Dec 8, 2015 | By Kira

If you were to ask Elle Woods, lead character of Legally Blonde, about the Laws of Fashion, she’d probably warn you of some major fashion-faux-pas: don’t wear white after Labor Day; your bag should always match your shoes; and of course, never get your hair wet after a perm. However, for non-fictional lawyers, Fashion Law is a massive and complex industry that deals with everything from intellectual property, to labor law, to real estate, international trade and religious apparel. There is no doubt then that as something as major and disruptive as 3D printed wearables begins to enter the market, fashion industry representatives will have to contend with a range of brand new legal issues.

We’ve recently talked about the legal issues of 3D printing more generally, however 3D printed fashion has its own specific set of concerns. And while for the moment, most of us do not wear 3D printed clothing or accessories on a regular basis, with the majority of 3D printed fashion advancements happening at the designer level, thanks to haute-couture names such as Karl Lagerfeld and Iris van Herpen, the technology is already becoming more accessible, and as with any technological and/or style trend, it will inevitably trickle down. Already, three of the biggest names in sports shoes, Nike, Adidas and New Balance, have taken steps to offer 3D printed shoes for consumers, while 3D Systems’ Fabricate line of 3D printed textiles enable at-home makers to create 3D printed wearables that are actually, well, wearable.

In order to shed some light on this issue, Rania Sedhom, managing partner of Sedhom Law Group, PLLC, has recently discussed the legal issues of 3D printed fashion, and revealed her five most pressing concerns.

A 3D printed piece designed by 3D Systems' Fabricate

The first issue applies to 3D printing technology as a whole. As it is considered the ‘Third Industrial Revolution”, 3D printing will inevitably do away with many traditional manufacturing jobs, and considering that so much of our clothing manufacturing is outsourced to outside countries, this could seriously affect those countries’ economies. At the same time, Sedhom believes that entirely new fashion-creating jobs will appear: those who take a design and prepare it for 3D printing; ‘alchemists’ who can transform metal or other raw materials into 3D printable-textiles; 3D printer managers; and ‘fashion software designers’, i.e. people who can code the clothing designs. It will be critical for companies to decide whether employees or contractors will fulfill these new roles in order to avoid labor law lawsuits.

The second issue is customization; since one of the obvious advantages of 3D printed clothing is that it can be tailored to our exact body shapes and sizes. However, from a legal point of view, if an individual customizes a piece of clothing from a company’s website, do they then own the design? Or if a customer describes a design to a designer, who then creates the software, who is the owner then? Closely related to this issue is a third: the question of return policies, which could very well vanish in a 3D printing universe. What store would accept to refund customers for products that have been custom-created specifically for them, and therefore cannot be resold? Stores or resellers (or their lawyers) will need to write strictly-worded disclaimers regarding return policies, and make sure their customers are acutely aware.

Iris van Herpen's incredible 3D printed haute-couture

Another issue, again related to the promise of individualized, perfect-fit 3D printed garments, is the question of quality control. What if your 3D printed dress finally arrives, and it doesn’t fit as it advertised? This could be due to an error in the software, a malfunctioning printer, or maybe even false advertising, all of which are in the hands of different players. Again, the fix will be strictly drafted documents and disclaimers that outline who is legally responsible for what.

The fifth and final concern is at home 3D printing and unlawful replicas. For example, a user could purchase a 3D printed garment design in one color, and then 3D print it themselves in another color—would this constitute an unlawful replica? The lines are blurry, and would depend heavily on whether the final product is for personal use or for re-sale, however it makes it scarily easy for just about anyone to become a fashion counterfeiter, potentially without realizing it.

While we often get caught up in the latest technological advancements of the 3D printing world, it is just as important, and interesting, to take a step back and consider the more holistic implications of adopting 3D printing into our everyday lives. From considering how 3D printing could negatively affect the manufacturing industries of certain countries, to how policies we take for granted, such as 30-day returns, could eventually become a thing of the past. As 3D printed fashion and other consumer goods become more and more prevalent, these will be increasingly important discussions for the public to consider.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive