3D-Printing in Fashion

John Lasseter said that “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” This quote is applicable now more than ever to the creative and burgeoning industry that is fashtech.

It is a common misconception that there are two types of thinkers in the world; a vertical thinker who is known for being analytical, careful and precise, and a lateral thinker, known for their creativity and risk-taking approach to find solutions.

The Information Age has shown that those once considered to have a certain way of thinking can combine their passion and interests, thus applying their own way of thinking to create innovative projects.

One area that this is becoming increasingly prevalent within is fashtec – fashion and technology.

2016 was an exciting year that welcomed the collaboration between fashion and technology. New York’s annual Met Gala ceremony – one of the most prestigious events of the global fashion calendar – focused its theme on the integration of technology with fashion, titled ‘Manus x Machina.’ The glamorous event treated guests to some elaborate innovations that would test your belief, including a Hussein Chalayan dress that requires the wearer to simply stand and observe as the dress applies itself to their body and transports them around the room. Another striking trend that was showcased at the Gala was clothing that has the ability to change colour to suit its surroundings and accessories.

But how are these contraptions being produced? It is safe to presume even the most respected fashion designers are limited to what they can do with a sewing machine or the humble needle and thread.

The 3D-printing phenomenon has been assisted by breakthroughs in different industries such as medtech, automotive and aerospace, allowing those to design and create prosthetic limbs and organs, as well as more efficient vehicle components. But these are all very specific to those involved in their respected industries. Where 3D-printing really touches the masses is through its recent application in the fashion industry and the endless possibilities it can bring to the table.

You may be thinking to yourself that 3D-printing in fashion is nothing new, and you’re somewhat right. 3D-printing has been widely utilised for producing incredibly detailed and luxurious accessories, including jewellery and shoes, the reason being that these accessories are mostly solid objects that require very little flexibility – particularly if they are to be used only for presentation.

What’s most exciting about the latest breakthroughs in fashtech is the ability for 3D printers to print actual fabric. Bradley Rothenberg, co-founder and CEO of nTopology (a 3D-printing company), is developing software which allows one to use a 3D printer to create thousands of miniature interlocking nylon mechanisms, which upon being attached in a certain formation creates a flexible material that can be used for wearable clothing.

In a similar field, Lina Wassong, a German fashion designer and engineer, develops innovative technologies and integrates them with her passion for design and fashion. [Wassong]’s work explores how we will seamlessly connect and communicate with electronic components in the future.

Wassong will be speaking at this year’s highly anticipated Dublin Tech Summit (DTS) on her experience in fashion and technology, how she utilises 3D printing for her designs and her views on the future of the trend.

As seen at last year’s Met Gala, 3D-printed clothing is effectively the current apex of haute couture. As it stands, the concept of printing apparel is an exclusive ability in the hands of the top brands, including Ralph Lauren, Viktor&Rolph and Francis Bitonti. 3D printers – granted they have been on the scene a few years now – are still a very expensive commodity, and are even more expensive to run. But where there is opportunity, there are those willing to invest time and capital. Just like in the early days of the sewing machine and computers, the concept of the 3D printer trickling down to the masses and becoming a household item seems unlikely.

But as fashion has the dynamic ability to be both timeless and brief, the demand for advancements in the technology used in the fashion industry is likely to continue to grow and become more widely available.

Find out more about the future of fashion and technology from Lina Wassong, Ray Noori and other tech icons at this year’s DTS on February 15th & 16th 2017.

DTS tickets are available now. Click here to secure yours.

Evan O’Gorman

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