Can 3D printing change the fashion industry?

Need a new pair of shoes?  No problem!  Create your own design or buy one that you like, and print them out at home or in a print shop.

It sounds like a dream, but that’s what the shopping/manufacturing process should look like in the future with the advancement of 3D printing technology.  This technology can revolutionize manufacturing from top to bottom, transferring control of the entire production process from fashion companies to consumers.  Today, many designers create extraordinary things with 3D printing.

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Continuum

Continuum is a San Francisco-based startup that produced the first completely 3D-printed, ready-to-wear item of clothing–a swimsuit.  This company stands above other 3D-printed fashion companies, because they didn’t create a prototype or a piece of art, but a practical clothing item that can be mass-produced.

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Continuum was founded in 2009 by Mary Huang and Jenna Fizel.  The two met while Huang was interning at Small Design Firm Inc. in Cambridge, MA.  They used Kickstarter to get the company off the ground, receiving more than $10,000 in donations.

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N12 Bikini

The name of the swimsuit is the “N12 Bikini,” named for its material, nylon 12, which is a solid material that holds in form, but is flexible enough to bend without breaking when printed very thin.  All of the pieces are made by 3D printing and snap together without any sewing.   It is a very functional bikini because it is waterproof and comfortable when wet.

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Continuum’s product line is not limited to just bikinis; they have also created a 3D-printed shoe collection,“strvct, with 3D-printed nylon.

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“This represents the first affordable design that will lead the way for more items fabricated using 3D printing technologies.” says Mary Huang.

Is N12 the future of fashion?

Yes, it is the future of fashion; but it is a future that is still years from become a reality.  Let’s talk about why.

Materials

3D printers can’t print using cloth, nor can they use multiple materials for one item.  This would be a significant breakthrough, taking 3D printing to a whole new level.  3D printing companies have invested heavily in the research, but the technology is not there yet.

Cost

A bikini top on Continuum’s website costs between $250 and $300, and shoes cost around $900 per pair.  It is not affordable, yet the bikini pieces are quite small.  The bigger the item, the more expensive it is to print; so a dress will wind up costing quite a lot.  And still, creating special materials for 3D printing is much more expensive than buying raw materials.

There is no doubt that 3D printing technology will change fashion someday, but it’s not there yet.  I’m sure it is only a matter of time, and we are just in the beginning of a new age in the fashion industry.

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Posted in New Technologies
4 comments on “Can 3D printing change the fashion industry?
  1. anarkik3d says:

    Although it is early days, we already see skilled fashion designers who have great flair collaborate with technical people with their skills and expertise in the process of developing materials, in the use of computer aided designing and 3D printing, resulting in leading edge WEARABLE (as in comfortable to walk in, swim in, live in) items of fashion. We will continue to see over the top accessories that only explore technologically what 3D printing can do and is what the early stages of any new technology is about – early adopters flexing their muscles as it were. I look forward to seeing more pragmatic fashion designers selecting 3D printing because this process is the best one for realising a concept, not selecting it because it is the hot trend and so jump on the band wagon.

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I am Jane Zhdanova, an enthusiastic internet marketer and fashion lover. I'm combining my two passions in this blog where I’m writing about new technologies, business and marketing trends in the fashion industry.


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