When Chanel trades sewing machines for 3D printers
Can you imagine a future where you could download a suit design from your favorite brand and immediately print in at home?
In 2015 Paris Fashion week, Karl Lagarfeld surprised the fashion industry and revealed a partially printed version of the iconic Chanel tweed suit. The idea was to remove any sewing from the vest.
While 3D printing has been widely used in the aerospace and the automotive industry, the first 3D-printed dress appeared in 2013 on New York Fashion Week runways. Most observers saw it as a bold innovation that wouldn’t take over the luxury fashion industry anytime soon because technology was far from answering the high standards of Haute Couture.
Ever since, Chanel has been using 3D printing to bring innovation to several of its product categories (clothing, watches and make-up). Nevertheless, under French law, the Haute Couture designation is attributed to Houses who made clothes entirely by hand . Can this use of innovation constitute a threat to Chanel’s core business model where luxury and craftmanship has been tightly linked together for decades? Can it be an opportunity and source of future competitive advantage in the luxury industry?
Chanel’s Additive Manufacturing Strategy
Additive Manufacturing as a communication tool
Chanel’s use of 3D printing was initially a statement of “avant-gardism”, a demonstration that the iconic brand was evolving with its customer base while remaining authentic to its values.
“The idea is to take the most iconic jacket of the 20th century and make a 21st century version, which technically was unimaginable in the period when it was born. The vest is one piece, there is no sewing, it is molded. What keeps couture alive, is to move with the times. If it stays like sleeping beauty in the woods in an ivory tower, you can forget it. The women who buy couture today are not the bourgeoises of the past, they are young, modern women” (Lagarfeld, 2018)
Additive Manufacturing for product innovation
While the vast majority of Chanel’s products are still made “traditionally”, additive manufacturing has been essentially used for rapid prototyping and to bring product innovation either in terms of design or in terms of performance:
- Product design innovation: recently, Chanel applied additive manufacturing to the boy-friend skeleton watch (that sells at $43,255). 3D printing technology allowed to create a floating movement where the wheels do not need screws to be fixed to the glass .
- Product performance innovation: Le Volume Revolution is a 3D printed mascara brush launched in 2018 by Chanel make-up division. The innovation relies on the fact that micro cavities can be printed into the brush allowing for even and smooth application .
It appears that Chanel’s strategy in product innovation is to use 3D printing to complement “traditional” production in order to gain design and performance attributes in new product innovations.
Additive Manufacturing for on-demand production
One additional major 3D printing benefit is on-demand production. On-demand production is essentially due to the fact that additive manufacturing allows to shorten time to market and to customize products.
- Shorter lead-time is essentially due to a shorter production cycle (faster prototyping) and to the fact that production can move closer to its customer base, allowing for a quick response against competition. This new technology washes away any supply chain competitive advantage that was created in the past by some players (e.g. Zara and its instant fashion supply chain can now be threatened by players adopting 3D printing) .
- Product customization is due to the fact that additive manufacturing allows for the production of a small number of units (which was not possible in traditional manufacturing where the economics were essentially relying on higher batch sizes to offset setup times and generate economies of scale). Product customization is key for high value items where customers are looking to get a unique and personalized item.
On the long term, additive manufacturing will likely reshape the fashion industry and will force luxury companies to think of its implications on new in-store experience and new consumption habits.
New in-store experience
With shorter lead-time and high room for customization, 3D printing adoption in the fashion industry will likely reshape the retail in-store experience. Customer will no longer go in-store to choose a preexisting item, but rather to customize a product and receive it at the point of sale .
Some even imagine the role of the store as being a place where customers are digitally scanned upon arrival to get exact body measurement .
New consumption habits: print it yourself tool
One vision of the future could be that every household will hold a clothes printing machine. Joshua Harris even designed a machine where old clothes are fed to the machine and then used to print new items .
This approach to the future drastically questions the business models of fashion brands where their role would become the role of a designer offering design specifications that could be bought online and printed at home .
Going forward, will 3D printing disrupt our consumption habits in terms of how we approach fashion? Will fashion brands such as Chanel become design companies offering design specifications that will be printed by customers at home? Will our wardrobes be found in our computers?
 Fran BLANDY, Anne-Laure MONDESERT, “Lagerfeld gambles with 3D-printed suit in Chanel”, AFP, July 7, 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/afp-lagerfeld-gambles-with-3d-printed-suit-in-chanel-casino-2015-7, accessed November 2018.
