Is 3D Fashion Design Sustainable?

Fashion design is forever evolving. 3D fashion is the new kid on the block.

When I started out as a fashion designer we used good old-fashioned pen and paper, remember them? In the late ’90s, there was a revolution in fashion design as many forward-thinking companies decided to move with the times and turn digital. Designers ditched the old hand-drawn methods and turned to CAD programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Corel Draw. Soon Adobe Illustrator became the industry standard for drawing up 2-dimensional CADS, with all designers being issued with shiny new Apple Mac computers and that’s the way it stayed for the next couple of decades.

In the past few years, we have seen the introduction of new 3D fashion software. Many dismissed this as just another fad but the technology has been developing and is now looking like a serious contender to the throne for the fashion designers software of choice.

I caught up with Maggie Mattioni to find out more about 3D software, its impact on the fashion design process and how it’s helping the process of making sustainable fashion.

Tell me about 3D fashion design and the software that’s available?

3D offers a great way of viewing the garments in real form before any sampling is made, it’s a great way of selling your product. I started being aware of 3D around 18 months ago, as the sportswear industry has been using it for many years and now through covid the fashion industry has excelled in using it too. I use a number of 3D programs but my main ones are Clo3D and Adobe Substance, it all depends on what your final expectations are, there are so many to look at Browzwear, Gerber, Opitex so do your research.

What is it about 3D fashion design that makes it more sustainable?

The main way is that it reduces the amount of sampling that’s needed. Sampling has always been an important stage of the fashion design process. Once design cads are created you move on to tech packs and begin sampling actual products. It can take a few rounds of samples to get to the finished product. With a lot of products being produced in Asia, this means samples are flown halfway around the world and back for alterations. Then before the final bulk production goes onto the factory line, salesman samples are sent out to the sales reps to sell into retailers. For large companies, this requires multiple samples in full-colour ranges. Many of these prototypes and unwanted samples end up in landfills.

3D fashion software also helps with the pattern-making process to help limit the number of prototypes needed. It’s also so realistic now that the salesman is happy to show collections to retailers on an IPad with the odd garment, instead of an entire rail of samples. The fashion industry has to be more sustainable and that starts with design at the front.

£D Fashion by Maggie Mattioni
2D vs 3D Fashion Design

What is it about sustainable fashion that interests you?

Sustainability is something we should all be looking at even if it’s small steps. The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world so this needs to change.

Are you seeing a shift with brands to become more sustainable?

Yes definitely from a fabric point of view but we need to push to be more than just sustainable fabric. Every element needs to be evaluated from design to logistics.

What brands are you working with that are embracing 3D fashion design technology?

To name a few there are Walker & Hunt (Irish menswear brand), I Am Denim (Great British denim brand), and a new menswear brand called NOTAM who have created all their designs from 3D. Also look out for David Gandy’s own luxury brand coming soon.

Maggie has been a multi-product clothing designer for over 20 years working with brands like Umbro, Wolsey, F1, David Gandy, and retailers such as M&S. She is now a design and consultant in 3D as well as teaching in Universities so the next generation is aware of sustainability.

Find out more on

For more tips on being sustainable check out our feature on Ways to Help Fight Climate Change

If you need help starting your own sustainable fashion brand check out our Sustainable Services page.

Jon Mitchell
Originally from Brighton, UK. Jon graduated with a BA (Hons) Menswear Fashion Design Degree. He's worked as a Senior Sportswear Designer for Puma, Football Kit Designer at Umbro, Streetwear designer at Bench, Technical Outdoorwear Designer at Regatta Outdoors, and Denim designer at Next. Freelance clients in his portfolio include Adidas, Ellesse, Timberland and Ecko Unltd. Now residing in the beautiful village of Marsden, in the West Yorkshire countryside. Jon set up J Mitchell Design in 2017 which quickly gained a reputation as one of the UK's leading fashion design studios winning the award for Best Men's Fashion Design Studio UK 2019. JMitchellDesign has helped create and launch multi-product fashion start-up brands across sportswear, activewear, equestrian, lifestyle, and performance sectors. Along with his team of sustainable sourcing experts, Jon is working on sustainable projects to help change the destructive nature of the fashion industry. Visit his website or email him at to find out more.

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