The future of retail fashion is on-demand, 3D printed, and perfectly fitted
FASHION is complicated. There’s color, cut, fabric, and design, then there’s the question of what’s trending and what’s in style — all in a world where costs and margins are constantly reducing.
With the arrival of e-commerce platforms, fashion got mass-produced and cheaper, and in many parts of the world, created challenges for retailers.
However, almost a decade later, it seems as though retailers are ready to fight back.
Using 3D printing, retail fashion and apparel makers such as Adidas and Casca are delivering on-demand and perfectly fitted products to customers.
That’s the future of the industry and it’s going to get customers to flock to retail booths and stores instead of buying mass-produced products on e-commerce platforms.
While high-quality 3D body scanners bring the technology to life, the reality is that a high-quality camera on a smartphone or augmented reality technology can make retail fashion customizations just as easy to deliver.
Casca, for example, helps customers scan their feet and map 20,000 unique data points with just six images taken from their smartphone running iOS or Android.
Based on the scans, the company 3D prints insoles from 100 percent recyclable materials, guaranteeing a perfect fit and more comfort than any mass-produced shoe.
The company currently charges US$198 a pair plus US$50 for the customized insoles, for a total of US$248. Despite the personalization, the product is affordable — and can be bought at a retail store as well.
By 2029, Casca might have plenty of retail outlets across the world, equipped with 3D printers, to print its shoes on-demand.
According to IDC, 3D printing is growing rapidly. By 2022, IDC expects worldwide spending to be nearly US$22.7 billion. Given the pace of its adoption, however, IDC’s modest forecast might need to be revised.
The spike in interest in 3D printing technology has caused precision chemical companies such as BASF to enter the market as well, producing innovative filaments that support the 3D printing needs of companies exploring out-of-the-box use cases.
Although the use case discussed involves shoes, the reality is that 3D printing can be used to print shorts, sports jerseys, and other apparel as well. It could also be used to print right-sized prescription and fashion eyeglasses as well as protective gear for sports such as gloves and guards.
3D printing is finally taking off. It’s potential is boundless. Retailers can catch on and leverage the technology to delight customers might finally be able to beat mass-produced goods sold via e-commerce platforms and gain a loyal customer base.
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