Is 3-D printing the future of fashion? Boston engineers hope so

BOSTON — The future of fashion might not be in New York or Milan -- it could be right here in Boston.

Two MIT- trained engineers are now creating hip designs and producing them on site, with a huge 3-D printer.

At the “Ministry of Supply” on Newbury Street, they are printing a high tech knit blazer that comes off their large 3-D printer.

One of the founders, Gihan Amarasiriwardena, described the blazer’s benefits as he wore one.

“There’s actually no seams thru out the garment, and one of the great things about that is that it allows you to move more freely," he said. "Seams are usually where garments break down.”

Co-founder Aman Advani believes this approach to creating clothes will have a dramatic effect on the retail industry.  “This is what the consumer experience will look like, not in 10-20 years, but in 2-3 years," Advani said.

Here’s how it works: A customer walks up to the printer and customizes their selection, choosing size, color, and button style, for example. Advani said, “Hit print, the machine starts working and in 93 minutes that garment actually comes out.”

Amarasiriwardena said printing specific articles of clothing will be good for the industry.

"It allows you to produce just the right number of products, and the right quantity and colors in the store. We no longer have excess inventory," he said.

There is also a benefit for the environment because the printer uses just the right amount of yarn.

“With traditional cut and sew, you waste about 30% of the fabric," Amarasiriwardena  added.

So far the knit blazer is the only offering and goes for about $350.  Advani said this is just the beginning.

“Down the road we can start to evolve that into a number of other products, t shirts, sweaters, sweater dresses, pullovers, those things that have the same kind of aesthetics, the same feel, but have a wider range of price points," Advani  said.

Other manufacturers, like Reebok in Canton, are also developing 3-D products.

“Nothing like this on this scale, with this type of garment, with this kind of environment, with this kind of plan," Advani said.

Amarasiriwardena feel it’s appropriate they launched the use of the printer at their Newbury Street location.

“We started in Boston," he said. "We are a Boston brand and this is our flagship. So we use it as a test bed for trying out new experiences.”

The printer weighs about 3,000 pounds and required a 60-foot crane to move it into the store.