“Can you imagine a world where your dress comes from a printer? Or where you can travel without luggage? Or even imagine choosing what you want to produce to wear? ”
Danit Peleg created the first-ever fashion collection printed entirely in 3d using a desktop printer and it took the world by storm. What started as Danit’s school project, while finishing her fashion studies at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in 2015, quickly became an overnight sensation.
Her first collection went viral with over five million views in just two weeks and led her to be invited to speak at conferences in 20 different countries. She was featured in Vogue, The New York Times, Elle, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Washington Post, Bloomberg Business and other major news outlets. Additionally, she was invited on the Tyra Banks Show and even presented her own TED talk. Most recently, Forbes named Danit one of Europe’s Top 50 Women in Tech.
But how did this all come to be? How does a fashion school project turn into a world-renowned business? In this edition of Founder Stories, we sat down with Danit to learn the inner-workings of her process. We found that Danit’s imagination is bound only by the technology available, which is why she’s constantly pushing to create better software for fashion designers and develop better printing methods and materials.
Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
I was always a maker and loved making things with fabric. As a young adult, it was very natural for me to go on to study fashion design at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. This is when I discovered my curiosity for exploring the relationship between fashion and technology. I realized very early on that I enjoyed being a part of the whole production process that goes into making a design. I didn’t want to just go to a fabric store and buy fabrics that someone else chose to sell, I wanted to create my own fabrics as well.
As a kid did you say to yourself, I want to be an inventor, I want to be a scientist – because what you’re doing is science. Is that something you were always interested in?
As a child, I do remember myself taking toys apart. I was always more interested in what’s inside than the final product. But I never told myself I want to be an inventor. It just happened.
When you created your first collection as part of your school project it went viral. You were everywhere. Did you expect that to happen?
I never thought it would be so viral and have hundreds of press stories. While I was at Shenkar it was just another project, nothing special. All of the teachers just thought “Ok here’s Danit with another one of her crazy ideas”.
I had 6 printers running at the same time at my house in Tel Aviv. And my husband Dan said, “Ok this is crazy you’re literally printing clothes! We need to document this whole thing, we need to create a video.” I was super busy making this whole thing happen, so he took leadership. It was a very low budget video – the model was my neighbor, the videographer one of his friends. We posted it on Facebook, and it went completely viral.
You must have aced that project.
I actually got a B. Once I got my grade back for this project, which was less than the average in the class, The Wall Street Journal reached out to write an article about the collection. I sent it to my professors, and I asked if they were sure they gave me the right grade. They said my process wasn’t good enough – but I was the one who invented the whole process, and now I’m teaching it all over the world! I’m over it now, and I’m a big supporter of Shenkar, but they didn’t understand the project from the beginning, they thought it was a gimmick. Later they gave me an “Excellence Award”.
Ok, so you have this idea of printing 3D clothes but it’s never been done before. Where do you start?
I couldn’t learn from anyone online because it hadn’t been done using home 3D printers before. I did an internship in New York where I saw 3D printing fashion for the first time, but it was these huge industrial machines and a single dress cost over $20,000. I decided that there has to be a better way to do it, and that’s how it started.
How did you go from being a designer to being an entrepreneur?
I was always an entrepreneur. While I was a fashion student for three years, I had my own fashion school for girls. Over the years I had three hundred kids ages six to thirteen come to my studio, in my house, and that’s how I could afford to have my studio. My own experience as a ten-year-old girl doing after school fashion classes was a really big inspiration for me and I decided to pass it on to the next generation.
What is your vision for Danit Peleg and 3D printed fashion?
The materials are very basic today, but I believe in the future they will look like cotton, silk or leather. We’re definitely going to the direction where you’ll be able to print fashion that will feel like fabrics we know today.
The vision is to literally wake up in the morning and check what file your favorite designer just uploaded: moving from fast fashion to super-fast fashion because there are new trends on a daily basis. You’ll load the printer with the right materials. If it’s a summer day you’ll load it with light cotton fabric, and if it’s winter you’ll print with wool, and you’ll send it to print within minutes from the comfort of your home.
We went down from 300 hours per garment for my first collection, which today takes 60 hours, in only three and a half years. The technology is accelerating really fast, and I think in a few years a garment will be produced within a few hours or even minutes.
