Could the clothing industry – one that creates an enormous amount of jobs around the world, albeit dangerous and poorly paid ones – one day be brought to the realm of ‘desktop publishing’? A new company called Electroloom, founded only in September by entrepreneur Aaron Rowley, hopes to 3D print ready-to-wear clothes by the end of this year. Ready and willing to help has been Alternative Apparel, the Atlanta-based company known for its comfy organic-cotton casual wear.
Electroloom recently won an Alternative Grant from the company partly, with help from Soma, on the basis of its potential for making clothing manufacture more environmentally friendly. “Something we are compelled by is embodied energy [which is] essentially the amount of energy that was used to take a raw material to a finished good,” Rowley told Co.Design. “So a goal of this project is to reduce the amount of embodied energy in an article of clothing.” By bringing clothing production to the home, Electroloom eliminates the huge amount of carbon expended in the transport of merchandise to its final destination.
Rowley envisions a Shapeways-like website where users will be able to print out crowdsourced designs in the comfort of their homes. However, the project is not without its current snags. Currently, natural materials like cotton and fur are very easily destroyed during the 3D printing process, so Rowley and his team have had to make do with synthetic fabrics and composites that they have been able to fashion into sheets and tubes. The Alternative Grant will give them space in San Francisco’s Tech Shop, $1000 for prototyping, as well as the freedom to pursue more complicated shapes like t-shirts. With those perks, and mentorship from Alternative Apparel president Erik Joule and Soma founder Mike Del Ponte, the year-end launch seems within grasp.
Image: Prototyping video