3-D printing has been heralded as game-changing technology for industry, and now haute couture designers are getting in on the act, using the process to bring unconventional, customized designs to the runway.
Also known as "additive manufacturing," 3-D printers use a digital blueprint to build up thin layers of plastic or metal to form a solid object.
Until now, the technology has mainly been confined to industry, with companies such as General Electric and Ford using the devices to build components. But a number of designers told CNBC that 3-D printing brought new dimension to the high-fashion industry.
Designer Iris van Herpen said the technology gave her "unlimited freedom" because using a 3-D computer program meant she did not have to compromise when transferring design ideas from her mind to paper.
"I could just suddenly put any structure I had in my head in the computer," she told CNBC. "In the beginning, that was difficult because suddenly everything was possible. You don't know where to start."
Van Herpen began using the technology after she was approached by Materialise, a 3-D printing services and software company, in 2009. She collaborated with architect Daniel Widrig to create outfits made of polyamide - a strong but flexible material.
Widrig said that despite 3-D printing being costly and relatively unknown at the time, he felt it was the best way to show off intricate designs. "The geometries are much more complex when they are developed through programming, so it made sense to print it," he told CNBC.