Fashion has always been a rich breeding ground for design innovation, and 3D printing has ushered in new ways of creating for designers from every discipline. Rarely, however, do we see a single designer whose work spans fashion, industrial design, miniatures, and much more. Bilal Khan of BMK Design, whose Shapeways shop reveals only one facet of his incredible range, let us in on a groundbreaking jewelry project that he completed for his client TooShoes. Using Shapeways to iterate and test his design, Bilal developed a gorgeous, elegant shoe adornment designed to withstand daily wear — and turn simple pumps into statement-making, one-of-a-kind footwear. For a glimpse inside the mind of a truly versatile designer, read the full interview below.
In your Shapeways shop, you focus on amazing figurines. Normally, we don’t see designers cross over from fantasy characters to jewelry, so I’m particularly interested in how you came to design the gorgeous heel jewelry you shared with us. Outside of Shapeways, do you focus on jewelry design?
I’m basically a design enthusiast with experience in varying design fields and contrasting skill sets as far as modeling tools and design methodologies are concerned. By profession, I’m a mechanical engineer, and I’ve been independently developing products for clients for the past four years. My urge for design — and being inspired by all types of designers — from digital sculptors to industrial designers and fashion designers, led me to learn and develop skill sets away from my core expertise. To date, I’ve developed products in consumer, mechanical equipment, automotive, medical, fashion, and footwear. I also spend time developing interior designs for building spaces and front end web designing.
I have been blessed to have been introduced to these varying fields by my clients for whom I take the challenge of developing these novel products in various segments. The miniatures you saw at my shop were the result of an offshoot of the skills I developed while creating board game miniatures for my client. But, I did not want to stop at just that project and decided to enhance my skills and extend it to the physical desktop toys that you see at my shop.
Jewelry for Heels
Similarly, this jewelry design project regarding heels was also a brainchild of my client who did not know how to approach it to make a complete working product out of the idea. I was eventually able to design this latching mechanism with a clamping, modular jewel holding option. The process of developing the product required some engineering, loads of brainstorming, and a few iterations of prototypes to perfect the fit. Obviously, the prototyping was possible because of Shapeways. I printed most of the prototypes, developed during the project, from Shapeways, and for the final piece, we produced the product with gold-plated brass from Shapeways.
Focus on personal jewelry designs
In the past I’ve developed jewelry for my family and friends. I’m currently working on developing my line of jewelry focusing on Mughal and traditional styles alongside contemporary and modern art pieces. You can find a few pieces on my website, though they’re still a work in progress. When it’s ready, you’ll see these and many other designs up on my shop at Shapeways.
Tell us a bit about the heel jewelry you designed. This seems like a completely novel way to approach shoe adornment, but it’s also lovely, practical, and feels like a natural evolution in footwear accessories. How did you come to the idea?
Indeed it is. To be honest, the idea was brainchild of my client. My part of the job was to make it real and develop a mechanism that would work and yet be aesthetically pleasing. Initially the client wanted a single piece of jewelry that somehow clings on to the heel and the embellishment can give a new look to the shoe every time. The real task was to make sure that the latching mechanism clings on to the heel somehow having minimum visibility of the latching mechanism and maximum visibility to the jewel, keep the cost low and make it durable.
After critical design analysis, I realized that the best way to cling to the heel would be via the bottom, other approaches considered included a Velcro based approach that basically hugged the heel just like a cloth would but that and a few other options were quickly disregarded because of lack of durability and ruggedness. Eventually we decided to go for a metal approach, where the jewel and the latching base were both made out of metal.
I also realized that making the product modular would save our customers cost and would provide the same effective product. This was the reason why the jewel and the base latch were developed as separate components.
A brief on the development process can be found here.
Now, these designs are on the shelves at TooShoos, a UK-based jewelry company. Being a designer of the product, it gives me great sense of achievement that my client was able to generate a business through the product.
What’s next for you? Any other projects you’d like to share?
There are loads of ideas and personal projects I am working on in parallel. One of my upcoming lines is called pencil heads. I will be featuring those on my Shapeways shop too. These are cute little animals (coated full color sandstone) which would act both as a paperweight and a pencil head. I have already ordered them from Shapeways and as soon as I receive them and complete my tests they will be up for grabs at my shop.
Another project is a tool for craftsmen and armatures alike called happy thumbs, it will also be up for grabs on Shapeways soon.
Thanks for letting us in on your design process, Bilal! If you’ve worked on an amazing product you’d like to share, or have any questions for Bilal, make sure to leave a comment below.