Despite it seeming like an ultra-modern technology, 3D printing has been around since the 1980s but it is only in recent times that this technology has slowly become more commonly used in the luxury sector. As more and more luxury brands adopt 3D printing it’s interesting to see in what ways it’s moulding to yet also changing the landscape of luxury fashion.
First things first, what is 3D printing and how does it work?
If you are new to the game of 3D printing, simply put, it works similarly to how a regular printer would function. But unlike traditional printing, where you can only have the product in 2D, 3D printing uses additive manufacturing to realise your dream creation. Layers of molecules fuse and build up to form a three-dimensional shape. Using 3D printing requires no special tools like cutting tools or moulds. The precise addition process helps create complex structures; hence, the possibilities are limitless.
So which luxury brands are using 3D printing in their collections?
In the realm of luxury fashion, brands have started to incorporate 3D printing into their design process. In Balenciaga’s Autumn Winter 2018 collection many of the clothes consisted of 3D printed pieces. Each model’s exact measurements were recorded and input into the computer to be printed as per the fitting requirements.
Is 3D printing sustainable?
Using 3D printing produces almost no waste — a standard that many fashion houses strive for these days. Brands under LVMH have employed 3D printing to make prototypes of their products, as with Adidas and its footwear. More prominently, in the making of the accessories such as sunglasses and jewellery, 3D printing helps to create a customised mould that is unique to the customer, elevating the luxurious experience.
From luxury to personable…
Taking a look at the current trend within the fashion industry, one would observe that personalisation ranks at the top of the list. In the past, owning a luxury product was the ultimate aim. Now with the ubiquity of luxury brands, the exclusivity often associated with luxury has been diluted. That is not to say these luxury brands are not desirable anymore. In fact, there is a growing appetite for them amongst the burgeoning younger generation. 3D printing makes it even easier for brands to produce their products in a shorter time to make up for the increased demand for their products. This increases access to luxury goods. How, then, can top brands continue to justify their price points? If one could simply 3D print out luxury goods that look virtually the same, then it makes sense that luxury brands should lower their prices.
What about the craftsmanship of luxury items?
3D printing cannot recreate the experience of buying a luxury product in a store along with the opportunity to be part of the brand’s philosophy. Brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada have a storied history where its artisans have spent almost their entire lifetime perfecting their skills. When you purchase a product, you are essentially buying their time in producing that item. And while some parts of a product could be 3D printed out, the technology cannot replicate the natural drape of a fabric or stitch up a piece of clothing. Luxury buyers are appreciative of the artisans spending utmost attention on the details. For them, it justifies the exorbitant prices that tag along with the products.