Bluedge staff, “12 Fashion Designers Who’ve Embraced 3D Printing”, Bluedge (blog), February 2, 2018, http://www.bluedge.com/blog/miscellaneous/12-fashion-designers-whove-embraced-3d-printing, accessed November 2018.
 Beau Jackson, “CHANEL APPLIES “CHEMICAL 3D PRINTING” TO BOY-FRIEND SKELETON $43,255 WATCH”, 3dprintingindustry (blog), June 22, 2018,https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/chanel-applies-chemical-3d-printing-to-boy-friend-skeleton-43255-watch-135035/,accessed November 2018.
 Eric Lai, « CHANEL ANNOUNCES PLAN TO MASS-PRODUCE A 3D PRINTED MASCARA BRUSH”, 3dprintingindustry (blog), March 20, 2018, https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/chanel-announces-plan-mass-produce-3d-printed-mascara-brush-130715/, accessed November 2018.
 Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Pulse of the fashion industry (2017), accessed November 2018.
 Javier Seara , Sebastian Boger , Catharina Hase , Viola von Berlepsch , and Samuel Deichmann, “Sustainability is Good Business for Fashion”, The Boston Consulting Group report, May 22, 2018, https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/sustainability-good-business-fashion.aspx,accessed November 2018.
 Journeyman Pictures, “Will 3D Printing Tech Revolutionize The Fashion World?”, YouTube, published July 20, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WquJ7PEqYi8,accessed November 2018.
 Resins Online, “3D Printed Clothing, Becoming a Reality”, Resins-online (blog), June 17, 2013, http://www.resins-online.com/blog/3d-printed-clothing/,accessed November 2018.
TEDx Talks, “Fashion and Technology: From Frivolity To Sustainability | Rachel Arthur | TEDxCoventGardenWomen”, YouTube, published December 5, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbsGRknLYg4&t=874s,accessed November 2018.
Student comments on When Chanel trades sewing machines for 3D printers
Fascinating article on how 3D printing is transforming Chanel’s business — well done! The article sparked my thinking as to how the use of this new technology would significantly shift the necessary skills that Chanel will need to recruit. Rather than focusing solely on fashion designers with impeccable taste and avant-garde designs, Chanel will also have to hire team members with the technical skills to capitalize on this innovative technology. Forbes also published about how “3-D Printing Poised To Revolutionize The Fashion Industry,” in which author Tracey Welson-Rossman writes, “Wiker says one of the biggest misconceptions about her job is that it exists in a vacuum. She says that being a really good 3D modeler requires an understanding of fabrication, manufacturing and engineering so that you can turn a hand sketch or 2-D illustration into a 3-D model. In fact, one of her team’s biggest contributions during this engineering process is to find and resolve conflicts between the intended design aesthetic and the functional requirements of the end product. They can even anticipate the challenges that factories will have when sampling the part and can work closely with design partners to create a finalized 3D model that is manufacturable and still achieves the original design intent” [see source below]. It’s clear that the skills required to complete this role are more expansive than more traditional fashion design, and it will be fascinating to see how fashion houses like Chanel adapt to both changing technological innovations, as well as changing required skills among their team members. Managing technical innovation — especially in a highly creative field — will certainly be a challenge!
Source: Welson-Rossman, Tracey, “3-D Printing Poised To Revolutionize The Fashion Industry.” Forbes, February 7, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/traceywelsonrossman/2018/02/07/3-d-printing-poised-to-revolutionize-the-fashion-industry/#dcb1fb1170f2, accessed November 2018.
I loved this blog and how it brought to light the tension between traditional couture, which is handmade and labor intensive, and new-age couture, which can rely on additive manufacturing to create complex designs. I had the chance to go to the The Metropolitan Museum’s 2016 special exhibit called Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology which delved into how technology is transforming fashion today. Clearly, 3D printing is already being integrated into fashion at the most creative, high-end side of the spectrum with designers like Issey Miyake and Chanel. It will be incredibly interesting to see how this tool transforms the commercial side of fashion, as you mention. While I don’t see 3D printers entering the home any time soon, I can foresee lines like Zara and H&M using this technology to further optimize their supply chains. Similarly, I can see custom tailoring and design being automated; however, I do think there will remain demand for the human side of these services. For the same reason many still favor a human checkout process at convenience and grocery stores, there will likely be resistance to complete automation in the world of design and tailoring as well.
