It’s a guest post by Stefan Kaertner

3D Modeling in Fashion: Here, Now, and the Future

Contrary to popular belief, the fashion industry isn’t all glitz and glamour. It’s fast-paced and very competitive. If you don’t keep up, you are at risk of getting left behind. This is why the biggest names in fashion are always on the lookout for what’s hip and happening.

Fashion capitals of the world are brimming with high-end brands. Cities like Paris, New York, and Milan have influencers and designers alike that are looking out for The Next Big Thing. The result? Each fashion house keeps their eyes on the lookout for whatever their competitors are doing. Although every region and fashion capital has their own charm and culture, the Italian fashion scene is one to look out for. It’s not only because the people dress very well there, but because it is a home to fashion. Iconic luxury brands such as Versace and Prada aren’t just headquartered there—they were born there as well!

So how does a fashion company keep up with the times and make themselves relevant? How do they get ahead through all the competition? After all, fashion isn’t just an art—it’s a business as well.

This is where modern day technology comes into play. In recent years, 3D modeling has made waves among the fashion community. Spearheaded by Iris van Herpen in 2011, the Dutch designer combined both 3d modeling and printing for her Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week collection.

The result? Applause and praise from critics and technology enthusiasts alike.

3D What?

3D modeling may be quite a foreign idea to the fashion world, but it has been around for quite a while. This technology is often used in architecture and fine arts industries in various applications. Oftentimes, 3D modeling is used in visualizing housing projects that are yet to be constructed. It has also been used in animation, entertainment, and even in academic and medical fields.

3D modeling could be done in a variety of ways. Yet, the most cost-effective way to go about it is through the use of computers and software. The results of this method may appear quite simple, as oftentimes the results are almost identical to the quality of photographs. However, 3D modeling actually entails the surface of an object to be mathematically represented in three dimensions. This is done through specialized software like 3DS Max, and the user can choose to have the 3D model to be displayed as a 2D image through 3D rendering, or recreate the model physically through 3D printing.

The future of fashion

Van Herpen isn’t the only designer who’s foraying into the 3D modeling world. Francis Bitonti, who has previously used 3D modeling for architecture, has forayed into similar fashion pursuits. The architect-slash-fashion designer has a shoe collaboration with United Nude. However, it’s not just his fashion forward footwear that’s put him on the limelight. Bitonti is best known for draping Dita von Teese in a 3D printed dress.

Up and coming designers aren’t the only creatives who are dabbling into this technology. Karl Lagerfeld has also used 3D modeling and printing in smaller doses. In 2015, Lagerfeld modernized the classic Chanel suits with 3D printed details.

Although 3D printing clothes has been a popular concept and is currently being studied by fashion designers and students alike, it will still take a while for it to be mainstream in fashion. According to Lynne Murray in an interview with The Smithsonian, it would take around ten to twenty years for people to begin to 3D print their clothes at home or in neighboring stores.

What we know today

On the bright side, 3D modeling isn’t exclusively only used for 3D printing. 3D modeling has also been used in marketing and advertising for products and architecture. Taking inspiration from Francis Bitonti, 3D modeling could be used to advertise clothing.

3D modeling can be rendered to a 2D image. This makes it quite easy to do certain promotion material. Instead of waiting for a physical copy of your design, you could use your rendered model to do any promotion even before it has been produced. This helps to get word out for your products if your business only sells products on a pre-order basis.

A rendered image of 3D modeling also helps you to decide if your design is physically possible or could highlight any unforeseen design issues. Sometimes, certain fashion designs look good on paper, but are difficult to execute physically. 3D modeling helps designers find out these complications before the design goes into production, allowing them to either modify the design or find techniques to get away with it.

In addition, the 3D model of your design could be uploaded to your website. Interested viewers can explore the details of the design in the comfort of their home. This helps make an online shopping experience more personal. It also gives the user an idea of the ins and outs of the product before they purchase it—something they would normally do if they were to purchase something in store.

If you also wish to follow the footsteps of Irene van Herpen’s 3D fashion movement, you can also easily print the designs once you have a good 3D model.

Now that you know what you can do with 3D modeling in your fashion business, where can you get somebody to do it for you? As mentioned earlier, you can run to 3D artists or architects trained in the field. In fact, as mentioned earlier, Francis Bitonti applied his own knowledge on 3D modeling and printing in the fashion industry! Similarly, RealSpace 3D, who is typically known for their architectural renders, is also capable of creating fashion related product renders and 3D models. The company has worked with several reputable brands such as Teck and Fluor.

In a nutshell, 3D modeling has various applications for you to get your fashion brand ahead in the cutthroat business. As Karl Lagerfeld put it in 2015, “What keeps couture alive, is to move with the times. If it stays like sleeping beauty in the woods in an ivory tower, you can forget it.”

Stefan Kaertner