Model on the catwalkIris van Herpen show, Runway, Fall Winter 2018, Haute Couture Fashion Week, Paris, France - 02 Jul 2018

Beyond its futuristic reputation, 3-D fashion also has the bare-bones appeal of reducing waste, improving turnaround times and saving money.

Seen by some academics as the third industrial revolution, three-dimensional printing technology emerged in 1984. Despite that advancement 35 years ago, not many fashion companies have rushed to leap into the area.

More sci-fi minded and forward-thinkers like Iris van Herpen and FashionTech’s Anouk Wipprecht are leading the charge. Van Herpen’s multidisciplinary approach has led to collaborations with Neri Oxman of MIT’s Media Lab and architects such as Philip Beesley and Benthem Crouwel Architects. Her science and technology leanings have also led to ongoing conversations with CERN, which is known as the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Wipprecht, like van Herpen, is a Dutch designer. Through partnerships with Intel, AutoDesk, Google, Microsoft, Cirque du Soleil, Audi, Swarovski and the 3-D-printing company Materialise she researches how the future would look as we continue to embed technology into what we wear. Her Intel-Edison enabled “Spider Dress” for example, was designed with sensors and movable arms to create more defined boundaries as much as style.

Danit Peleg, Hugo Boss, Adidas and Under Armour have also delved into 3-D design. Cattyt’s designer Cat Taylor said about 20 brands and designers have inquired about collaborating with her in the past month. Specializing in 3-D fashion for three years, the British designer has reimagined looks from Balenciaga, Vetements and Off-White, among others. She is working with a yet-to-be-disclosed sportswear company for a major project that will launch next month.

What first attracted her to 3-D design was the gap between 3-D and fashion, Taylor said. “I was constantly seeing avatars within the 3-D world without any clothing and questioned why? I wanted to draw a closer and far more direct link between fashion and the 3-D world, using my digital knowledge and fashion experience I decided to delve into this unexplored territory,” Taylor said.

“I think that 3-D fashion is going to be a massive part of 2019. There will be a huge rise of experimental content that incorporates fashion within a 3-D format, generating an digitally apocalyptic-ultramodern aesthetic. Fashion has been forever replicating and referencing virtual identities and the digital age; the 3-D world is working in the opposite direction, imitating physical forms in order to become tactile and in touch with the external and physical environment,” Taylor said.

In addition to design, she hopes that 3-D fashion can generate a new way of reimagining the potentials of interactivity and sensual experiences within fashion events and runway shows, she said.

The effects of 3-D are already being used in interesting ways at retail. In December 2017, the London-based Bottletop opened a store on Regent Street that it bills as the world’s first 3-D-printed store created by robots using upcycled plastic. Last month the company opened a pop-up concept store at NorthPark Center in Dallas.