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Hemp 3D Printing Hits the Runway

In a very short timespan, 3D printing has come quite a long way: There are buildings, artworks and even human organs that can be produced from this new technology. But the fashion industry is just beginning to push the limits of what 3D tech can do, and when combined with biological materials, it makes for high performance composites that can be transformed into almost anything, even high-end ladies' footwear.


Hemp 3D Printing Hits the Runway

October 15, 2015

While the thought of 3D printing with a substance like hemp is difficult for many to imagine, at this year’s fashion week London designer Liz Ciokajlo brought the idea to life with her fresh collection of women’s shoes. By concentrating and steam-compressing natural fibers from hemp, flax, wool and coconut, she found the overall character of the shoes changed.

Some areas could be made soft for comfort and others slightly harder for improved durability and arch support. The shoes are beautiful pieces themselves, but even more, it’s where biology, art and technology work in unison to make high quality items that are meant to last.

As part of her beginning in 3D printing, Ciokajlo told So Catchy, “When I started, I just looked at a lot of 3D printing, very plastic-y, very nylon-y and even though the forms were really beautiful, and elegant because they just had one material, I just didn't want to wear them because, I just thought I would have sweaty feet if I wore them, you know?”

In terms of sustainable supply chains, it's about putting in work as Ciokajlo confirms: “I started to think that maybe there was some kind of path that we could go down where we look at non-wovens, flax and hemp and I explored all those kinds of areas and coconut and latex. I worked with companies in Germany and they provided the materials.”

Such a careful approach to material selection and process is rare in the fashion industry, as it falls just behind agriculture and oil in overall pollution around the globe. This refreshing approach is something that she envisions inside a more localized industrial model: “I wanted to explore 3D print with footwear because I like it as a process, I think it has a lot of benefits because you reduce material, you don't have wastage and it brings back manufacturing to the local [level]. 3D print brings back local manufacturing because it relies on machine as opposed to labour cost.”

How future resources can be made both efficiently and affordably is at the heart of Ciokajlo’s organic collection, where, like nature, form meets function to drive her own brand of evolution in fashion. Her move away from synthetic plastics and into healthier biological materials speaks to many disparate parts of Western culture: petroleum, politics, production, DIY, ecology, design, organics and so much more. Once the rest of the world has caught up to hemp 3D printing, who knows, maybe one day you'll be allowed to grow and print your own pair of cannabis kicks.


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