The true implementation of wearable, 3D printed clothes is a gradual process that began with accessories (jewelry, eye-wear) and is now moving on to extremities, to eventually cover the entire body (a little bit like Siberian-style tattoos). After insoles, custom 3D printed shoes are now taking on momentum, going from an experimental novelty to something truly accessible. Especially with new announcements from such start-ups as Feetz and 3D Shoes.
When speaking with the founder of the Nrml store in Manhattan, Nikky Kaufmann, she explained how, in her business of creating custom 3D printed earphones, the idea of custom clothing and accessories was, in fact, very “normal”, hence the name of her shop. The idea is that custom wearable products are not something strange, as much as they have always been part of our human culture: before the assembly line industrial revolution, every article of clothing was tailor made. Now, consumers can return to the tailor-made goods, but with new methods that can make these products accessible to everyone at higher quantities.
Feetz and 3D Shoes also follow Nrml’s approach in that they offer the possibility to obtain a 3D scan of one’s foot just by taking a few photos through a smartphone. But, while Nrml’s tagline is “one size fits none”, Feetz says they “offer 7 billion sizes, 1 for everyone in the world.” The bottom line is the same: fully-customized products, quickly and affordably. Lucy Beard, founder and CEO, started the project after leaving her job at Zynga, in the Silicon Valley, when she was ordering a “custom made” coffee at Starbucks. The way it works is simple: you just take a scan of your foot with the Feetz smartphone app, customize the shoe online, and get one 3D printed just for you.
Now, with $1.25 million in seed funding led by Khosla Ventures, Feetz has the investment to begin bringing those custom shoes to all of those custom feet. Not only was the Chattanooga-based company able to bring in funds from local, female-focused venture firm The JumpFund, but Feetz has former Reebok CEO Uli Becker on its board of directors. Becker says of the firm, “The core idea of Feetz is huge and so disruptive to footwear and its processes as we know it today. This paired with the substance both founders bring to the table, I decided to throw in my experience and support to help build the company, so that Feetz becomes a powerful force in the marketplace.”
Further fueling the tailored shoe market is 3D Shoes, which is more focused on building a huge database of 3D scans of feet to be used with different manufacturing options. Through the 3D Shoes App, all you have to do is take a series of photographs of your feet from different positions. You then upload them into the 3D Shoes e-commerce platform to be able to purchase perfectly fitting shoes. 3D Shoes already integrates several different products, including both Feetz shoes and Wiivv custom insoles.
The online shop also offers a specific $5.000 foot 3D scanner, for those who intend to offer the service professionally, and will be using more advanced $25.000 systems to 3D scan people’s feet for free in participating schools and companies throughout Europe and the US of more than 1.000 employees and/or students, in order to build up their database.
“The more scans we have in the cloud for purchasing custom shoes the less size issue returns from shoes purchased online will result,” said Michael Mazzotta, Business Development manager and Founder at 3D Shoes. “Less returns, less costs to the company, less costs to the consumer, less costs to the environment. With all these great companies scanning people’s feet for the cloud I hope we can all see the amazing impact it will have on our own lives, let alone the children growing up to have easy access to scanning and healthier, happier feet”.
If you know of a school or company with over 1.000 students or employees, or even two companies/schools in close proximity, that range from 200 to 500 in size, 3D Shoes will supply a scan for collecting the data of every one of those feet. And, connected to such products as those offered by Feetz and Wiivv, the beginnings of a world of custom footwear is slowly being established. It is not something that will happen overnight, but having a custom made shoe will soon be, once again, absolutely “normal”.