Behind the Scene of the First Zero-Waste Digitally Customized 3D Printed Skirt

First Zero-Waste Digitally Customized 3D Printed Skirt Commercially Available

3D printing is on the verge of going mainstream. Both in the public eye, where 3D printing is starting to figure in the plots of television shows, and in commercial applications. Investment in commercial 3D printing equipment has grown more than tenfold in the last three years, and some industries—notably aerospace—have begun to adopt 3D printing into their design and manufacturing workflows.  

Somewhere between 3D printing’s history as a hobby and its growing future as a means of mass production lie applications like fashion. As I’ve gotten ready to produce the world’s first digitally customizable 3D-printed skirt, I’ve been thinking about how far the technology has come in the last few years, and how a new paradigm is forming around 3D-printed fashion. More than just a new business model, I believe that 3D printing is the method around which an entire new age of fashion is taking shape.  

The Two Eras of Fashion 

For most of human history, fashion was largely a local affair, usually the domain of women responding to the demands of climate and culture. Even where raw materials like cotton or wool were plentiful, clothing designers rarely had a broad range of materials to choose from. The same thing applied to dyes and fixatives like alum, and to the materials used to provide functional and decorative accessories like buttons and beads. 

What women in the first age of fashion may have lacked in terms of materials, they more than made up for with technical innovation and ingenious approaches to design that built sophisticated fashion vernaculars out of relatively few components. Those techniques and designs inform fashion to this day, but on a commercial scale they do so at a remove, as inspirations from a past era. 

The Industrial Revolution had the same impact on fashion that it did on many other industries. New means of transportation brought raw materials from around the world to factories where garments were produced in mass quantities. The tradition of handcrafted clothing persisted for some time, but even then, dressmakers and tailors were usually working with mechanically produced fabrics.  

In the 20th century, widespread globalization produced the fashion industry we know today. Design has been largely divorced from production: fashion designers work with textile firms to select distinctive woven materials or to produce unique ones; their designs, however carefully developed in the studio, are produced in factories, often in problematic conditions. 

Fashion’s Next Era 

We are just getting a glimpse of fashion’s third era. 3D printing offers the same prospect of wholesale change to the fashion industry that the Industrial Revolution delivered. In some ways, new era offers a compelling synthesis of the two that preceded it. 

 

 

The software employed in the 3D printing process reunites the modes of design and production that were rendered discrete by the advent of mass production. On a more practical level, the challenges of 3D fashion design would be familiar to our first-era forebears. 3D designers currently have a relatively small palette of raw materials to choose from, and necessity has given birth to some fascinating advances in technique. At the same time, we benefit from the second era’s legacy: new materials are constantly in development, and are becoming commercially available with increasing frequency.   

A New Production Model 

The first and second eras of fashion were defined in part by the ways that fashion was consumed. In the first era, fashion often denoted and reinforced affiliation with local or regional communities. While individual designers and garment-makers of special genius were celebrated locally and regionally, they did not produce fashions for large markets.  

That has been the second era’s specialty, and the economies of scale necessary for fashion to reach global markets have benefited consumers as surely as they have degraded the lives of garment workers and in many ways degraded the wider fashion vernacular. 

3D printing is still an immature enough technology that economies of scale don’t apply just yet. But value- and supply chains serving commercial 3D printing are developing quickly, and the core technology behind 3D printing becomes more powerful each year.  

3D clothing was something of a novelty as recently as a few years ago, when designers were devoted to proofs of concept similar to those demonstrated by the more outré entries at fashion shows. It’s a novelty no more. The challenge today is to develop protocols, pipelines, and business models that allow the mainstream production of 3D printed clothing. 

A New Commitment to Environmental Friendliness 

 

In emphasizing economies of scale, fashion’s second era didn’t just affect the lives of garment workers: its impact on the environment has been increasingly severe. From short-sightedly intensive cultivation methods to the widespread use of nonbiodegradable materials, our current methods of producing garments for widespread distribution are completely unsustainable. 

 

The next era of fashion must and will place these concerns at the center of the entire process, from design to manufacture, sale to disposal.

Several prominent designers have made valiant efforts to source their materials ethically, and to reduce the overall environmental impact of their collections.  But those efforts, however noble, are insufficient to the challenges before us. A properly complete rethinking of the fashion industry addresses the need for completely biodegradable materials and zero-waste production methods while offering customers stylish, comfortable garments on their own terms. 3D printing alone fulfils that mandate. 

 

Tell us how you see the industry further evolving in the comment section below.

