3D printing is all the rage in the tech and design world, making everything from jewelry, sunglasses, furniture, buildings and even food, but has only barely been used to make clothes. Now Asheville, NC outdoor apparel brand, Appalatch, is setting out to ‘print’ the world’s first sweaters. With a newly launched Kickstarter campaign, Appalatch is raising funds to buy a computerized knitting machine that can make custom sweaters perfectly sized to your body with less waste. With wool sourced in the US and their new zero waste knitting machine, Appalatch is working to revolutionize how clothes are made. We checked in with Appalatch founders, Mariano deGuzman and Grace Gouin, to find out exactly how they plan to do this.
Appalatch is an outdoor apparel brand who is dedicated to ethical fashion made here in the US of A. The goal is to empower everyone along the way who helps produce their clothing so they are paid appropriately to produce long-lasting products. So far their line of offerings includes wool socks, blankets, and T-shirts. They just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to buy a new piece of equipment, a Stoll computerized knitting machine, that will allow them to print customized crew neck sweaters. While it’s still knitting, the machine is sorta like a 3D printer in that it can create a piece of material to the exact dimensions needed with hardly any waste. We were curious about their plan, so we dug in and asked Appalatch’s founders some questions about 3D printing and apparel.
How is “3D printing” sweaters different from traditional knitting?
The apparel industry is dominated by cut and sew manufacturing where large bolts of fabric are laid down and patterns are cut out of it, like rolling our cookie dough and cutting shapes out. Unfortunately, we can’t combine the left-over fabric that it is thrown away. This make it so that 20 to 30 percent of the fabric gets tossed, and in the best cases are recycled. That to us is a lot of wasted resources, especially when thinking about all the inputs it takes to grow the wool, process the fiber, spin the yarn and knit the fabric. 3D printing sweaters are different. Using a full fashion knitting machine, the process becomes more streamlined and the machine only knits down the pattern pieces, creating virtually zero waste! This is huge because not only are we able to reduce the wasted fabric and make the whole production more efficient, we can use the technology, along with some of our ingenuity to customize the process to individuals who want a perfectly fitting sweater!
Where does your wool come from?
Appalatch wants to revolutionize the apparel industry by making clothing that empowers the farmers that grow fiber, the people that make it, and the consumers that buy it. In this quest, our intention is to use wool that comes from as close to home as possible. This not only reduces the carbon footprint of the wool, but also creates sustainable jobs within America. The wool we use in the sweaters comes from Rambouillet Sheep raised in Montana. This wool is 21.5 microns, an extremely fine wool that is uncommon in sweaters.
What inspired you and your company to tackle this project?
We didn’t start Appalatch to start another clothing company. We stated Appalatch because we believe that beautiful, long-lasting, classic clothing can be made so that it is fair and equitable for everyone. With our goal to help innovate the way we manufacture and buy apparel, we wanted to find a way to make ethical clothing that consumers will keep and be used for a very, very long time. A perfectly fitting, classic sweater fits the bill exactly, especially when we think about how in sweater sizes, there are only four or five sizes that is meant to fit 7 billion people. With a perfectly fitting sweater that is unique to each person, our hope is that people will value it and help break the cycle of fast fashion!
How long will it take to “print” a sweater?
This is one of the most remarkable parts of the process. Knitting down a sweater takes less than an hour. If done by hand, it will take at least a week and a half of non-stop knitting. Once we are fully up and running, our goal will be to knit down the sweater in under an hour and have it delivered to a customer’s door within a few days.
What measurements do you need to make the sweater?
We take four key measurements: sleeve length, torso length, chest circumference and waist circumference. From these measurements, we can ensure that we create a sweater that fits your body perfectly!
How many different styles and colors are there?
For our Kickstarter campaign, we wanted to make sure that we are able to manage orders and get sweaters to people on the date that we promised, so are limiting the styles and colors that will be available from the start. For the campaign, we are offering a classic crew neck sweater in a choice of four colors for both men and women; Natural, Navy, Camel and Charcoal. If we are able to reach a certain funding level, we will be able to offer more styles to the Kickstarter community! If we do reach our $50,000 goal, the future looks bright for a whole bunch of different custom fit sweater styles from people to choose from!