This is a fascinating application for 3D printing – thank you for your thoughts! I couldn’t help but think of our Marketing case on Gap while reading this. You imply that although 3D printing can bring many benefits for a couture designer like Chanel — customization, increased product performance/innovation — its long-term implications for designing and producing clothes on-demand could render the high-end designer’s role to be nearly irrelevant (similar to Gap’s replacement of its designers through big data). It begs an interesting question of how deeply Chanel should embrace this trend, and where they should draw the line. I also wonder how Chanel’s customers would respond to on-demand customization — if that perhaps defeats the purpose of buying high-end clothing where trust and aspiration for the brand is paramount.
This was a really thought-provoking article! As someone who has not been very knowledgeable about high fashion (or regular fashion for that matter), I was fascinated to see how 3D printing could change the perception of fashion. I was especially intrigued by the concept of in-home 3D clothes printers and the longer-term implications for how this may change how a buyer interacts with a brand. I wonder if this will also lead to a future of more sustainable, eco-friendly clothing; because materials for 3D printing can be sourced differently than traditional fabrics, hopefully this can be an opportunity to ease into my recyclable options.
I am also excited for the possibility this will bring to smaller, lesser known designers. Historically, 3D printers were inaccessible to emerging designers, costing between $50k and $100k (https://www.forbes.com/sites/traceywelsonrossman/2018/02/07/3-d-printing-poised-to-revolutionize-the-fashion-industry/#4039c74b170f). Now, these machines cost less than $5000, which opens it up for emerging designers to take a foothold in the fashion world. Not only will this provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs, but it could bring about a new world of creativity in technology-enabled fashion and clothing.
This piece was truly revealing of how centuries-old industries such as the fashion industry are poised to be impacted by additive manufacturing and how luxury player Chanel is getting ahead of the industry in implementing the 3D printing technology in product design and performance innovation. By marrying traditional processes with contemporary advances, Chanel is able to build competitive advantages and remain relevant to its changing target audience while not alienating their original base. I don’t anticipate that 3-D printing will significantly change the in-store experience on a grand scale as positioned in the article, but instead will be additive to holding some stock in a store (on the low-mid price range). I do believe that firms like Chanel stand to benefit from the customization that additive manufacturing will provide to customers in a similar manner to which e-Commerce impacted the industry (i.e. provide a way that increases value to the consumer). In the case of e-commerce it was convenience to make purchases at the click of a button from the luxury of the home, with 3-D printing it will be about illuminating the unique attributes of an individual through customization. One can extend Mrs. Bensouda’s research into other industries such as automobiles which may begin to manufacture custom seats and steering wheels for drivers, utilizing 3-D printing.
Thanks for such an awesome, thoughtful article! It’s impressive to see that Chanel has already found ways to use 3D printing for complimenting their existing production processes rather than considering it a full substitute for traditional production.
The scalability of 3D printing is often called into question. I wonder if Chanel strategically chose smaller products to apply 3D printing to in order to increase the volume of products produced. I imagine the cycle time [ 🙂 ]to produce hings like the mascara with micro cavities is much faster than some potentially equally innovative applications that may not scale enough to serve the mass market.
Great article on how additive manufacturing is changing the fashion game.
I see 3D printing as moving us in the direction of decentralising design. There’s a definite trend for increased personalisation and, with 3D printing, consumers have the tools to customise clothing and even design some themselves.
This changes the role of fashion companies. In this new world, the onus is on consumers to come up with designs. Do they now become platforms? What role do designers have? Do they become redundant in the process?
This brings into question the topic of open innovation too. Are these new designs owned by the consumer or the fashion brand?
An intriguing space! A lot to think about here.
Very interesting to hear about an established fashion house embracing what could and will be disruptive technology. I think this technology could potentially lower the barriers to entry to become a fashion designer. I didn’t realize the implications for 3D printing in fashion and how potentially accessible it is.
Another question I have after reading this is the potential for making counterfeit goods. If Chanel uses 3D printing, couldn’t their formula get released and then everyone could potentially make a great counterfeit Chanel suit?
Very interesting article on 3D printing can change the traditionally craftsmanship driven and high product development timeline fashion industry! I am intrigued by how it could change the future of the fashion industry by bringing fashion to people’s homes and computers. I do agree that the future seems to hold for those brands who are able to offer design specifications for people rather than being mass manufacturers of the same product. I believe this can only impact the high-end fashion market though, due to the significant time, effort and costs involved for mass-market consumers to do this on their own. However I wonder if it will be threat to the brand’s identity, as significant control will move from the brand to the consumer who now dictates what they want. I also wonder if this will promote use of fake products as people can essentially copy very easily.
