3D Printing: The Future of Fashion?

At the last ‘Interlaced’ Conference in London, a day of debates dedicated to the connection between technology and fashion, the next “game changer” was announced. The invention that might revolutionise the entire fashion industry is the 3D printer.

There have been multiple experiments with 3D printing in haute couture, with models walking down runways in dresses made out of innovative printed textiles that are pushing the boundaries of the fashion industry. Just recently, Iris Van Herpen, a Dutch designer known for experimenting with new materials and designs, revealed a collection created solely with 3D printing technology.

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There was one dress that particularly caught our eye: a strapless semi-transparent dress with an icy exterior worn on the runway by Dutch model Iekeliene Stange.

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The beauty of 3D printing is that the garment can be tailored perfectly to the body shape of the model. In this case Van Herpen made a scan of the models body, readjusted the design of the dress, printed it in two parts and stitched them together while they were already being worn by the model.The result is a flawlessly stunning garment that beautifully represents the meeting of  haute couture and engineering.

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Although 3D printing has led to innovative designs in haute couture, the real revolution will take place off the runways and in our homes. In a not too distant future, we will all own private 3D printers and therefore have the possibility to produce our own garments. As discussed at the conference, one likely development will be that instead of selling actual pieces of clothing, designers will sell the blueprints to their garments and we will print them ourselves. This will mean that each individual will have the possibility to tweak the garment in whatever way they choose before printing it and create a completely personalised wardrobe.

The reason 3D printing has not yet taken the fashion industry by storm is that it is extremely difficult to print soft textiles. The rigid texture of the 3D printed garments make them rather unwearable. Despite these challenges, a Telaviv-based fashion student named Danit Peleg recently created five ready-to-wear looks for her graduation collection. Through online research she found a lab in Telaviv where she was able to experiment, learn about the process of 3D printing and get feedback from leading experts in the field. She discovered FilaFlex, a new printable material that is softer and more malleable and the results are stunning. The fabric resembles a futuristic version of lace and moves in a very unique way.

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Danit Peleg’s dream is that as machines get faster and more materials become available, everyone will be able to design, share and print their clothes directly from home. This will undoubtedly change the entire fashion industry in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.

Martina Reich

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