3D printing is old news with how accessible and more affordable 3D printers have become. Despite this, 3D printing is revolutionizing the fashion industry by providing fashion designers the ability to create visual effects with their designs that otherwise could not have been realized. Van Herpen, known for pushing haute couture boundaries, was the first designer to send 3D printed clothing down the catwalk in 2010, forcing the fashion industry to rethink the design process. 

Iris van Herpen - 3D fashion

Traditionally, the design process is a tedious one, from picking fabric and cutting a pattern, to the actual sewing. Each step is a separate phase in the overall design process, but now with 3D printers everything can happen simultaneously. Designers don’t have to shop around for fabric; instead they can literally create their own textiles, which may not have previously existed, to fit the aesthetics of their designs. 3D printing gives designers the precision and ability to change rigidity and color gradation of materials, not to mention that it means a huge reduction in shipping and transportation costs.


The fashion industry is the third largest consumer of water, mostly due to the high cost of cotton farming practices. Also, what is ‘hot’ one second is out the next. Fashion is a trend where styles quickly come and go, amassing huge amounts of waste. With 3D printing, clothes are immediately ready to wear, no need to roll out, cut or stitch any fabric, providing a possible solution to this unsustainable issue currently being debated in the fashion industry.

Kinematic Petals Dress from Nervous System on Vimeo.

3D printers are opening new doors for designers, and giving the fashion industry a much needed face lift. Nervous System recently developed an algorithm that can vary the flexibility of a garment. The company’s Kinematics 3D Petal Dress is completely wearable and can be custom-fit by taking body scans of customers. Big name brands like Adidas are also trying its hand in 3D printing. Through its collaboration with Materialise, Adidas plans on releasing a 3D printed running shoe that can be customized with individualized support for every foot. With the innovative designs and functionality of 3D printed clothes, and shoes, I’m excited to see where 3D printing will take the fashion industry.


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