Will 3D Printing Disrupt the Fashion Industry?

In recent years, companies and fashion designers, from Adidas to Iris van Herpen, have begun to turn to 3D printing, while designer Zac Posen has impressed the world with its mystical 3D outfits presented at the Met Gala, early May. Although technology offers seemingly limitless possibilities for creators, there are still obstacles to its adoption in the fashion industry in general.

The sky blue gear wheels and the black organic structures bond to each other to form multilayer dresses that protect those who wear them. The unique and supernatural creations of Maartje Dijkstra are hard to describe in just a few words – the Dutch fashion designer uses 3D printing to create surrealist pieces that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.


Maartje Dijkstra used a 3D printing pen, worth a few hundred euros, as well as materials that cost her about 1000 euros to create the elements that she then sewed together to create her black dress to complex and striking details. A plastic filament is melted and squeezed through the pen with which she draws the different components of the dress – a process she calls manual 3D printing. This technology has been around for decades and, traditionally, machines follow programmed steps to connect layer-by-layer materials to a three-dimensional object.

The future implications of 3D technology in the fashion industry have been studied through exhibitions such as “Manus x Machina” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2016, an exhibition at the New York Museum explored the differences between hand-made and machine-made clothing, and featured highly successful pieces such as Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel 3D printed costume. . As people became familiar with the concept of 3D printing and experimented with 3D printers at home, the idea of ​​making homemade clothing became more and more conceivable.

Although the buzz surrounding 3D printing has faded somewhat since then, being able to print your own clothes at home remains a fascinating idea. The technology would mean that a consumer could receive instructions on how to install a machine, as well as a print file, says Marcel Mentzel, interior design student at the German fashion school AMD Akademie Mode & Design. “It would be a whole new customer experience if you could just upload your clothes on the Internet,” said Mentzel, who participated in the 3D fashion show in Dusseldorf last summer. “It would make fashion infinitely adjustable if you did not buy a physical product but a folder that you can change yourself.” He wrote the records for the 3D printed parts of the graduation collection of fashion design student Lucas Viering, which was presented in Düsseldorf.

Maartje Dijkstra, who has spent nearly 1000 hours creating a black dress, represents one end of the spectrum of clothing, namely haute couture, where designers experiment with 3D printing to explore the limits of visual expression. This technology is well suited to the realization of complex structures, as evidenced by the deep red pink dress and the smooth bustier of American designer Zac Posen at Met Gala. In the past, Dutch designer Iris van Herpen used this technology in her skeletal and frizzy haute couture dresses, while the British fashion genius Alexander McQueen 3D printed a sinister biomorphic spine on a 25 cm heel. high for its last show “Plato’s Atlantis” in 2010.

Brands have increased the share of 3D printed mounts compared to glasses made with other technologies, explains Vriamont. The method offers flexibility because eyeglass frames can be quickly adapted to trends by simply changing a digital file, she says. The file then tells the machine how to create the frames. Companies can simply produce what is ordered and avoid the risk of having inventories as required by traditional manufacturing methods.

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