I am also keen to understand its potential impact on smaller and boutique fashion designers who now will be able to make clothes more economically rather than having to set up a whole production line for the same.
I love the bold possibilities for the future presented here. A machine that scans your body measurements and prints garments for you at home? Sign me up. The watch is a great example of design innovation: it makes me wonder how far fashion could be pushed. Perhaps the materials we are used to wearing as clothing will soon fade away. Certainly, as with supply chain, any materials with environmentally hazardous byproducts could be replaced by better alternatives. Could Lady Gaga’s “meat dress” become a house hold item? Would economics eventually bring costs so low that people could start printing a new outfit for each day? Certainly the Halloween costume stores would be in trouble. Fashion is an excellent example of a CPG that could spread like wildfire as 3D printing becomes more widespread. I’d be interested to know if machine learning could eventually replace the designers too. With algorithms analyzing past (and predicting future) trends, and 3D printers producing garments, it seems the entire design industry could be internalized into a computer. I wonder how Steve Jobs would feel about ‘1,000 coats in your pocket’.
This is such a cool concept, Rim! I think this is an amazing way for fashion houses to possibly disrupt the disrupters (fast fashion brands like H&M or Zara). Having the ability to customize the clothing is another way to keep fashion dynamic. I would love a clothing-printing machine in my home!
I also really enjoy the viewpoint that 3D printing in fashion is simply a change in medium for this art form.
This was mentioned in an earlier comment, but I am also curious to know how this use of technology would allow others to replicate or counterfeit these designs.
Thanks for the thoughtful article! I think moving towards 3D printing for a (comparatively) low volume designer like Chanel makes a lot of sense. The cost efficiencies for doing 3DP vs. mould injection are massive at the scale of a couple of units, and it permits a lot more creativity. These efficiencies however become liability at a larger scale (cost per unit actually increases with scale, since you need to buy more printers), so I do believe that small volume businesses that produce pieceworks will be the ones benefitting most from this technology. Having built prototypes using 3D printers, I am, however, concerned about the quality of 3D printed products, which tends to be considerably poorer than you’d experience with a mould injection product. If Chanel manages to get the quality to a point of mould product, I think 3D printing, given the time it takes to print a product (could be days!!), assemble it (mostly manual) and cost (not cheap at all!) will actually be Chanel’s best differentiator against mass produced clothes. I think 3DP will remain a niche for high end design, because they’re not trying to achieve economies of scale. A widespread use in design however with current unit economics is unlikely to happen.
This article provided a very interesting insights on the impact of additive manufacturing in fashion. You brought up great points that are at the heart of the fashion including the speed of turnaround, individuality of design, and the price points based on quality and prestige. I wonder if we will see 3D printing utilized more in high fashion or quick fashion such as Gap or Zara. In addition to the manufacturing topics regarding this trend, the marketing that goes along with it will be interesting to watch.
Very interesting article! My view is that the fashion industry has the responsibility to improve the environment and the social elements within its control. While I believe that Chanel is taking steps in the right direction, I don’t not think that it can disrupt the industry on it own. I agree with the BCG article that states that industry as a whole must develop partnerships and ecosystems that can commercialize and scale the most promising innovations on the horizon. 3D printing is one of them. Transformational change is not easily achieved and requires collaboration from other players in the industry to boost the speed of change. Nevertheless, the question remains whether consumers wants to take on the burden of printing clothes at home. Is this a value proposition that customers want? What is the value add to customers? I think a convenience element is removed when fashion brands such as Chanel become design companies offering design specifications that will be printed by customers at home. Also, the human expert touch is lost, which I think is a key components that drives the premium customer pay for these type of brands.
Great essay about 3D printing changes fashion industry.
I agree with the idea that production can move closer to its customer base, allowing for a quick response against competition. I personally think this is really important for retail industry especially fashion industry.
As our consumers are increasly raising new requriement and personal standard to products, companies really need to think about how to satisfy our consuemrs. For fashion compaines, especially luxury product with a high price and high margin, personalized product can fit with the trend. In this context, 3D printing is a great way to match with the trend.
