An international collaboration could revolutionise how clothes and footwear are made.

The partnership between Loughborough Design School and textile and garment manufacturer – the Yeh Group – is advancing 3D printing technology in a bid to create fully finished clothing directly from raw material.

The use of additive manufacturing to create textiles is not new, but current processes are multi-stage and require garment finishing.

Loughborough’s innovative technology will produce finished, coloured, ready-to-wear net-shaped garments in a single manufacturing operation.

The technology signals a step-change in textile, garment and footwear innovation that could change the clothing industry worldwide – potentially allowing designers to create personalised, ready-to-wear fashion within 24 hours.

What’s more, the process is far less wasteful than current antiquated clothing manufacturing techniques and processes which date back to the 19th century.

Each year, UK consumers spend £44 billion on clothing. In the same period, per UK household, garment manufacture

  • generates 1.8 million tonnes of waste material – equivalent to 100 pairs of jeans
  • uses 6.3 billion m³ of water – 1,000 filled bathtubs per UK household
  • has a carbon footprint estimated at 1.5 tonnes of CO2e per UK household*

The 3D Fashion approach means that, one day, bespoke personalised clothing could become an affordable, sustainable and ethical reality – benefitting both consumers and the planet.

* Further information about the statistics provided in this article can be found in Valuing our clothes (Wrap 2015).