Like everything else in life, the fashion industry keeps reinventing itself at every striking hour. With the concept of 3D printing having set its foot firmly into the fashion business, it’s surprising how many of us do not to know how it works or how to make the best use of it.
The concept of 3D printing has unleashed a completely new wave of creativity by using geometry and complex patterns with utmost ease and has given it a whole new meaning. Today, designers can explore the potential of their collections by accessorizing their outfits with 3D printed jewelry and footwear or even 3D print an entire outfit, regardless of how complex it might be.
3D printing carries the potential to bring us closer to customizable and one-off production, which is slowly becoming a new reality. This, in turn, makes mass production take a backseat and allows innovative unique ideas to thrive.
India, despite being at the forefront of manufacturing and production for other global brands, has still not been able to pin itself onto the international fashion atlas. However, not to be left behind, it is one of the few early pioneers to have embraced 3D printing technology and manages to run successful businesses around it.
For instance, Time To 3D , a joint venture between Time Group and Imaginarium India (the country’s largest 3D printing enterprise) was started with the aim of making state-of-the-art 3D printing equipments and services available to both, individual consumers and businesses. Rahul Shah, Founder of Time To 3D tells us,
“The concept of 3D printing in fashion is still relatively new and unheard of in India. There have been companies and fashion designers alike who have been experimenting with 3D printing in fashion since around 2012-2013.”
With an added impetus coming from the successful progression of Make in India campaign, the use of 3D printing is set to change the meaning of fast fashion in a completely different way. Manufacturers are placing emphasis on the local production of goods, making way for great potential of 3D printing in India. Alongside, one of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is the rapid prototyping capability.
“This means that designers can now bring their designs from the ramp to the customer in a matter of days, while also being able to express themselves in a more creative way,” Rahul says.
Besides being able to create complex designs in the briefest period of time, this technology has also significantly contributed to the rise in annual turnovers and business operations in fashion houses as well as for independent designers. It helps businesses leverage and differentiate themselves from their competition, which in-turn increases their sales as well as the overall identity of the brand or the company.
“It drastically reduces the product development cycle which means that designers can quickly 3D print and test their designs before they go into mass manufacturing. This quick turnaround time not only saves cost but also aids a designer in creating more designs,” adding that warehousing and logistics will become a thing of the past as companies will 3D print their products as per customer orders, which will also reduce cost of operations.
Some famous designs on the runway include Swarovski’s 3D printed gown created by costume designer Michael Schmidt in collaboration architect with Francis Bitonti, worn by the sensational Dita von Teese, where Francis proudly says,
“The future of fashion is code, not couture.”
Supermodel Cara Delevigne was also seen wearing 3D printed angel wings by designer Iris Van Herpen at the 2013 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, demonstrating new achievements of this new wave of technology. American television series Project Runway winner of season 7, Seth Aaron, has introduced an exclusive line of 3D printed custom footwear, drawing attention to the viability of the concept. And these are just a few examples of the many in the industry.
On the other side of the spectrum, some experts still argue on the quality of 3D printed goods. Modern techniques of 3D printing can still not beat the craftsmanship that has been passed on from generations, and can simply not be reproduced by a machine. Although, according to Rahul, the purpose of 3D printing is not to beat quality craftsmanship but rather, to leverage it, by empowering a craftsman to create unique and cost-effective designs in tandem with the same.
“While the materials being used for 3D printing in fashion are flexible and resistant, like classic fabric, they are still plastic. Research is being carried out to develop 3D printing textile material which would not only overcome the current limitations in the physical aspect but would also be washable,” remarks Rahul.
However, by international standards, Rahul says that India lags behind. This is due to a number of reasons such as the lack of locally manufactured 3D printers which in-turn have to be imported from other countries at a higher cost.
“In terms of design capabilities, India requires more designers to develop the knowledge and skills of 3D printing. The materials available for 3D printing are not the best suited for fashion applications and more research needs to be carried out in order to increase the material range,”
he elaborates, while also stressing on the fact there is low awareness about 3D printing and its applications and that more design institutes need to start educating their students about the same. Brands such as Adidas, he says, have already started 3D printing their shoes which are also customizable.
Another aspect that 3D printing has still not been able to battle with is the risk of increase in counterfeiting, thanks to the idea of simply printing any design on a computer. With the 3D printing revolution naturally comes the illegal, immoral, yet an inarguably convenient method of counterfeiting. Over time, there have been many efforts to curb the practice but it is decidedly difficult to gauge whether they would be successful in completely eradicating it. According to an article on Wired, there will be a need for a revolution in how intellectual property protections such as patent, copyright, and trademark are applied to the new world of 3D printing. It also highlights how there will always be innovations in the 3D printing arena which will supersede the practice of counterfeiting.
However, none of this can challenge the creative growth and an inarguably huge pool of possibilities it is bringing to the industry. One of the many such creative possibilities, says Rahul, is that there will eventually be more online platforms available for designers to publish their designs and sell them to potential customers online itself. The customer can then go ahead and 3D print their newly purchased design.
This revival is inspiring infinite opportunities, and when combined with traditional craftsmanship, it has the potential to take creativity to far more establishments than one can think of.
The yet budding concept is indeed a cutting edge technology and has also been referred to as the next industrial revolution. There are too many reasons to agree with this testimony and not many to deny; majorly because 3D printing has pushed the innovation envelope in more ways than one. After all, as Rahul says,
“The possibilities are limitless. The only limitation in 3D printing is our imagination.”
Inputs and Edits by Mili Doshi.