Three-dimensional printing may have little in common with sustainability—at first blush, anyway—but the rapid-prototyping process has a litany of surprisingly green benefits. The emerging technology, which uses ultraviolet beams to fuse layers of powdered, recyclable thermoplastic into shape, leaves behind virtually no waste. Its localized production and one-size-fits-all approach also racks up markedly fewer travel miles, requires less labor, and compresses fabrication time to a matter of hours, rather than weeks or months.

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Designer Jiri Evenhuis, in collaboration with Janne Kyttanen of Freedom of Creation, was the first to toy with the idea of using 3D printers to create textiles. “Instead of producing textiles by the meter, then cutting and sewing them into final products, this concept has the ability to make needle and thread obsolete,” Evenhuis has said.

3D printing has the “ability to make needle and thread obsolete,” says designer Jiri Evenhuis.

A decade later, designer-researchers like Freedom of Creation in Amsterdam and Philip Delamore at the London College of Fashion are cranking out seamless, flexible textile structures using software that converts three-dimensional body data into skin-conforming fabric structures. The potential for bespoke clothing, tailored to the specific individual, are as abundant as the patterns that can be created, from interlocking Mobius motifs to tightly woven meshes.

Freedom of Creation’s 3D textiles are currently display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

+ Freedom of Creation