The story of 3D printing in 21st century fashion offers an exodus from traditional craftsmanship and techniques which at the same time entails a complex interaction between the consumer, the brand/designer and the produced garment. 3D printing is another feature that portrays the human desire to overcome the gap between the virtual realm and reality, it is the link that connects digitization with tangible designs. This innovative hi-tech commodity offers a unique possibility for “custom-printing” which leaves indelible blueprint on the terms customization and novelty that are essential in the fashion business field.
New technologies such as industrial looms, holograms, wearable technologies and e-commerce have re-shaped the fashion world today, but it must be stated that repeatedly new hi-tech driven innovations slowly gain acceptance from the fashion public. It is discrepant that the fashion consumers who strive for the novelty aspect of fashion are reluctant toward new technological developments and are basically resistant towards change.
On the other hand, the 3D production can be the synonym for the next level of consumerism, it can convert fashion followers into fashion innovators and makers. This technique can annihilate the vail between fashion products and consumers, by upping the ante anxieties and paving the way for the next level DIY (abbreviation for do-it-yourself) movement.
Contemporary fashion is anxious about representation of technological issues and ideals as well as how to break the boundaries between the natural and the artificial. This inspiration has been played on by the fashion industry for a while now, although 3D printed garments, jewelry, sunglasses, watches and various accessories are described as the current buzz, it is clearly understandable that it is quite early to say that we can print these fashion items in the courtesy of our homes. For the time being, 3D printing is better suited to hard over soft materials, and geometrical over organic shapes which is why the luxury categories where this technology is mostly developed are jewelry, eyewear and watchmaking.
Nevertheless, these unconventional 3D creations took over the fashion shows of Iris van Herpen, who paved the way for other designers with her Spring/Summer 2010 collection. As the future is even more promising as new technologies are emerging, making it possible to print seamless garments or mix materials, designers such as Yuima Nakazato (couture autumn/winter 2016-17 collection), Noa Raviv (2014 graduation collection, titled ‘Hard Copy’), Danit Peleg (2015 3D printed collection), threeASFOUR (ongoing collections from 2013) and Chanel (2015-16 autumn/winter haute couture line) are undoubtedly mirroring the possible 3D revolution.
The visible hints of 3D printing trigger a dialogue on how to use this innovational method for various tech-savvy companies. From VOJD Studios, a Berlin-based jewelry label harnessing 3D printing that collaborated with Prabal Gurung, Akris and A.F. Vandevorst for the Spring/Summer 2016 collection to experimental companies such as (Unmade, Bolt Threads, Kniterate), the 3D print technology is combined with the work of exciting designers in order to redefine the bespoke and open a multi-layered interpretation for the possible ‘tech-sewing’.
As the pace of change intensifies, the 3D printing technology can become the Achilles heel for the fashion industry. This current tendency which engages new technologies only on a superficial level for the time being, opens various possibilities for designers, brands and fashion companies, and has the potential to become the ‘next big thing’.