What’s happening now
So we’re not close to wearing 3-D printed clothes yet. “Actually getting to the point of 3-D printed thread–I just haven’t seen anything that’s really realistic on the horizon yet,” Altringer says. “Until we can actually print in comfortable, breathable fabrics, it will remain a pretty far off concept. I think we have plenty of time to think about these things and how it would work before this is actually really a mainstream thing.”
Mary Huang, co-founder of technology-based fashion label Continuum and a pioneer in 3-D printed fashion design (she made the first ever 3-D-printed bikini) admits that 3-D printing could be more of an asset to conceptual design: “The 3-D printing stuff is kind of still conceptual. Even if you do talk about fashion, brands will have conceptual work and then they’ll have ready to wear.”
But watch out for these designers doing pioneering work with 3-D printing:
Michael Schmidt, who designed that dress for Dita Von Teese (he also designs clothes for the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga) told us that he created “fluidity of joints” in the dress using “layer upon layer of fine powdered nylon” which was then “sintered” into form using lasers (a process known as select laser sintering). “It’s an articulated fabric built into the 3-D print itself,” Schmidt explains.
Another designer who’s experimented with 3-D printing repeatedly is Iris Van Herpen. She collaborates with a company called Materialise, which recently staged the first ever 3-D printed fashion week in Malaysia.
Chinese designer Masha Ma, who was part of the recent CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund China Exchange Program, is yet another designer garnering attention both here and abroad for her masterful 3-D printed designs.
More locally, expect more from Shapeways. The company is currently building out a factory in Long Island City which is expected to have 50 3-D printers up and running soon. They also already have partnerships in the works with notable designers. Last year, they put on a 3D printing fashion event at the Ace Hotel (where Von Teese modeled Schmidt’s creation) and we hear they may do something similar this year.
Asher Levine, who designs for Lady Gaga, printed out eyewear with Makerbot printers during his presentation last fashion week.
3-D printing has also made its way into the top design schools–FIT, Parsons and SCAD all have 3-D printing resources. If designers are developing 3-D printing skills at the education level, it’s yet another sign that this technology is one that’s sticking around–and that has the potential to disrupt just about every aspect of the fashion industry, for brands, designers and consumers alike.
Freaked out yet?