Does 3D printing have a future in fashion?
According to Ray Kurzweil, the US technologist, certainly.
At the beginning of this year he said “As the variety of materials available to print in 3D become more extensive and less expensive, both free open-source and proprietary clothing designs will be widely available online in as little as 10 years.”
Ray is a little behind the times though as you can buy 3D printed clothes online now.
3D printed accessories and jewellery have been around for over a decade, and successful business have been based on the freedom the technology provides to designers to express their ideas. A particular favorite here is Nervous System in the US, who blend 3DP with algorithms to allow computers to design pieces which reflect natural systems and organisms.
But its not just accessories, a number of different designers are using 3DP to help build full scale garments. 3D printed shoes seem to be a particular focus right now with Feetz, Adidas and Peak Sports (China) all advertising footwear made using 3D printing technology.
There are issues of course, the main one being the wearability of the ‘textile’ analogue, after all clothes are a technology that have evolved with us over thousands of years. The other big issue is the nature of fashion itself. High fashion designers tend to design for themselves rather than for the general public, and it can take a while for their ground breaking ideas to filter down and be diluted enough for mass roll-out. At every step down that chain there are economic challenges and it may be that 3DP doesn’t fit some of those challenges, yet.
But fashion doesn’t just work top down. Often its bottom up with streetware getting taken up into the high street brands. Remember screen printing ? A recent YouTube clip from RCLifeOn (https://youtu.be/YUW8G4vXZfg) shows that you can 3D print your own T-shirt designs using flexible filament and a home printer.
So given the rapidity of price falls, the increasing ease of use and increasing diversity of materials over the last couple of years, it really does look like 3DP and fashion are starting to see eye-to-eye.