Inside one of the first 3D-printed fashion shows in America

“For me, fashion is an expression of art and I’m very excited to explore the technology’s potential to change how clothes are made and rst.”

How much would you pay for a pair of shoes customized to fit you perfectly? How about wearing your favorite piece of art? Welcome to 3D-printed fashion.

MecklerMedia will host its first 3D Print Fashion Show in the United States in New York April 16, showcasing the latest items from the top designers across the world. The company promises “the top 3D print designers from around the world will create original pieces” that will debut at the show. One of the show’s main attractions: Fashion designer Melinda Looi will reveal, what is eventually world’s first full-length evening gown, 3D-printed as a single part flexible enough to slink and vamp with a woman’s body.

“3D printing will change the world.”

“When you think of constructing with a sewing machine, you’re always thinking in terms of how to use fabric and thread,” Looi told Digital Trends. “But with 3D printing, you’re not limited to that.” Looi is a veteran designer, having won Designer of the Year three times at the Malaysian International Fashion Week. The enthusiastic designer will debut her second 3D collection in collaboration with the fashion show’s sponsor, 3D print software provider Materialise. Her first collaborative collection with Materialise — inspired by birds — came in 2013 at Malaysia’s first printed fashion show.

“3D printing will change the world,” Looi explains. “Maybe not now, but in times to come 3D printing will usher in a new era by enabling machines to produce objects of any shape, on the spot, and as needed.”

Indeed, 3D-printed clothing has caught fire among designers across the globe. Materalise and Looi put on Asia’s first two 3D print fashion shows in Malaysia and Japan, three months apart in 2013. The following year, Geek Picnic 2014 — an open-air festival held annually in St. Petersburg, Russia — showcased 3D print clothing alongside robot giants and virtual-reality headsets at the first 3D print fashion show in Russia. Later this year, Boston will host its first 3D printing jewelry competition courtesy of Design Museum Boston, New England’s only design museum. And 3D Printshow has held events for the advancements in the space since 2012; it held its first fashion show in New York City last year.

The future will strut its stuff on the catwalk, in other words — yet it’s still far from a reality today.

How soon is now?

Interest in 3D-printed clothing may be at its highest ever, but trucks full of printed clothing won’t flood your local H&M any time soon. Creating the future is taxing financially, with a single dress costing upwards of $3,000 just to produce at the moment.

“Currently accessories and garment accessories are the only commercial way forward, as a complete gown is just too expensive,” Looi said. And garments that come from the current generation of 3D printers lack the durability everyday clothing requires. “The fragility of a 3D printed garment is another thing to overcome,” she explained.

Trucks full of printed clothing won’t flood your local H&M any time soon.

Looi chose not to reveal any details about her potentially groundbreaking collection, but promises it will be “even more spectacular then our last one.” Still, retail outlets are slow to adopt the groundbreaking tech, despite enthusiasm from designers. The acclaimed designer says no retail outlets have contacted her about selling her 3D-printed clothing yet, “but we do get a lot of inquiries from museum and exhibitors.” Emphasis on the yet: A spokesperson for MecklerMedia told Digital Trends the company has in fact received calls from retail chains interested in attending the show.

Other designers participating in the 3D Print Fashion Show have all had their hands in pushing this burgeoning industry. Andrew O’Mara helps 3D design custom footwear for startup Feetz, a company which turns photos of customer’s feet into individually customized 3D-printed shoes. Rachel Nhan, who has crafted 3D printed neckpieces, is assistant graphic designer at Aeropostale. Francis Bitonti runs a studio which produces 3D-printed jewelry, gowns, bags and accessories and describes itself as a “disruptive luxury brand.” Bitonti also holds webinars on the 3D print process in fashion and is holding his next one on June 10 at 1 p.m. EST.

For years, 3D print fashion has been on display. But Looi’s free-flowing gown could signal a path from the runway to your closet. With PayPal sponsoring this year’s Geek Picnic in Russia and Nike releasing its first 3D-printed Nike Football Rebento duffle bag, Mercurial FlyLite Guard and the Nike Vapor HyperAgility Cleat last summer, 3D print fashion may capture the funding needed to commercialize this revolution. It has certainly already captured the interest.

MecklerMedia’s inaugural 3D Print Fashion Show will take place April 16 at 5:30pm at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Home Theater

Looking to cut cable? Here’s everything you need to know about Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers plenty of entertainment in a fashion similar to live internet TV services, only at no cost — you don’t even need to register. Too good to be true? Here’s everything you need to know.
Cars

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.
Smart Home

With Personal Food Computers, nerd farmers are finding the best way to grow

MIT research scientist Caleb Harper wants to grow basil designed to prevent heart disease. It involves a personal food computer, climate manipulation, and open sourcing food. One day, your doctor could prescribe you a diet of food grown…
Smart Home

How Alexa and Google Home can lend a hand over the holidays

Voice assistants are great helpers in the kitchen, so Alexa and Google Home are extra useful for holidays. Here are some ways your smart speakers can keep you in the holiday spirit.
Emerging Tech

Time for test-tube turkey? Everything you need to know about lab-grown meat

Lab-grown meat is big business. A handful of enterprising startups have raised and invested hundreds of millions of dollars into nascent technology, banking on breakthroughs in biotech to revolutionize the food industry.
Health & Fitness

Dread the gym? This smart mirror delivers your fitness fix at home

Mirror, launched back in September, is part mirror and part LCD display with on-demand workouts built into it. We visited Mirror's HQ in NYC to test it out and to see if it's really worth cancelling that gym membership for.
Photography

To capture nature’s insanity, this storm chaser built his own 16K camera rig

Sure, 16K cinema cameras don't yet exist -- but that doesn't mean you can't make your own. Storm chaser and producer Martin Lisius recently captured a 16K time-lapse film that showcases the powerful beauty of supercell storms.
Deals

The best Black Friday tech deals from across the web, all in one place

Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy are offering the best online Black Friday deals, and we've worked hard gathering all of those sweet savings into one convenient location. Get them before their gone!
Emerging Tech

Electric bikes and scooters are here to save the world! But here’s the thing …

E-bike and e-scooter usage has increased in popularity, but also troublesome. Providing these two-wheeled alternative transports while keeping users safe, is what smart cities are grappling with.
Outdoors

How bike tech lets Red Bull Rampage riders flirt with death, and survive

Red Bull Rampage is the craziest mountain bike event in the world, pushing riders to their limits. Fortunately they are armed with some of the best bike technology around, allowing them survive this wild and dangerous competition.
Cars

7 insane roads that will push self-driving cars to their very limits

Self-driving cars are getting better all the time, but we won't ever be convinced of their readiness for prime time till we see them comfortably handle some of the world's craziest roads. Here are our picks.
Features

Where Toronto sees smart sidewalks, residents see ‘1984.’ So what now?

Google-parent Alphabet is partnering with Toronto to develop a new, smart neighborhood, but some are concerned about privacy and the company’s motives. Could residents derail the project?