Imagine waking up in the morning and printing your outfit from a desktop printer to wear for the day. You come home later and need something to wear for an outing. Instead of looking through your closet, you select another design to print. Within minutes you have your evening look. With 3D printing, the idea of creating a customizable wardrobe from home may not be as far off as you imagine.
If you have ever heard of 3D printed fashion, you likely have also heard the name Danit Peleg. Danit was recognized recently by Forbes as one of Europe’s top 50 women in tech. A few years ago, she was a student studying fashion design at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel when she created her 3D printed clothing line. Technology innovations are influencing every industry, including fashion. It is, in fact, technology that allowed Danit and I to chat one October morning by video from different parts of world, as she discussed all things related to 3D printed clothing and what’s next in her career. Her background, her studio in Israel, was filled with gorgeous 3D printed tops and dresses. Danit is a new mom as well, balancing a blossoming career and motherhood, taking a moment to nurse her son as we began our interview.
So, just how did Danit get started with 3D printed fashion? She explained that as a student she loved creating fashion using technology, incorporating things like laser cutting and silk printing into her work. It was during her internship in New York where she first saw clothing constructed with industrial printers, each dress priced at about $20,000. She was inspired by that experience to create her own collection and to push the boundaries in 3D printed fashion. The result was her graduate project, the first 3D printed fashion collection entirely created from home.
Making Clothing using 3D Printing
I asked Danit, who is currently working on her third collection, about the process of creating 3D printed clothing. She uses Filaflex, a type of filament used in 3D printing. She holds up a piece and it looks like nothing more than a plastic tube. It is fascinating that this piece of material is used to create dresses, like pictured above. Filaflex is very flexible, but Danit believes the material will evolve and will feel more like fabric in the future. She explained that three years ago it took 300 hours to make one dress. The process has improved over time, however, due to technological advancements in the printers and now it takes about 80 hours. “I think it’s only a matter of time before it takes a few minutes to print a dress.” – Danit adds. Danit also shared that she uses multiple printers to print different parts of the garment, which allows her to print an entire garment within one day.
A Zero Waste Process
With 3D printing, every piece printed is used, “There are no left overs.” – Danit says “Every piece is meant to be something… So, when I make a dress there is zero waste”. When we donate clothing, we hope it makes it to someone in need. However, a lot of unwanted clothing ends up in landfills. Even more exciting is that all the 3D printed garments can be recycled using a special machine that works like a blender and breaks the garment down into the building material. The filaments can then be used again for another design. With 3D printing, the potential for creating and recreating using this process seem endless – It’s like having a never-ending wardrobe!
Danit also noted that she does not keep any inventory, which prevents potentially wasted products as well.
It’s Personalized and Customizable
“You can be a part of the design process and style it for yourself.” – Danit. Danit explained that it is easy to personalize the garment for every customer. She holds up one of her bomber jackets, available online, as an example and explains that customers can choose the color for the textile and for the lining (I played around with customizing my own bomber jacket in the picture below). In the future she imagines customers will be able to select the material for printing their garment as well, like cotton or wool.
Using an app called Nettelo, customers can take two pictures of themselves, from which Danit is able to obtain their measurements for a dress, shirt, or whatever design is purchased. The result is a perfectly tailored garment to fit your specific measurements,
Benefits, Challenges and the Future of Fashion through the 3D Lens
Danit described other benefits, which include the elimination of the shipping process, including the monetary and environmental costs, as well as, shipping time. “With this technology, we don’t need to ship garments from one side of the world to the other side.” –Danit. She also explained that for fast fashion companies like, H&M and Zara, for example, 3D printed designs could be used to reduce excess inventory. “They are producing these huge amounts of clothing that sometimes people don’t want to buy” – Danit. She explains that by using 3D printed designs, companies would be able to see exactly how many downloads they have for a piece of clothing.
When asked about the challenges in making this technology more accessible and mainstream in the fashion industry, Danit responded, “I think the biggest change will be when we have more diversity in the materials [used for 3D printed fashion]”. She also said that more education is needed on what 3D printing is, the benefits of using this type of technology, and how to use it. In the future, she predicts that 3D printers will be as common as microwaves. “Everyone will have them in their house and they will know exactly what to do with them” -Danit.
Danit also noted that printers should be faster and cheaper, which can cost up to $3000. The material on the other hand is not that expensive and will cost about $30-$40 for a dress, for example. Still, the most expensive aspect, she adds, is the time it takes to print.
A Look to the Future
Danit believes traditional ways of purchasing clothing (e.g. at clothing stores) will not disappear completely, but 3D printing will provide another way to buy and produce fashion. “Everything in our life is becoming digital and it’s only a matter of time before it happens with fashion a well.”– Danit explains.
I was interested in hearing Danit’s thoughts on how 3D printing might shift the jobs in the fashion industry, since a large portion of jobs in this industry are currently held by the individuals who make the clothing. Danit described that 3D printing could be a part of the fashion revolution, reducing the burden on employees, so many of whom aren’t paid fair wages and/or work in potentially hazardous environments. “The clothes we buy are so cheap and the people who make them are miserable… I think [3D printing] could be a good alternative.”
So, what is next for Danit?
When asked about her next steps, Danit replied “…Continuing in creating my vision into reality”. A few things in store include experimenting with new 3D printers to explore their benefits and limitations, creating new filaments, combining colors in textiles, and also uploading her designs so people can download them.
I appreciate Danit’s openness in sharing her process as well. In addition to providing workshops and talks for companies, like Adidas, Danit is now offering a course where she teaches everything thing she learned in three years about 3D printed fashion over the course of three days. During the course, which she describes as “3D printed fashion for beginners”, participants learn about the benefits of using 3D printing technology, the different types of technology that can be used, materials for creating 3D printed clothing, and an introduction to 3D modeling. Participants in the course also create 3D printed textile swatches and receive digital copies of Danit’s designs to practice with. The next course takes place November 27th-29th!
Danit Peleg is a visionary in fashion and our conversation was quite inspirational, so I will end with this quote:
“Your only limitation is your imagination when it comes to 3D printing.” – Danit