There’s something very sustainable about printing your own clothes, yet the material you use is plastic. Is sustainability part of the Danit Peleg mission?
As I went deeper and deeper in my journey, I discovered that once we’ll have better materials, 3D printing can disrupt the world of fashion completely. There are many benefits to 3D printing our garments and it can be a real sustainable alternative to traditional fashion we know today.
The fact that 3D printed garments begin as digital files means they can be easily customized and personalized to every person. Then when it’s ready, I can actually email you a jacket! That means that clothes can be printed anywhere, so there will be less shipping costs around the globe. Oftentimes the big brands produce way too many styles and designs that are not successful end up as waste under the ground. But with this technology, clothes are on-demand so there will literally be no inventory. For a young designer, this is a game-changer. You can make a beautiful dress or a t-shirt that could potentially become viral, without having a physical store.
Printing does not require cutting excess materials, so very limited waste is produced. Unlike working with fabrics, where you always have extra materials that go to waste, 3D printing is almost always zero waste.
Finally, the opportunities for recycling with 3D printing are very exciting. If I get tired of one of my 3D printed dresses, I can simply cut it up, feed it into the Filabot and turn it back into filament that I can then use to print an entirely new outfit!
Teaching others seems to be something high on your priority list.
It’s important for me to educate the industry and share this idea and opportunity with other designers. I’m really open with my process for making 3D printed garments. I even created an online workshop- ‘3D printed fashion for beginners’ and that’s great for teaching people from all around the world.
I don’t make a new collection every season like other fashion houses. I make one every time there’s a new technology available and I then share my new process. I believe that if I am open with my ideas and thoughts it will inspire other designers to be interested in 3D printing, and that will influence the technology being built for it.
What is one of your most memorable moments so far in this journey?
I made a dress for Amy Purdy for the Paralympics opening ceremony in Brazil. It was a really great experience working with the Olympic committee, but it was also very challenging because Amy was in the U.S., the event was in Brazil, and I was in Tel Aviv. We had to communicate and make a dress without ever meeting each other in person. Thanks to 3D technology I didn’t have to actually create many dress samples, I just sent a 3D simulation so they could see the dress from every angle and give me feedback. The dress was made to her measurements using a simple measurement app, and it fit her like a glove without ever meeting her in person. The next time I saw it was on stage in front of millions of people. The following day we woke up to see that the photo from this segment opened all of the newspapers in Brazil. It was beautiful and moving to see Amy dancing with her high tech prosthetics, with a robot partner, wearing a dress that was made by a robot (because 3D printer is also sort of a robot). It was all about humans and technology which is what the Paralympics is mostly about!
I saw that one of your jackets had the word “Imagine” on it. What does that mean to you? Do you think this word defines you?
The first garments I ever printed was the red ‘Liberte’ jacket. I chose this word because I felt so empowered and free when I could design and print a full on jacket all by myself. Two years later I decided to challenge myself and sell the very first ready to wear 3D printed garment that you can buy online. I build a platform on my website that allowed everyone to customize a really cool bomber jacket with any color and any writing they would like. For the jacket I made myself, I chose ‘Imagine’.
But why imagine?
Can you imagine a world where your dress comes from a printer? Can you imagine traveling without luggage? Can you imagine choosing what you want to produce to wear? I can’t wait to live in this crazy world!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs and fashion designers?
Share your ideas with the world. Don’t be afraid of being copied. We wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t speak up. More good things can come of it. If you share you never know where your ideas and creations will end up.
How do you think being in Tel Aviv influenced your path from fashion to tech?
Maybe one of the reasons I started this whole thing is because I live in Tel Aviv, and it’s such a tech-oriented city. Here you can find the right person to speak to about any idea you have, and people are very open to sharing their knowledge and connections. When I started my research I found a maker’s space completely funded by the Tel Aviv municipality. I could just go there and experiment with new technologies. That’s why at this point I don’t want to move. I think Tel Aviv is the right place to be.
What was one of the major failures along the way?
It’s hard to make mistakes when you’re the one calling the shots. I’m sure I made mistakes but because I made the decisions I can’t call them mistakes. It’s just part of the journey.
You’re also a new mom. Do you plan on making baby clothes?
Maybe when the right materials become available that feel more like natural fabric I’ll make him a cute little jumpsuit 🙂
To learn more about the next fashion revolution visit https://danitpeleg.com/ .