I also feel surprised with the speed that 3D printing brings in. On-demand production is essentially due to the fact that additive manufacturing allows to shorten time to market and to customize products. This could add advantage for using 3D printing.
Excellent post! Given we are discussing Chanel, and more broadly the impact of 3D printing technology on luxury clothing brands, cost is not as much of a concern as it is in other industries, but the quality of the products does come into question more. Certainly, 3D printing, especially when coupled with biometric scanning, can provide personalized and perfect-fitting clothes extremely quickly, but what this means for the quality of the materials and the value of craftsmanship to luxury brand customers is still a large question.
Thinking about apparel more generally, you mention the possibility of clothing brands becoming simply designers. This brings up several questions, including some about the logistics of delivering the materials necessary to print clothes to consumers or even retail stores. What is done with the waste? How are the materials prepared and stored to prevent damage? I think clothing companies provide more value than just design. In this world that you describe, traditional companies would also provide convenience and ease.
It is an intriguing article on the application of 3D printing. I feel that the way mobile phones disrupted the telecom industry in just a few years, this technology too has that capability to disrupt not just the fashion industry but even related industries like home furnishings, etc. I do see a printing machine at each one of our house’s which could be synonymous to (or even a replacement to) our laundry machine. We could be just printing out new clothes by recycling the old ones. Also, the fact that this does not require any new input and does not produce any wastes, makes the success of this technology even more probable.
I wonder if this could be integrated into Stitch Fix or Rent the Runway, two tech-forward fashion companies with highly personalized approaches to the customer? Being able to print custom modifications to pieces before shipping them to customers could allow companies like these to be more flexible and carry less inventory. Furthermore, the ability to customize pieces would be a value-add for variety-sensitive customers who don’t want to have the same items as someone else.
While Lagerfeld used 3D printing strategically as a first mover in the space, and, likely, to generating marketing attention, 3D printing at its core seems to be in opposition to the value proposition of an haute couture house like Chanel. Haute couture, regulated by the Paris Chamber of Commerce, requires that fashion houses (1) make made-to-order products for clients, with more than one fitting; (2) employ at least 15 people in a Parisian atelier, and (3) present a collection twice a years in Paris. Using 3D printing to make clothes would reduce the need for human labor, and thus threatens the second criteria because automating the manufacturing process reduces the need for human labor. While 3D printing could certainly facilitate making products to order for clients, it couldn’t, on its own, address the fitting process.
While fashion houses could use some combination of 3d printing in conjunction with their traditional atelier’s, the premise still seems completely at odds with the idea of a luxury fashion brand, which uses exclusivity and scarcity to increase its brand value. Once digital blueprints are released for a 3D printing job, however, the traditional constraints to mass production of those products are eviscerated. Perhaps this is why two of the examples of the Chanel products made from 3D printing are for accessories that are not part of the core haute couture Chanel business.
Super interesting article! It will be very interesting to see how the high fashion industry moves forward and integrates more and more additive manufacturing in their production processes, not just in a one-off way to showcase the technology but really applying it to their core product lines. The article also brings up France’s strict rules around what constitutes ‘Haute Couture’ and what doesn’t. “Hand-made” being a key factor in that denomination. With more and more machine-aided processes infiltrating industries that today rely heavily on manual labor, I am curious to see how policies and labels will change with evolving standards. Will France’s policies around Luxury and High Fashion adapt to an increasingly tech-heavy world?
Quite thought provoking- 3D printing, if it becomes affordable could make fast fashion even faster, and it could make high fashion more accessible. I think the longterm effect of home-based 3-D printing will be to kill “middleman businesses models” like Stitch Fix and Rent the Runway which, unlike 3-D printing, will incur recurrent costs around shipping and handling as well as the “origin businesses models” that involve fabric weaving. The main gainers from this switch will be artists who will be able to put in their designs as intellectual property and earn income every time an outfit is printed. Home-based 3-D will also create new business opportunities e.g. shared 3-D printers in apartment buildings.
The second megatrend that could intersect with this is machine learning. Imagine if after observing your outfit-printing habits, your algorithms could start recommending outfit combinations for you to print and wear? Wouldn’t we be freed to enter a world of amazing levels of self-expression?
