At Wednesday night’s opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, snowboarder Amy Purdy’s sleek running blades weren’t the only high-tech element of her dance performance.
Purdy, who danced a solo with an orange robot named Kuka, wore a sinuous, nude-colored 3D-printed dress conceived and created by Israeli designer Danit Peleg, who rocked the fashion world last year with her first collection of 3D-printed frocks.
The 2016 Paralympics organizers turned to Peleg after seeing her collection of five 3D-printed dresses that went viral last fall. The remarkable collection of facile, elastic dresses created by Peleg for her graduate project from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv catapulted her to worldwide fame, leading to TV interviews, a TED talk and other appearances.
Peleg said she was inspired by Purdy, who became a double below-the-knee amputee following a severe bout of meningitis when she was 19. Purdy, now 36, began snowboarding after her illness, winning a bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympics, and also worked as a model and actress.
The story, said Peleg, reminded her of Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” She created a flexible, moving dress of diamond shapes inspired by the painting’s composition, while the nude color of Venus directed the shade of the dress.
“It looks like it’s part of Amy,” said Peleg, speaking from Rio.
It took approximately 120 hours to print the dress in a lacelike material called FilaFlex that moved and swirled as Purdy danced.
“The whole segment is on technology,” said Peleg of the opening ceremony. “Using technology, Amy can dance on two feet. And she dances with a robot and in a dress that came out of a kind of robot. That all works together in a kind of organic way.”
Peleg used Israeli app Nettelo to fit Purdy for the dress. The snowboarder took pictures of herself and Peleg used those to assess how her body is built.
“It was custom made without ever meeting her,” said Peleg, who first met Purdy a month ago in Rio de Janeiro, and went back again this week for a final fitting before Purdy’s performance.
The entire process of conceiving Purdy’s dress inspired Peleg’s latest collection of five new dresses, which she will show this fall.
The collection is “100% 3D-printed, with 3D printers that anyone can buy,” said Peleg. “It was all printed at home.”