How close is custom printed fashion to the mainstream?

Bruce Sterling, a speaker at this year's NEXT conference, had some insight into how close Mary Huang (one of last year's speakers) is coming to making print-on-demand fashion mainstream…

Bruce Sterling, a speaker at this year’s NEXT13 is a prolific blogger. His interests are eclectic and wide-ranging, but once in a while they connect with other things in an interesting way. In particular, earlier in the week, he pointed to a page on the CONSTRVCT website, listing the favourite fabric print-on-demand dresses made by its users.

Long-term readers here will remember that CONSTRVCT founder Mary Huang spoke at NEXT12, and we covered the Kickstarter to get the service going. Sterling makes an interesting observation about the top end of the clothing designed and printed using CONSTRVCT, particularly the designs from Nervous System:

If some established popstar or major supermodel started swanning around in this gear, you’d see a seismic fashion shift in short order.

Interesting point – we tend to assume that new innovations spread gradually, finally hitting mainstream acceptance as the network effect begins to kick in. But in some areas where there’s an obvious crossover with a mainstream, celebrity-led culture – like manufacturing-on-demand and fashion – it only takes one icon to join in and we find ourselves with an explosive mainstream phenomenon.

We’re not far off – Dita von Teese, probably the most mainstream burlesque star – was recently pictured in a 3D printed dress. That’s only one step in celebrity below the level Sterling was talking about…