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Fashion Friday: 3D-Printed Chic

3D printed runway dresses

In the past few years, tech fashion has gone from a geeky approximation of fashion to a commercially viable market, even if that "market" is currently focused on pushing out half-hearted attempts at cramming a mobile device in various accessories in order to capitalize on our collective obsession with being plugged in. Wearables may be lucrative, but 3D printing is poised to revolutionize the product manufacturing industry just as soon as they figure out a way to make the printers more efficient and cost effective. In the meantime, it's comforting to see the shift away from pseudo-futuristic sci-fi wear to something the general public can get on board with. Not even high fashion can make heavily LED-lit, holo-print, or—heaven forbid—tweeting attire look cool.

img search for light up rave attire
I suppose they do have the raver market cornered, though.

3D-printed fashion opens the door for clothing designers to put the spotlight on concepts that are out of the realm of possibility for traditional materials, such as this collection from Dutch designer Iris van Herpen who collaborated with a major 3D printer manufacturer to create a line for Paris Fashion Week in 2013. Herpen and her team employed precise geometric patterns to create stunning, impossibly intricate garments that quite literally showcase the beauty of movement.

black 3d printed dress
There's something truly satisfying about the geometric elegance of printed attire.

While the designs for 3D-printed clothing are undoubtably gorgeous, it's a challenge to coax the printing material into something that resembles the natural flow of fabric. Current design software has serious limitations in this regard but it isn't impossible. Nervous Systems designed a cute floral dress with a geometric algorithm specifically formulated to imitate fabric. It took the studio an entire year after initial concept creation to work out the kinks in order to successfully print it, but damn if it isn't magnificent.

Nervous System's floral 3D printed dress

The dress takes two days to print and costs about $3,000 to make, so don't expect to see this (or any other printed piece) in your wardrobe any time soon.

It's far more likely that the first printed items we'll start assimilating into our collections are shoes and accessories, which is admittedly more exciting to me. I can't be the only one who thinks shoe shopping is a hassle, right? I always struggle with finding the perfect shoes for an ensemble, so naturally a print-your-own thing appeals to me.

3D printed shoes

And matching accessories? Yes please. Geometric designs are in style right now, so can we get on this?

3D printed jewelry
This amazing collection is from MYBF

Crazy shoes and statement pieces aren't usually made from textiles, so there's more focus on aesthetic. The caveat here is that the results are sometimes strongly reminiscent of the 80s when jellies and cheesy costume jewelry were popular.

We're not a long way off from seeing 3D printers as an everyday household item. In fact, there are already several affordable models available, though they're obviously limited in functionality and I can't vouch for their their quality besides. Still, how cool would it be to pop out ready-made clothes or accessories from your very own magic item-making machine?

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