3D Printing and the Future of Fashion

marguerite darlington editor strategist

This post originally appeared on InsideFMM.

3d printing fashionThis is another one of those stories that seems like science fiction, but is actually reality. Retail, distribution and manufacturing are on the verge of rebirth because of a revolutionary emerging technology: 3D printing.

Early adopters in the fashion industry are embracing this new technology and creating truly innovative products that are currently available (see below). Someday customers will be able to print out clothes in the comfort of their living rooms, and that day is closers than you think.

At fashion week celebrations around the world, forward-thinking designers have debuted stunning visions of the future–apparel constructed from materials made on a 3D printer. The first time 3D printed fashion debuted on the runway was at Amsterdam Fashion Week in 2010.

At Amsterdam International Fashion Week in July 2010, Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen (former intern of the late great Alexander McQueen) previewed her SS11 collection “Crystallization,” which included a 3D printed piece, created in collaboration with the architect Daniel Widrig and .MGX.

What’s even more amazing about 3D printing it that it is eco friendly.

In July 2010, Ecouturre asserted that 3D printed fabrics may be the future of sustainable textiles. The emerging technology uses ultraviolet beams to fuse layers of powdered, recyclable thermoplastic into shape, leaves behind virtually no waste, according to Ecouturre. In addition, the process localizes production, which means less shipping, less labor and reduced fabrication time.

The Ecouturre article focused on materials created by designer-researchers at Freedom of Creation in Amsterdam and Philip Delamore at the London College of Fashion. The institutions partnered to create seamless, flexible textile structures using software that converts three-dimensional body data into skin-conforming fabric structures that were displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

In September 2011, 3D Systems collaborated with designers Amelia Agosta and Natasha Fagg on a Melbourne Spring Fashion Week successful runway event which featured a one-of-a-kind 3D printed “brassiere.”

Agosta and Fagg created sculptural garments that were sturdy but also sculpted to the female body using 3D body scanning facilities to work on the exact measurements of a female size 6-8 as a template in the 3D modeling software. Once designed, the parts were loaded into 3D Systems new sPro SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) machine and fabricated overnight.

“3D Systems Asia-Pacific is a leading 3D printer and custom parts provider serving a wide variety of applications and industries,” says Simon Marriott, general manager, 3D Systems Asia-Pacific. “Empowering a talented designer like Amelia to achieve her creative dreams underscores the value of our 3D content-to-print solutions.”

3d printing fashionAlso in September 2011, Continuum Fashion founder and designer Mary Huang first saw a sample of a textile-like material generated using a 3D printer, she decided to design a printable clothing item. Because the printer can only create one yard of fabric at a time, the item of clothing had to be small, which is why she chose a bikini.

In the fall of 2010, Huang joined 3D modeling expert Jenna Fizel to create the world’s first ready-to-wear article of 100 percent 3D printed clothing, also known as the “N12 bikini.” N12 stands for Nylon 12, a flexible, nylon-based plastic used in the 3D printing process.

The bikini, which somes in black or white, is custom-printed in separate pieces. The top is composed of four parts that hook together, and the bottom, which comes in two different styles, is lined for comfort.

“Because it’s plastic, it offers really good support, much better than Lycra or spandex,” Huang says. “And it doesn’t cling when it gets wet.”

Even better? The product is now for sale on the the Shapeways and Continuum websites.

That’s right. The future is already here. Personally, I love that it’s a bikini.

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