Text: Julia Daviy

Photo: Danil Kaistro

 

 

 

Any part of these text and photos is a subject of Copyright. Use it for quotation requires a direct link on JuliaDaviy.com

 

Changing Fashion One Printer at A Time: Why Every Woman Needs 3D Printed Clothing in Her Closet

In 2018, I launched the world’s first-ever fully 3D printed women’s fashion line created on large-format 3D printers and presented it during the last New York Fashion Week. Throughout that week and in the time since, one question I’ve been asked more times than I can count is simply, “why?”

Most people are amazed by the quality of clothing that can be accomplished with my method of 3D printing in fashion, but the reasoning behind moving towards 3D printed clothing goes so far beyond just the aesthetics or function of the pieces. The thing that makes this new paradigm so important, and the thing that drew me to it in the first place, is the enormous potential 3D printing holds for advancement in an ethical and sustainable fashion.

Since I first started experimenting with 3D printing, my vision has always been a world in which fashion production is safer and cleaner, with the serious human and environmental costs that the industry currently inflicts greatly reduced or eliminated. There are a number of ways that 3D printed clothing helps to move that dream towards reality, and raising awareness on those positive impacts is one of the main reasons I design.

A Technological Solution to Serious Environmental Problems

The materials that traditional garment production utilizes cause a lot of problems, and they’re only going to get worse over time.   We know that cotton production is highly dependant on chemicals and fertilizers causing massive environmental damage, and the chromium used in leather tanning is extremely harmful to the people that work with it and the environment it leaches into. But beyond that, we’re also running into a shortage of space.

Textile production is incredibly resource-intensive, and as time marches on, we’re going to get to the point where it just isn’t possible to keep doing it the way we currently do. Cotton production, for instance, requires huge amounts of water. Cotton is grown in India – an already water-starved country – uses 22,500 litres of water per kilogram grown. It also requires large swaths of land to be dedicated to the crop. Neither land nor fresh water is in ample supply and, thanks to climate change and human expansion, every year they only get scarcer.

Imagine a world like the one PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has, in which, as space and resources dwindle, people move seaward and into floating cities. Where would the resources and space needed to produce clothing come from?

3D printing provides a solution to this resource scarcity problem. Clothes produced with 3D printers utilize materials that don’t require the waste of millions of liters of precious fresh water or land that could be used to grow food, and the printers themselves, even large-scale ones, require very little space in comparison to traditional clothing factories. It’s an elegant technical solution to a pressing problem, and it means that as the world’s population grows and the land we have available to us shrinks, we can continue producing all of the clothing we need while directing our most important resources to where they should go – improving the lives of human beings.

Real Progress Towards Ethical Production Methods

There is a lot of talk in the fashion industry about ethical and sustainable production, but unfortunately, there’s very little action to go along with it. Because ‘sustainability’ is such a buzzword, people get the incorrect impression that we’ve made big strides in fixing the numerous environmental and human problems that come along with traditional garment production – but we haven’t. In reality, we’ve only taken the tiniest of baby steps.

Baby steps aren’t enough, and 3D printing allows us to take some enormous steps towards solving problems like unethical labor practices and out-of-control waste. For instance, clothing created on a 3D printer doesn’t require cutting or sewing, so the demand for cheap labor that drives sweatshops is eliminated from the production process. That has an enormously positive impact on the welfare of women and children all over the world.

The shift in the role of the worker isn’t the only change. The role of the end-consumer also changes, moving them from a passive consumption position to a place where they can be actively involved in the design of their own clothing. That new involvement results in the production clothes that consumers will be happy to wear for years rather than a single season, reducing the massive landfill problem that currently plagues the industry.

The 3D printing process is also extremely efficient in and of itself. Whereas traditional manufacturing produces an enormous amount of waste material, 3D printing uses only as much filament as is required to complete a design, so there is effectively no wasted material discarded during production.

An Opportunity for Everyone to Help Create Change

The reaction to my full line at Fashion Week was incredibly positive but as nice as it was to receive compliments on the visual or functional aspects of the designs, what I was most pleased with was the immensely positive response towards the potential impacts of the technology. I love fashion, and making beautiful clothing is incredibly important to me, but my passion is making a positive change in the industry I love. A huge number of women feel the same way I do, and while few will ever design their own clothing, a consumer wearing a 3D printed garment can do so knowing they’re making a positive contribution towards sustainability in fashion in a very real way.  

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1*

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/20/cost-cotton-water-challenged-india-world-water-day

2*  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/floating-city-french-polynesia-2020-coast-islands-south-pacific-ocean-peter-thiel-seasteading-a8053836.html

Photo: Vita Zamchevska, Olya Helga, Julia Daviy 

Text: Julia Daviy

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