As I’ve stated many times before, 3D printing is the future of the fashion industry. At first it was just part of experimentation being used by fashion students. Recently it made the headlines when it was featured in Chanel’s Paris couture show back in July. A designer, Karl Lagerfeld, incorporated 3D printing into some of his jackets by adding it to the shoulders and the trim. His idea was to take a jacket of the 20th century and turn in into something from the 21st century. For now it takes designers months to get their designs from the runway to shops, but 3D printing’s beneficial abilities could change that.
3D printing has been around since the 1980s, but now we’re starting to understand it better, and it’s expanding into the fashion world. Julian Hakes is an architect turned shoe designer, and he created the first 3D printed shoe, which was showcased during LFW’s 2011 shows. The simplest way to explain the process is that you create your design using 3D printing software. Then you choose the material you want to use to create it and send the digital file to the 3D printer. Hakes described it as a photocopier that prints layer after layer for hours. Some machines use filament that’s heated up and turned into liquid, while others use a vat of liquid resin and a light beam to solidify it. After each method is used, the final product is set on a platform to cool.
For clothing designers the technique of 3D printing is a work in progress. You have to print each sheet of “fabric,” and the pieces are still stiff and plasticky. You also have to glue or solder together the pieces that you create. It can be very expensive and a slow process. We are seeing it really expand in the footwear industry, expanding more and more each day. Designs are becoming more elegant and wearable as time passes. Some of these designs can be seen on 3DShoes.com. I believe it will be very soon that we’ll be seeing 3D printing as the main source of creation for shoes, and various other types of clothing and accessories in the near future.