Very interesting article on the possible uses of 3D printing in fashion. I was surprised of the possibility of using 3D printing for clothes as I’ve only heard of 3D printing being used to produce metal or ceramic objects that are hard and unmalleable: a direct contrast to what a customer would want out of a piece of clothing. Regarding France’s rule on ‘Haute Couture’, I believe it will be a non-issue as long as the quality and design of the clothes are up to standards. The reason ‘Haute Couture’ has such recognition is due to the high quality it’s able to deliver on a consistent basis; a quality that can only be achieved if it’s manufactured by hand through skilled labor. However, as soon as a different method of manufacturing clothes is able to produce the same level of consistent quality, ‘Haute Couture’ will lose it’s competitive advantage and no one will bat an eye.
Another interesting question, however, is how do you stop the piracy of designs and ensure fashion companies make a profit when everyone will have a machine that can build their own clothes? Piracy is already rampant and it could be disastrous to a company solely focused on selling designs. It’s for this precise reason why I think there will be push back from fashion giants into moving into 3D manufacturing for clothes.
I LOVE this article. Its incredible the way Chanel, the most profitable luxury house in recent years, has been able to transform and cement its own identity in the luxury brand space. I completely understand why consumers would purchase the 3D printed mascara brush, since its functionality is actually superior to the “regularly” produced mascara brushes, however, I question how 3D printed RTW (ready-to-wear) would perform in terms of sales. Do you think there is stigma attached 3D printed clothing, especially in the luxury designer segment, that would cause consumers to perceive the quality as “weird” or uncomfortable? Was Chanel actually able to sell any of the 3D printed tweed jackets?
I also love your take on the debate as to whether 3D printing can even be included in the same sentence as Haute Couture. I would assume that high paying customers, potentially paying anywhere from $100k-$300k, would feel cheated if they were told that 3D printing was used to make their custom dress. I can’t wait to see where Chanel takes this and how they will eventually use this to adhere to millennial consumer preferences, especially when it comes to the sustainability angle.
Really fascinating topic — thanks, Rim!
I wonder about the impact on the artisans and workers who create Chanel’s garments — what is their role in the future of fashion? Will they be replaced by engineers? I think there are some interesting (and troubling) implications for labor displacement in this new world. It reminds me of the Gap case — can creative directors really be replaced by machines?
Perhaps Chanel could create a 3-D-printed sub-brand that is less expensive. It could be like the streetwear lines that some high fashion brands have, for example. Something that is more accessible and novel and appealing to a new customer base without tarnishing the traditional brand.
Also, are these garments even comfortable?! I’m so curious!
Thanks for an interesting glimpse into the world of high fashion and how technology is helping designers stay at the forefront of innovation! It is interesting to think about the fundamental tension between traditional standards for Haute Couture and the commodification of clothing. Having worked in the apparel industry, it seems that retailers are incredibly sensitive to their supply chain, its responsiveness to trends, and their ability to build brand identity among consumers. From your essay, it seems that additive manufacturing will enable designers to address all three of these topics—printing items on-demand and adapting to real-time fashion trends, while appealing to consumers’ individual preferences and customizing to their fits. While this seems advantageous to designers, it also presents a challenge to not only stay true to the roots of fashion, but also adapt as barriers to entry fall.
New clothing companies like Everlane and Allbirds are able to reach consumers directly through DTC business models. Amazon Alexa enables individuals to scan their bodies to have custom-fitted items sent directly to them. Even shoe companies like Nike can print personalized products meeting individual needs (e.g., orthotics, performance). While Chanel has a strong brand identity on which it has built its success, these innovations all pose threats to its sustained competitive advantage. It will be hard to control brand image when customers can “print at home” or the market is flooded with fake goods. Managing the spread of leaked designs which can be printed by anyone at any time is a daunting prospect. These brands will need to become more closely integrated with their supply chain moving forward, and likely need to find new ways to differentiate which competitors and scammers cannot replicate.
Really interesting post.
I wonder what the data shows about Chanel customers’ opinions of this production method. Is it “Oh, that’s cool! Let me buy one”? Or is it viewed as being weird or overly novel? This is, after all, the same Chanel that is still known for the “Little Black Dress”. A related question I’d be interested to know the answer to is whether Chanel mentions the additive manufacturing at all. I suppose if they were concerned about customer reaction they could just ignore the way it is produced altogether.
Great article. I agree that 3D printing presents major opportunities for Chanel and brings several benefits to customers. However, 3D printing also poses certain risks to Chanel.
