It's funny how sometimes moving forward might look like going back, but yes that’s what’s happening in fashion. After more than a century of increasing mass production of clothes, new technologies like 3D knitting and 3D printing are bringing back custom-made, personalized garments with the promise of increased customer satisfaction, lower waste and faster turnaround.
The American brand Ministry of Supply is leading the way in this direction by pioneering 3D knitted custom-made apparel at its retail location in Boston. As their website states "With 3D Print-Knit, we’re inventing whole new way of thinking about manufacturing. The entire process takes place in store, and can be managed by our retail team. "
Thanks to their WholeGarment technology, which includes exclusive design software and 3D-Knit machine by Shima Seiki (cost $ 190,000), they can produce a made-to-order blazer in about 90 minutes. The garment is basically seamless, thus saving sewing time and fabric waste. However, we are not talking instant delivery yet. The garment has to be washed and dried to make it shrink to fit, and store employees have to sew labels and buttons before delivering it to the client. The whole process currently takes about 3 to 5 days. A custom made blazer costs about $ 345 compared to $ 295 of a ready made one, not a great difference considering its experiential value.
Also the LA-based hip label Opening Ceremony has been dabbing in 3D knitting recently. Since last winter, it has partnered with British fashion tech startup Unmade to launch UMD X Opening Ceremony, a capsule collection of customizable merino wool sweaters sold exclusively on Farfetch.com.
3D printing is another technology that promises to play an important part in the future of fashion. A new generation of designers has already started to experiment with it, fascinated by the creative possibilities and the accessibility of this new technology. Tel-Aviv based Danit Peleg 3D-printed the dress wore by Amy Purdy, a double-leg amputee athlete for her samba solo performance at Rio 2016 Paralympics Opening Ceremony, and she is now working on her second collection.
As the cost of technology usually decreases as its adoption spreads, a future where we will have our new dress emailed to us to be printed or knitted at home, maybe not as far as it seems.