By Lyra Joy E. Almoite

We are no strangers to the fact that the fashion industry is notorious for breaking the rules and making bold moves. So when 3D-printing technology started making life better by revolutionising the manufacturing industry, the fashion industry couldn’t help but notice.

We can consider this a game-changer in the fashion industry. This technology is making it possible for designers to raise the creative bar and experiment on complex design pieces.

It eliminates the lengthy process between design and production. The production of massive quantities was also eliminated from the equation by this technology. On top of that, this allows fashion designers to produce on-demand pieces that are cost-effective and generate little- to no-waste. 

In fact, the intricate shoulder mantle and crown donned by Queen Ramonda in Black Panther and Academy Award winner for Best Costume in 2019, was 3D printed. A 3D-printed classic Chanel suit designed by Karl Lagerfeld made it into Paris Fashion Week in 2015. Iris Van Harper’s 3D-printed dress was awarded as one of 2011’s ‘50 Best Inventions’ by Time magazine. All these say just one thing: 3D-printed wearable pieces are going to continue to be seen on runways, in magazines, and movies–and it will be the next big thing.

But how far into the fashion industry is 3D printing now? 

Made For Your Feet: 3D Printed Soles

To name a few, sneaker giants like Nike, Adidas, and Rebook, have been trying their success at 3D printing. Take the Adidas Futurecraft for example. This pair of trainers took the world by storm by introducing the 3D-printed and customised soles. Adidas knows that soles can transform a runner’s performance and ability, so they are now exploring the possibility of creating bespoke midsoles, taking into consideration how the shoe should move, the level of cushioning, or its need for better arch support. Runners demand different sneaker specs compared to basketball and soccer players. These are the gaps they are trying to fill. 

This already poses a revolution in the sneaker industry, where the technology incorporates a multilayer structure that cannot be replicated with traditional molding techniques. While 3D-printed shoes are not the newest innovation out there, Adidas is the first one to take this innovation to a commercial release.

Top it off by using materials that are 100-percent recyclable and made from discarded plastics gathered from the ocean, according to them, the Futurecraft is “made to be remade”.

The Bling: All Those That Shine

High-fashion and jewellery are intimately intertwined in the DNA of ‘luxury’. There is, in fact, an undeniable relationship between the two. This is why even jewellers are stars in their own right among the world’s famous fashion runways.

The technology is widely used in prototyping and producing molds for complex designs. However, we would like to point out that some companies make use of this technology to cut the risk of losing the financial game. Gemmyo, for example, started printing jewellery upon order, which saves on costs–not only with supplies but also in storage.

Their catalogue? Computer generated 3D images. Isn’t that a smart move?

Even diamonds, which are “a girl’s best friend,” are not exempt from this revolution. In 2016, Lockheed Martin filed a patent for a 3D printer which prints those shiny, diamond pieces. Yes, we now live in an era where printing diamonds could soon be a reality. Of course, these are synthetic diamonds, but even they are still forever.

From making prototypes to actually producing a piece of 3D-printed jewellery, upcoming brands and well-known jewellery houses all love this technology. It is, in fact, one of the industry’s best-kept secrets.

Revolutionary Pieces: 3D Printed Garments

To be able to really make a difference in the fashion industry, 3D printing must win over and be widely used to produce fashion’s most used commodity: the garments. However, printing garments is a challenge. Garments require materials that are soft and flexible. Here again, fashion breaks the rules. Fashion designers found an alternative solution to this challenge by introducing mesh-like designs.

Perhaps, the most famous and notable 3D-printed piece is the Pangolin dress which did the rounds on the runways in 2016. The dress used a nano-enhanced elastomer printing material that made the piece durable and flexible. However, we won’t see this piece on mannequins around the shopping malls anytime soon. This dress, in particular, took 500 hours to complete. If you are wondering why, just take a look at the dress’s detail. All the chain-like parts were connected together to form the dress after printing.

Making 3D printed wearables available to the masses is still a long way off. Until then, these pieces will be limited to movies and catwalks. We are sure that this technological advancement is making way for major improvements in the fashion industry, promoting more personalisation, design democratisation, and more importantly, reducing waste.

Access to this technology might be limited to big corporations at the moment, but when 3D printed wearables start to be ‘a thing’ for all, one-of-a-kind pieces might be our new norm.