3D Printing: The Future of Fashion


Photo from The Verge (

3D Printing has been the hottest topic of discussion this month in the fashion industry. This form of production that has been used to make weapons and body parts has the industry abuzz because of the great long-term potential in production and design.

3D Printing, also known as additive modeling, is the process of creating an item of any shape or size from a digital illustration. Illustrations and designs become tangible, built from the ground up without the use of an assembly line. The cost of production is currently trending downward, which makes this concept feel like it’s just a fingertip away from the common consumer.

Inside Shapeways laboratory. Photo from PC Mag (

Forbes reported on the 3D printed .380 handgun that was successfully fired this month by Cody Wilson and his engineer colleague, John (John opted to not release his last name for the interview). The gun was in production for a year and took only 16 pieces to create it. This sounds like child’s play compared to the AR-15 demonstration that was released via video on YouTube by Wilson’s nonprofit group, Defense Distributed.

3D Printing has not been used solely for firearms, thankfully. People have made dolls and guitars, but also dresses, jewelry, and sneakers. 3D Printing was primarily used for a quick turnover in prototyping. Mark Levinson, CEO of San Francisco based start-up company Protos, told Business of Fashion,

“With all of the interesting implications behind 3D printing it was still very much a process meant for prototyping. We’ve spent the last few years developing a proprietary material and workflow that yields a product we are very proud to sell directly to consumers.”

The relationship between 3D Printing and the fashion industry is already very hot. This year, Nike created their first sneaker entirely from 3D printing, Iris van Herpen collaborated with companies, Materialise and Stratasys Ltd, to produce two fully 3D dresses for Paris Fashion Week, and Dita Von Teese modeled the first fully 3D gown. Shapeways, one of the leaders in 3D printing in the fashion industry, created the dress and also the first ready-to-wear, fully 3D-printed bikini called ‘N12’ in collaboration with Continuum Fashion.

Nike's First Fully 3D-printed football cleat, the Vapor Laser Talon. Photo from Hypebeast (


Iris van Herpen's fully 3D-printed dress at Paris Fashion Week. Photos from i. Materialise ( and Openwear (


Dita Von Teese's fully 3D-printed gown. Photo from Dezeen (

Coco Rocha and jewelry designer, Pamela Love, visited the company to get a closer look at their production. Rocha saw firsthand for PC Mag how pieces are made layer by layer and cut down by the use of lasers, and Love created jewelry from scratch for Vogue Magazine, from the computer screen to her own fingers.

Pamela Love seeing her finished 3D-printed product. Photo from Vogue (

What could this mean for the fashion industry? 3D Printing is still an expensive venture, but how long will it take for it to become the primary form of production? What will this mean for counterfeiting? Quality and prestige is the main driver for purchasing high-end goods, but some consumers disregard the fallacy and seek out counterfeit products. If they are looking for a specific design like the Birkin bag or Air Jordan VI’s, they can make it from scratch today like a Nike I.D. sneaker regardless of the quality.

Also, what could this mean for fast fashion, bespoke suiting, and designers at the start of their careers? Shapeways’ N12 bikini costs $250 now, but what will it cost in two or three years? The speedy production can create a much cheaper alternative for bespoke appointments. New designers can match the demand of their first hot piece, which will make them more than enough money to help cross over to using other fabrics. The speed, low cost, and fast growth is the reason why 3D Printing will turn the fashion industry on its head. 3D Printing may lead to lesser factories in use and more in-house production. Our questions can’t be answered today. Only time will tell for 3D Printing and the future of the fashion industry but from what we have seen to date, the future is now and it’s only going to get better.

Check out these articles for further reading on the topic of 3D Printing.

The Rise of Additive Manufacturing by Jon Excell & Stuart Nathan

3D Printing is Coming - so let's not strangle the industry at birth by Spencer Thompson

Meet The 'Liberator': Test-Firing The World's First Fully 3D-Printed Gun by Andy Greenberg

Shapeways Shifts Fashion by Coco Rocha

New Dimensions: How 3-D Printers Are Changing Fashion by Katherine Bernard

Nike Has Done It - First Fully 3D Football Cleat by Rachel Park

Iris van Herpfen's 3D Printed Pieces On The Catwalks At Paris Fashion Week by Rachel Park

The 'World's'First Fully Articulated 3D-Printed Gown by Rachel Park