Considerations On the Future of the 3D Printing Fashion Industry


My interview/conversation with Singaporean high school student Tan Hao Huan currently studying Art. Their school is researching recent developments that 3D printing have made with regards to the fashion industry.

  • What role do you think fashion designers play in modern culture, media and society? How do you think 3D printing changes this?

I think fashion designers, like artists, push the limits of our collective imagination to envision new products which mat not be practical today but will be tomorrow

With 3D printing their role is even more important and significant since 3D printing is a technology that we still do not know how to fully exploit and designers can and do help the rest of us find new ways to do it.

  • What does 3D printing add to the process and/or results of designing fashion? What does it sacrifice?

I see you partially answer this question a few questions further down. However I don’t think 3D printing sacrifices anything. It just adds new ways to make things that don’t exist today

  • When they are in conflict, would you rather sacrifice functionality for artistic expression in your designs, or vice versa? Does 3D printing amplify this?

I am not a designer but I think that it depends on what you are producing. If you are creating fashion as an artistic expression to push the limits of manufacturing than practicality becomes secondary. If, on the other hand, you are looking to use additive manufacturing as a way to make designer fashion more affordable and accessible to everyone then 3D it could be a factor to consider.

  • What do you think is the future of 3D printing in fashion? Do you think 3D printed fashion will ever become the norm? Why or why not?

I think 3D printing in fashion is already the norm although we are not aware of it. In fact many of the top fashion houses already use 3D printing to make several items that are part of their designs. If, on the other hand, you mean that 3D printing clothing with polymers will replace natural fibers I think that will be a growing phenomenon and might become significantly more widespread in the future. I do not think that 3D printed clothing will ever completely replace traditionally manufactured clothing, just like digital entertainment has not yet and probably will never fully replace books.

  • Considering the rate of current technological advancement, fully 3D printed fashion pieces are highly possible in the future. How do you think this will change the world of fashion design? Since any person can create their own 3D printed designs, do you think the role of the fashion designer will change? How?

I’ll answer the second question first: i think what will happen is exactly what happened to journalism at the time of social media. Since everyone can publish their own content there has been a huge explosion of media and communication and the media industry has changed, just like the designer’s role will change and it willl open up to collective projects. What i mean it that the designer will become a guide to combine and drive collective creations. Those who do not adapt will succumb, those who do will thrive. As far as fully 3D printed fashion pieces I think the same thing might happen that happened with CD’s and vinyls.

  • Since 3D printing eliminates the “human touch” and individual 3D printed pieces from the same design are no longer unique, do you think 3D printing lowers the artistic value of haute couture? Moving forward, do you think 3D printing will change the way fashion and haute couture are viewed and valued? Why?

I think that 3D printed creativity is different than traditional non-CAD based creativity. In the long run the only real added value of 3D printed designs is the design itself and possibly the finishing. The machine made work – by definition – does not add value to a product. This means that a 3D printing fashion designer must develop both CAD design skills and engineering skills to communicate that design to the machine. And also manual skills to add the finishing touches.

  • Do you think 3D printing can fully replace traditional fabrics and the process of creating fashion designs by hand? Why? Does this affect the current way you value fashion?

As I said before I don’t think that anything can fully replace anything else and never has in the history of civilization. Just about everything we ever invented still exists today.

  • What is your view on the opinion that 3D printing may potentially allow fashion designs to be easily “pirated”, since designs can be easily mass-produced and  shared online? What other threats or troubles do you foresee unique to 3D printed fashion?

The IP protection issue is definitely something to keep a close eye on, whenever digital distribution of fashion items becomes a reality. However, while the music and entertainment industry we undoubtedly affected by transition to digital distribution, it should be said that digital distribution and piracy also contributed to eliminating some bad practices by music industry companies which were taking advantage of their dominant position. The result is that the overall quality of music produced has increased and, in the long run, the revenues for music companies and artists have increased also. Once again, those who do not adapt will succumb and those who do (or invent new ways to exploit new technologies) will thrive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s