With an industry as fickle, high-minded, and individualistic as fashion, one would think leaving the big decisions to the crowd would be a good way to fast-track your designs to the bargain bin. But Continuum Fashion hopes to change the game through technology by boldly incorporating webapps, 3D printing, and user-generated content into their design processes. Their website is a collection of projects: the custom-clothing line Constrvct, the 3D-printed N12 bikini and Strvct shoe line, and the D.dress app for creating your own Little Black Dress.
The Constrvct and D.dress webapps serve as a pertinent example of how fashion can be crowdsourced, with Constrvct being the most promising section of the Continuum arsenal. Constrvct is a webapp that allows you to order highly customized clothing. The user specifies their personal bodily dimensions and uploads a photo to be used as a graphic print, and Continuum will fabricate and print the final design, in addition to hosting it on their site for others to purchase.
This isn’t so much a new idea as it is a well-polished combination of several already-extant ideas. There have been several websites in the past that allow users to order custom-fitted clothing or to create clothing with their own personal designs. Constrvct just combines these two ideas, along with featuring well-liked designs on their homepage for others to customize and purchase. There is no particular design direction that seems more popular than another, either. Designs range from mirrored patterns to full-garment prints of art that looks like a cathedral ceiling, a variety which only serves to highlight the wide range of tastes present in the Constrvct community.
The N12 and Strvct shoe line do not incorporate large aspects of crowdsourcing (yet) and are instead notable for their conceptual design and unique construction. Both the shoes and the bikini are made completely through 3D printing, with the exception of the shoe soles and leather lining. They are visually striking, but an informal poll among my fashion-minded Facebook friends reveals precious little else past the initial impression.
“While it is innovative, in terms of design the only thing that makes the bikini special is the material and how it was constructed,” confirmed Amanda Finesse, fashion model/designer and winner of the 2009 American Mall Model Search. “With the runway, it’s more about how it looks, and I don’t see them translating well for photo shoots either.”
Erica Regelin, owner and lead designer at Hull Street Studio, believes the N12 bikini to be a “weird novelty item you wouldn’t really wear to the beach. But then again, it opens a lot of doors to the possibilities of what you could make with a 3D printer.” Regelin was much more optimistic about the Strvct shoes: “Every woman on this planet would love to print her own shoes in her own house! Plus they could be designed to your exact foot shape and be far more comfortable than a lot of shoes out there.”
The D.dress app, on the other hand, is very high-concept but falls short on the execution. The project is centered around the app software, in which the user draws a dress that the program will then make through a process of 3D modeling, laser cutting, and triangulation. The result is… well, it’s not pretty. As cool as the idea of being able to sketch out your own Little Black Dress is, the end results look angular, frumpy, and uninteresting; one of my friends compared them unfavorably to crumpled sleeping bags or bad quilting. I understand the draw behind the creation of a system such as this, but I ultimately fear that the technology just isn’t yet at a point where dress sketches can be automatically translated into real garments without some severe hits to quality.
So, more than half a year after my admission of ambivalence over the state of crowdsourced fashion, nothing has really changed. In the space of a single studio’s website, we have examples of the wonderful and imaginative designs that I dreamed could come out of crowd creation, and we also have the “tries to hit too many targets” approach that ends up missing the majority of them. At any rate, we’ll never get anywhere by not pushing boundaries, and sometimes you need to crowdsource just to see what you’ll come up with. I applaud the efforts of Continuum Fashion, and I can’t wait to see how they further the future of garment fabrication.