3D printing technology which has proven revolutionary for a variety of industries is making significant inroads into the world of fashion. This amalgamation holds within itself mind-blowing possibilities and the potential to disrupt just about every aspect of the fashion industry, for designers and consumers alike. Modernity has allowed the coming together of fashion and digital technology to create Haute Couture. Renowned designers like Gabriela Ligenza, Iris van Herpen, Michael Schimidt and others have demonstrated, skillfully, how sophistication and advanced technology can coexist in high-end fashion. The willingness of the fashion industry to embrace 3D printing can be attributed to the following major factors:
- Customization which has great mass appeal
- Realization of ideas almost instantly speeding up the development process in an unprecedented way
- Hassle free production of complex geometries and intricate designs not possible with traditional manufacturing methods
- Tailor-made designs for specific body shapes eliminating the need for categorizing product into traditional size groups.
- Reciprocity between craftsmanship and innovation in technique and materials
- Creation of shorter lead times for designers
- Elimination of the wastage of raw materials
- Production of materials in smaller quantities resolving the problem of huge minimum orders by factories and unsold stock
3D printing could help realize rapid prototyping needs and assist fashion designers in making samples quickly. By synergizing high fashion, technology and science, 3D printing could transform the fashion scene forever. The fashion industry can derive massive benefits from the uncomplicated and easy customization which 3D printing offers. At present, this looks most feasible in the area of footwear. For instance, Nike recently made a 3-D printed a football cleat. For people who have unusual fit needs, 3D printing is going to radically simplify their lives.
3D printing is particularly attractive to those start-up labels which cannot afford huge mass production initially. New York based 3D printing start-up Shapeways allows amateur 3-D printing designers to make and sell things through the site’s marketplace. 3D printed jewelry is a popular product on the Shapeways website. Shapeways, in fact, has collaborated with designer of repute Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitonti to design Dita Von Teese’s dress which created waves at a fashion event back in 2013. This 3D printed gown was the world’s first fully-articulated 3D printed gown.
A number of companies are designing 3D printed accessories like jewelry, shoes, and sunglasses. San Francisco-based clothing company, Continuum is among the first to create wearable, 3D printed pieces. The intersection of fashion and technology allows for unprecedented creativity in designing as is suggested by these product innovations. It would be only fair to mention the name of British designer Catherin Wales whose Project DNA collection includes avant-garde masks, accessories and apparels printed with white nylon. Her creations are blurring the lines between amateur designers and professional engineers. Catherine’s debut offering which re-evaluates the conventional methods of apparel production is taking the fashion world by storm.
The collaboration of 3D printing and fashion has only just begun. The unconventional, and sometimes outlandish, designs of the products foreground the fact that the technology is still at a nascent stage in the fashion industry. There is a need to find appropriate materials for garments which are to be created using 3D printed technology. However, to conclude, 3D printing, in the words of Catherin Wales “holds the promise of a world where imagination has no boundaries and in time there won’t be a material that cannot be reproduced as a 3D object.”
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