top of page

3D Applications In The Fashion Industry


Sorry for the long awaited science articles, but in-between creating tutorials and articles I watch the occasional YouTube video.  This article is based off those YouTube videos. By no means is it going to cover the basics of fashion, or how to create your own clothing. But we will be discussing how the 3D and visual effects industry is changing the traditional fabrication process.

The Advantage of Using 3D Software 

In the past few years, the fashion industry has started using 3D software applications to speed up the process of textile design. Pretty much everything they do in the production pipeline revolves around using a software application. This can range from the sale of finished goods, to documenting model measurements. Currently, the majority of 3D fashion companies use Autodesk owned software to get their work done. So keeping this in mind, most of the work generated from this industry relies on Autodesk applications to help focus their work in a cheaper creative direction. Other software companies that are used are: Toray, OptiTex, X-box, Lectra, and YXendis.

One big advantage designers have now, is that they can test designs and view garments on 3D body scans of popular models to see if the clothing can fit them. Or even use this application to see if a garment is good for mass produced clothing designs. This saves a huge amount of time from traditional trial and error. This technique also gives the designer the luxury of finding the correct places for seams, and the weak points for the garments.

Clients can also make last minute decisions to clothing if an item is custom made. Because the designs exists first on a computer, it suddenly becomes easily customizable, and interchangeable to and from preferred models. This idea has also been expanded into virtual showrooms and online marketing tools for companies wishing to display their product line.

Textile patterns and fabrics are also now testable in a virtual environment. Instead of traditionally creating samples of materials to show a client, or creating a design book of available textiles, the entire library of a studio can now be viewed anywhere. As well as their previous designs, portfolio, and available models. By testing fabrics in a 3D space, designers can also zoom into the weaves of the material, change the color, and adjust strand placement. 

Some companies have almost completely transitioned into digital design. Most of these companies are shoe designers such as Nike and Adidas. 

As you can see, the marketing and communication side of the fashion industry has evolved dramatically with 3D technology. Even though people still need to touch a product, a virtual product campaign can entice a viewer to have the need to see the product in person. They can enlist the use of 3D models of the product and insert visuals next to it to suggest value and quality of it. This technique can up the approval rating of a piece of clothing even if the material isn't the greatest. It is a sneaky thing to do, but clothing companies do this all the time in online retail and in ad space.

3D Prints, and Abstract Design.

Have you ever though about 3D printing your own dress or sweater? Well guess what....You can!

The use of 3D printing in the fashion industry has been increasing over the past few years. It was first popularized in 2011 by a Dutch designer named Iris van Herpen. She has based her entire career on pushing the boundaries of fashion and science, and is a huge fan of 3D augmented design. Her 3D dresses are made from a soft multi-material, and are printed from industrial printers. For some of her creations, it takes over 500 hours to print one design. 

3D printed clothing works best when the design is geometrical, or has recursive patterns. 3D printing also removes the need for creating clothing molds, and However, it is also very difficult to create non-rigid designs. This is because most printers don't support most of the required materials to print clothing, and are therefore suck to printing items in plastic. There is one work around to this problem. Designers of 3D dresses and clothing can print the pieces of a garment, and then stitch the item together. This can also allow for more mobility in the garment.

Mesh systems might be the future for 3D printed designs. Meshes are more flexible than regular structures, and can be bent into shapes around the body. One designer, Danit Peleg, is currently creating fashion collections and modern wear using this system. She was the first fashion designer to use home printers to create full printed sweaters. These sweaters are available for purchase off her site: HERE.

NASA is also pursuing 3D fashion. Currently, they are developing materials and printing systems to help astronauts move and interact better in space while wearing their suits.

It's not just pants and dresses you can print, accessories are also being mass produced through this technique too. Because 3D printing generates no waste or by products, making bracelets and jewelry has become a cheaper process. Printers can now use leather, steel, glass, and other metallic materials. 

Fun fact, the majority of the headdresses and decorations on the characters in the movie Black Panther were 3D printed to lower the cost of costume design.

The Challenges of Digital Design

A lot of the challenges of 3D clothing design comes from the time and development of the custom materials to create them. As we've discussed 3D prints can be rigid and selectively hard to print.  It's safe to say we have all the digital technology that we need to design something, but we still lack the necessary practical materials.

Custom 3D printed designs are also incredibly expensive. Geometric meshes, singular clothing parts, and decorations are cheap to mass produce, however other designs are not. A print that requires metallic materials, custom fittings, or is considered part of a designers collection, usually cost upwards of a thousand dollars. And that would be for one item. If you desired a fully printed outfit, the price could skyrocket to something over $10,000.

There are other limitations to incorporating 3D technologies into the fashion industry. As the origin of fashion design was never based around the use of a computer, some companies push back at the item of using a software to replace certain tasks. Their are some concerns that this might cheapen the value of a brand, and limit the artistic direction of the designers.

Continued Evolution of The Fashion Industry

In general apparel design, the 3D world is feeding into mass retail stores. Currently, 3D production is helping increase the speed-to-market ratio, and increase profits. As companies no longer have to place money aside for prototyping, they are suddenly saving more. They are also able to generate designs in under a week, and have them shipped out to stores days after being created. In some ways 3D design is encouraging the over production of fashion.

3D designs are also helping reduce companies carbon footprints. In the lead up to creating a design, chemicals are used for preparing, washing, dying, and treating fabric. The less prototypes of an item, the less chemicals used in the process. 

There are also individualized production movements starting. By 3D scanning yourself or a model, designers and fashion enthusiasts can create online testing of items, participate in online 3D catwalks with avatars, complete online shopping with a 3D model, and much more. Suddenly, clothing shopping has become much easier.


3D printed fashion: Why is additive manufacturing interesting for fashion?:,possibilities%20and%20fascinates%20some%20designers.

LEAD Innovation Blog:

Why Is Demand for 3D Software Increasing In Market:

3D technology: Developments for the apparel industry:

From high-fashion to custom sneakers: Will 3D printing disrupt the fashion industry?:


The Evolution Of Material And Design: New Path Towards 3D Printed Fashion - WTVOX Research Impact:


3D Challenges in the Fashion Industry:


3D in apparel design:


Digital fashion:


3D – Facilitating the digital transformation in the fashion industry:




Iris van Herpen

bottom of page