Printed jewelry: engineering fashion

June 20, 2014

Morfologi’s upcoming collection will be easy to spot for anyone familiar with the architecture of Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum. Inspired by the work of architect Daniel Libeskind — known for his intensely modern style and for giving the ROM its angular facelift — the new line will take on a jagged, contemporary style.

The Toronto-based design trio, which consists of Mario Christian, Luca Daniel and Heng Tang, plans to expand its line of custom-made 3D-printed jewelry into a series of collections based on and inspired by different architecture styles — a natural impulse for the designers, who come from a background in either architecture or structural engineering.

Morfologi 1

Mario Christian, Heng Tang and Luca Daniel are the founders of the architecturally focused jewelry line Morfologi, each with a background in either architecture or engineering.

Unexpected beginnings

Morfologi was born as an extension of brothers and co-founders Christian and Daniel’s first brand, Joseph Nogucci, which began in 2011 as a way to gauge people’s reactions to 3D-printed jewelry pieces that Christian created in his spare time, while completing his MA in Architecture at the University of Toronto. Within seven days of launching the online store, the test batch of about 500 varied styles of fashion beads and charms completely sold out. Soon, the brothers left their jobs and committed themselves to building the Joseph Nogucci brand.

“We had definitely never planned on being jewellers, that’s for sure,” Christian says through a laugh.

When the designers were joined by a friend and former colleague, Heng Tang, later that year, they decided to split the brand into two, continuing Joseph Nogucci as a line that specializes in 3D-printed beads and charms, and introducing Morfologi as a higher-end line of more complicated 3D-printed jewelry.

An innovative approach

The Morfologi HIVE collection is a derivative of an international architectural design competition Christian and Tang entered where they submitted designs for a hive-like structure. Manipulating those files, they were able to reverse-engineer them into simpler forms and turn them into intricate rings and bracelets.

“It turns architectural drawings into what you see with Morfologi,” Christian explains. “You’re able to design completely flawless pieces with incredible complexity.”

The designers create 3-D files using architecture modelling software and then 3D-print each design as one seamless piece, unlike traditional jewelry, which is most often manufactured by using wax cast molds and welding pieces together.

However, before each piece is 3D-printed in metal and plated in sterling silver or gold, a prototype is printed in plastic. This step allows the designers to see the final product, test the tolerances and sizes of each design, and determine the volume of metal that will be needed for the final print.

Morfologi 3

The designers prefer an unconventional manufacturing process.

The plastic prototypes are durable, lightweight and available in an eclectic range of bright colours, which led to the designers’ decision to introduce Morfologi Spectrum, a line based on the designs from the HIVE, GRID and Wavemaker collections made entirely of plastic. They also plan to make designs available in raw metal options, such as copper and steel, where the product is left completely untouched after it is 3D-printed.

An ambitious future

Beyond an innovative approach to design, Christian, Daniel and Tang opted to use unconventional marketing strategies. Until now, all of the marketing was done through social media, including Facebook, Instagram and affiliate networks. Christian mentions that, initially, Facebook contributed to about 80 per cent of the company’s revenue, and in 2013 the company was honoured as one of Facebook’s top 200 social media–driven brands.

Since Morfologi is currently available only online, the designers have hopes to make 3D-printed jewelry and accessories much more accessible within the retail industry, and they are aiming to get their label into mid-level department stores.

But if you have two brands, why not create a third? And, likely, a fourth? Christian shares that the design trio will be moving into designing men’s accessories and that they will be launching Soxbury, a line of textiles including ties, socks and a series of cuff links for unexpected places, this summer.

He insists that they want to do it all and have hopes to one day venture into launching a design and development firm, or dabble in furniture design.

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By Jill Adams
Photography by Aleyah Solomon

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