Imagine you need that perfect dress for the holiday season. Nothing in the shops quite matches the vision you have in your head. This is always problem number one with fashion: clothes are designed and made to fit a crowd, not an individual. Frankly, I'm surprised there aren't more instances where two girls at a party show up wearing the same outfit. Unless you're a crafter, handy with a sewing machine and have a fondness for vintage, it's likely you dress a lot like most other people.
3D printing has long been touted as a way to change all that. The ability to create a design and have it spat out by a printer exactly as you imagined it is no longer science fiction. A company local to me, Creat3D, is selling printed Christmas decorations this year: elaborate, ethereal pieces that would be prohibitively expensive to make by any other means.
The problem for your future-minded fashionista is that you are limited as to materials you can use to create a 3D print. Hard plastics and even alloy are fine: perfect for jewellery and accessories. But you can't make clothes from them. The approximations we've seen up to now have been hard-shell, closer to armour than anything you'd want to wear to the office party.
That is changing, as Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg of award-winning design studio Nervous Systems have developed a new way of thinking about the whole problem. Their clever solution is to build a garment from hundreds of pieces of printed nylon which slot together like scales. The end result is a dress that moves, flows and drapes like fabric. The other benefit: the scales allow the whole thing to be compressed and printed in a form that unfolds neatly into the finished garment when done. Less waste, less energy consumed. There's no assembly needed. It's the very definition of ready-to-wear.
As each dress is designed around the unique body scan of the end user, fit is not a problem, and the garment can be tweaked to flatter or disguise as needed. It's one-of-a-kind, and completely based around you and what you want. It doesn't get more individual than that. Why dress like everyone else, when you can finally dress like yourself?
Sounds great, but there's a caveat. Nervous aren't quite ready to start printing for market yet. But the Kinematics Cloth app, allowing you to create and save your designs, is available now. Jessica and Jesse hope to begin production early next year. So although that perfect party dress isn't within your reach just yet, by Christmas next year you could be stepping out in a garment that's completely unique.