My first concern is IP infringement. If Chanel offers design specifications that will be printed by customers at home as you suggested, Chanel will inevitably run the risk of unlawful reproduction of their products. Based on the specifications, counterfeit goods can be produced with precision and look exactly like the real thing . Without a proper mechanism to protect IP, Chanel will fail to fully monetize on this new technology and risk losing their revenues.
My second concern is how haute couture customers would react to this trend. While certain customers would appreciate the speed and convenience of this method, I disagree that the majority of customers will prefer 3D printed clothes to traditional handicraft and highly doubt if it would change the in-store experience as you mentioned. In fact, there is a certain level of exclusive luxury associated with waiting, as evidenced by the long waiting list of the Hermes Birkin Bag . Making customers wait can make them crave the product even more. To sustain this exclusivity and avoid the risk of making their products too accessible, Chanel may choose to limit the scope of 3D printing in its haute couture collections.
 Taylor Wessing, “Unauthorized 3D Printing – What Use Are Intellectual Property Rights,” February 3, 2017,
https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=9e6cd770-f522-49fa-8d57-fa634268358b, accessed November 18, 2018
 Lauren Sherman, “How the Legendary Birkin Bag Remains Dominant,” June 10, 2015,
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-10/how-the-legendary-birkin-bag-remains-dominant, access November 18, 2018
This is a really interesting innovation in what often feels like a very traditional market. Given some of the restrictions around “Haute Couture” it definitely feels like this is most applicable in the fast fashion or “H&M” space, but it would still be interesting to see the level to which this could be used in higher fashion should restrictions be lifted.
– Clearly explained the current application of additive manufacturing and its possible application in the future in fashion industry.
– Suggested well thought recommendation, considering customers’ emotions when they purchase the brand goods.
Response to the questions
– I believe that the brands will be design company and customers will print products in the store. This business model addresses the pains that current customers have such as (1) There is no inventory in the specific store and have to revisit store a few days later while the brands transfer the product from other store, (2) Customer can select a combination they like from some options of design and color that the designer offer.
– I like the idea of “print it yourself.” It is like a dream! But I personally feel that it will not be scalable in the medium term because it will require some prerequisites such as (1) Printing technology that guarantees the high quality of the product independently types of printers the customers use, assuming each customer has different type of printer, (2) Buying raw material and print at home would be more troublesome than receive final product by delivery, and (3) Technology that prevent people from printing several times.
Great post Rim, I enjoyed reading it a lot!
Reading your post makes me all pumped about the future when 3D printing is accessible to the average person. I can’t help but wonder how creative and differentiated people’s looks will be when that day comes, as they will be able to make modifications to their outfits based on design templates from fashion brands such as Chanel. Coco Chanel herself wouldn’t have imagined technology one day will make high fashion so accessible to people around the world. Think it will be super interesting to see how luxury brands balance out accessibility with exclusivity in the age of 3D printing.
This is extremely interesting, I would never have imagined a high fashion brand to break away from the traditional roots and embrace new technology in the production of their branded items and clothing. I am extremely interested in items like the Boyfriend Skeleton watch- it truly seems like an innovative way of both utilizing the new additive manufacturing technology and creating an item that shows off the Chanel brand. I only wonder how the customers will respond if the company starts to get more into the 3D printing technology as the high fashion customers normally respond well to hand made items and less so to machine made items.
Thanks for the great read. I agree with you that Chanel can benefit from 3D printing especially in terms of customization. I see that Chanel is currently using it on limited items; I believe if Chanel continues to use it as a complement to or part of some of its fashions it can brand the 3D printing as modern or “21st century.” However, I believe part of Chanel and other Haute Couture’s allure is the aspirational, hand-made or hand-designed, limited quantity, aspect of their items.
I believe 3D printing can significantly transform the lower priced segments in the retail industry, however, I believe the high end brands would benefit from continue to carry mostly traditionally made clothing. I believe 3D printing could come to be come to be viewed as synonymous to “machine produced” a label I imagine any consumer of Haute Couture would shun.
As a lover of high fashion, this article triggered me dreaming of 3D printing every fashion pieces I like at home!!! If the 3D printing can really print clothes exactly as craftmen made, it would be amazing, and the fashion industry would be totally disrupted. First of all, they will no longer have the issue of supply and demand, and forecast management, which would be a huge cost reduction for the whole industry! Second, fashion houses would become truly designers. I am not sure how this would lead the fashion industry. Will the designers and brand owners like the idea of giving their craftman part to the hand of the consumers?