Is 3D Printing the Future?

3D Printing: Technology x Fashion

Lord let me be alive for the day I can print my outfit from the comfort of my own home. Imagine the sheer convenience of it! No more queuing in store or waiting at home for an important delivery.  Awkwardly retrieving it from your neighbour. 3D printing makes this future entirely possible.

3D printing is something that fashion brands have been experimenting with over the last couple of years and with great success. However, it is not something that is commonplace within in the industry. Avant-garde designers have used it in costume and jewellery design regularly in the past. Recently this technology has advanced to the point where designers can use it to make wearable fashion products across markets.

3D printing is something that is ultra tech to fashion consumers now. In future years it could be a staple of our shopping habits. The impact could be massive. If so, fashion of all branches will have to adapt. If we will be able to print garments and gain creative prowess over our fashion choices, how will retail accommodate us? In my mind; it’s all hologram shopping in your living room and instead of garments we buy coding rights to our favourite styles. But who knows? Retailers like Shapeways are already offering 3D printing to consumers; delivering your personally designed jewellery to your door.

Haute Couture

Designers have used 3D printing to create all kinds of garments, haute-couture and high-end fashion brands chief among them. Iris Van Herpen has been showing 3D fashion from as early as 2009. At that time her pieces would take seven days to print. This time frame is a thing of the past. As this technology has advanced printed garments are quicker to make, durable, washable and pressable. The majority of her work isn’t fully printed and often brands incorporate pieces of 3D patterns into garments. In 2015 Karl Lagerfeld used 3D printing to create haute couture Chanel jackets. Using selective laser sintering on the shoulders and trims. Taking the ‘most iconic jacket of the 20th Century and making it the 21st century version.’

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3D printing isn’t something that is exclusive to high-end brands. Sole technology is so of the moment, as is sports and streetwear. 3D printing is big in this kind of industry because it has a real need for customisation and functionality; which 3D printing provides. Brands like New Balance have been creating customised footwear for athletes for years. Trainer brands are amongst the first to bring 3D printing to every day fashion consumers allowing them to  own a piece of running technology history. For example Adidas Future Craft 4D sole is 3D printed using light and oxygen — a process which is called digital light synthesis.

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Photo via Hypebeast

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This year Balenciaga’s AW18/19 preview showcased body-sculpted 3D printed jackets on the runway. Demna Gvasalia has even spoken about 3D design in the past. As a brand Balenciaga centres on the function of design; method over concept. Their recent collection is a good example of this and 3D printed tailoring was the main focus of their runway show. In an interview with Vogue Gvasalia explained the process:


“For the first time, I did digital fittings on a laptop. We 3D scanned bodies and then we altered the shapes in files, 3D printed them and actually made molds. The tailoring part that you see is all printed. There are only two seams on the side and the armhole. There are no darts, there is no construction, and it’s only one layer of fabric.”


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This method now re-defines the action of tailoring and potentially could make older methods obsolete in the future. This new approach to tailoring demonstrates the advancement that technology provides fashion with. Although it might not be something I see in my life time ( I plan to cling on to see it) it could become commonplace within everyday fashion.

Negative Impacts

In 2015 Kanye West spoke about the textiles industries fear of 3D printing. In a visit to Tumo Centre for Creative Technologies in Yerevan, in response to the being shown a 3D printer he responded: “This is what I’m afraid of here, 3D printing, because the internet destroyed the music industry and now this is what we’re afraid of right now in the textile industry”, “There will come a time when people are printing their shoes at home.”

Within the music and film industry illegal downloading is common place. There is no reason why this wouldn’t also happen to the fashion industry. Fake designer goods are everywhere now. With the advancement in 3D printing people could potentially illegally download and print exact copies of designer goods online.

The concept of being able to print ones clothes seems ideal for lazy people such as myself but truthfully the potential for this technology will revolutionise our society. Not just from a clothing perspective but in medicine, architecture and much more. Doctors can actually print prosthetic limbs today and so even if Kanye is afraid – I can’t wait.

Post Author: Natassia Lee

Natassia Lee
I am a Fashion Concepts graduate and work as a personal shopping assistant. I love to illustrate, read and I have a lot of opinions you can read them on here! My insta is @natassial have a little scroll.

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