flanders, equipped with both traditional and high-end techniques. The professors knew me by name, which offered the great advantage of receiving close guidance.

How does your education complement your work?

For me, skills can always be acquired in the field, but education instills a way of thinking that enhances your confidence in your abilities. Throughout my product design studies, I not only learned to create products but also gained access to communities, peers, mentors, and professionals. My education instilled valuable habits and provided clarity on my aspirations and personal development.

Day in the life

Describe a typical day for you and your team?

The 3D team at VVC consists of 3 people, Noemie our 360 Graphic designer, Catherine our head of sales and myself. We usually have a little chat and prepare for the day.

This includes checking emails and getting up to speed with things. Sometimes I have calls either to get to know new projects from clients or to follow-up on their needs.

When I don't have calls, I use the remainder of my time to focus on a specific task that I had set up for that day, which can for example be developing new designs and 3D models for our look book or for our clients.

When I'm done designing my 3d models I go prepare the fabrics that will be embellished. If I've never used a specific material, I characterise it first by doing some test prints.

3D printed insects on mesh fabric.

Then, I launch the print and the magic happens! If needed I do a bit of maintenance on the machine and send the finished prints to the clients.

What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?

I usually do the first step of my 3D print creations in Abode Illustrator. I use it to create paths that will later be used on my 3D models.

To create my 3D models, I use Rhinoceros 3D's plug-in Grasshopper. Grasshopper is primarily used to build generative algorithms, such as for generative art. Many of Grasshopper's components create 3D geometry as well as fabulous visuals. Programs are created by dragging components onto a canvas. The outputs of these components are then connected to the inputs of subsequent components.

To be able launch to my prints I use GrabCad Print, a 3D printing software for Stratasys 3D printers. It's use is very straight forward and helps you choose your print settings very easily.

Thanks to that software I'm able to create time, weight and price estimations for our clients before printing. If my print's colour is simple, I can directly set this one in GrabCad, I can even use pantone codes!

If the colours of the print are more complex, I use Adobe Photoshop to create maps that I will project on my 3D models.

What does your workflow look like?

My workflow involves several key steps. First, I gather the client's requirements, including fabric type, thickness, special coatings, and project details. Then, I create a 3D design in Grasshopper, considering texture and colour. The design is sent to GrabCad for slicing and 3D printing. I prepare the fabric, secure it to the printer's tray, and start the printing process. The UV lamps cure the liquid resin, and once the print is complete, I ensure proper curing in a well-ventilated area.

Which departments and key people do you work closely with?

As we're a small team, we're kinda like all departments in one. That goes from R&D, marketing to sales, etc. I work daily with Mr Gurdal, the founder of VVC who manages the different projects. We're also very close to our Partner Stratasys as Joana de Medina, fashion account manager for Stratasys is present multiple times a week at our office to help us. I also have the chance to have a lot of support and daily contacts with their business unit in Israel.

I wouldn't necessarily say it is a trend but since it is a very recent technology everything is changing really fast. Considering we're in direct contact with Stratasys's B.U we can easily provide them with the customer's feedback, who they use to perfect the technology.

Another aspect that is changing in our industry is sustainability and I'm very happy about it. 3D printing is by definition one of the most ecological production methods. You only print what you need, when you need it and it can be done locally. But not everything is not green, as the materials that we use are still plastic based. But as I already said things are changing really fast and more sustainable materials are coming out which gives me faith in the future.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

One thing that I'd never change about my job is the multitude and diversity of clients, tasks, projects that I have. As a creative this is very stimulating. I get to change hats almost every day. One day I'm an engineer when I carry out maintenance on the machine, the other almost part of sales as I'm presenting the technology at a fair in front of clients, I could also be in marketing when I manage our Instagram account and I feel like an artist when I'm able to create our prints.

Model holding a 3D printed piece for high fashion designer Flora Miranda’s exposition ITPieces.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind swapping my PC with the one of a rocket scientist at NASA (which I'm sure would be more than enough to support the very heavy files I'm creating every day and which can sometimes slow me down haha!)

Career Advice

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

Personally, I strongly recommend it. Education helps you to be more secure about what you're doing. It provides a sense of direction. You not only acquire a knowledge base, but also helps you to develop analytical skills, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities which don't always come naturally. My job is creative but it requires also an in depth-knowledge of 3D printing technologies and 3D software which for example I learned at school.

What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?

Adaptability is one for sure. When you work in the creative field every company will handle your skills in a different way. Most of the time your brief will not be perfectly defined and you need to adapt yourself to it but also adapt it to your own strengths.

What skills seem to be missing all too often?

Often Juniors forget that in our industry time is actually money. Sometimes I'd like to refine a photoshop file for a client or to let my creativity go crazy spending hours on a design, But you have to remember that every minute that you spend on a design has to be paid for, either by the client or by the employer and none of them wants to pay extra fees. So, time management is a very important skill to me.

Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you implement it into your work?

Usually, inspiration comes when you don't expect it. I am naturally inspired by what surrounds me. Back when I was in college, I learned about serendipity which I find a very cool concept. It is an unplanned fortunate discovery. To me this what inspiration is but you must stimulate it. It is important to immerse yourself in new places, situations so that every everyday situation can become inspirations.

My job requires a strong focus on visual appeal, showcasing the capabilities of technology. While I keep an open eye on various fields, much of my design is inspired by nature, incorporating organic shapes and vibrant colors.

Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?

I'd recommend any young designer to create a project that represents them as well as the field they'd like to perform in while being able to show a lot of different skills. At first since I didn't know in which field I wanted to work I created my portfolio as such: a project that represented my philosophy, an innovative project, a project that required physical as well as digital skills, all of them pointing towards different industries so that I was able to reach most of them.

What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?

One big mistake is trying to comply with a job offer that doesn't suit you. Spoiler alert: most of the time it doesn't work and I have experienced it. I did an internship in a company that I really liked, unfortunately my position was far too technical and not creative enough for me. I made myself sick every day trying to pretend to be someone I wasn't. I asked my manager to be able to stay knowing that it wouldn't make me happy. His answer: "I don’t think you should stay, I can see you are not happy. Do something you like, have fun, you won't regret it." That's what I did and I will forever be grateful for his advice.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

Try to make noise around you, participate in contests, exhibitions. This way you'll be able to share your work with the world. You'll be able to get feedback, develop a more critical sense towards your work. It will not only help your career but also yourself as a person, giving you a better self-esteem and God, it does a lot of good!

If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?

Try as many skills as you can, any technique that you can develop is a tool for yourself as well for your future.

Never forget to be creative outside of your job. Far too often your creativity will be muzzled because of production costs, time, technical difficulties. And most important of all, have fun!

Check out Dorian's student work on The Rookies, and reach out to him via Instagram and LinkedIn.