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This Designer’s 3-D Printed Apparel Targets Fashion’s Environmental Ills

Fashion designer Julia Daviy got into 3-D printing not for the avant garde-ness of it, but rather to experiment with fashion that could turn the tides on waste, pollution and all of the ills that plague one of the world’s most environmentally unfriendly industries.

Daviy dates her “fascination” with the technology back to 2016 when she was “increasingly concerned with the ethical and environmental impact of fashion on our world,” she said in a statement. “Issues of chemical pollution, energy consumption, material waste and the exploitation of animals are a huge problem for the fashion industry. In 3-D printing, I saw a solution to these problems.”

Prior to the collection she presented last week at the Fashion Meets Technology presentation during New York Fashion Week, for two-and-a-half years Daviy experimented with various hardware, software and material combinations to understand 3-D printing’s capabilities and limitations, creating four 3-D designed pieces between September 2017 and February this year.

But Daviy said the newly unveiled Liberation Collection is the most wearable 3-D printed fashion created to date.

A departure from the highly stiff and structural 3-D apparel designs that have previously graced runways and featured in publicity stills, Daviy’s collection represents a “complete 180” from this approach, instead leveraging a pair of 3-D printing techniques: fusion deposition modeling (FDM) and stereolithography (SLA). The real secret is large-format printing, which Daviy used to make each piece of clothing in two to four pieces using FDM printers. For the finely detailed work, however, the designer turned to SLA, which facilitates the creation of complex prints with minimal post-processing.

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The Liberation Collection, which Daviy spent more than 300 hours creating, takes much of its inspiration from the underwater world. The lining for the Pure Nature Suit is “premium eco-friendly material” derived from recycled fishing nets, while the Polka Dot Exoskeleton Dress references sea urchin exoskeletons. Other pieces allude to sea stars, jellyfish shoals, coral reefs—and the fish that make their home in this oceanic architecture.

Given her interest in preserving the environment, it’s natural that the 3-D printed Liberation Collection heavily references aquatic life. “The 3-D printing process has the potential to be less energy intensive and wasteful than existing clothing manufacture techniques,” Daviy said. “About one-third of all the fabric we make is thrown away.”

Noting that millions of animals are slaughtered annually for their skins, Daviy added, “The suffering inflicted by industrial farming techniques for the production of leather is impossible to avoid.” Her new collection features a 3-D printed biker jacket—one of the most popular leather-based apparel products.

According to Daviy, clothing created through 3-D design and printing could be the solution to enabling a “cruelty-free, slavery-free, and sustainable fashion experience,” she said on her website, and could “solve all the problems created by the second (still current) age of fashion.”