Fashion-tech Special
Entrepreneur Chris Margetts on how to 3D print footwear from textile waste
The number of components in a pair of shoes can decrease from thirty to about two to three, with the startup’s recycled printing material.
8 Jun 2022

According to footwear developer and entrepreneur Chris Margetts, the fashion industry, and especially the footwear industry, operate a very archaic model with a high carbon footprint and with products often travelling halfway around the world to reach their final destination. His startup, The Sole Theory, wants to explore what he explains as the cleanest and most efficient way possible to produce footwear, while also addressing customer needs for better choices and more comfort.

— I’ve always been fascinated by 3D printing, he says, but we’ve not really seen this technology fully commercialised on footwear. For me, everything 3D printing can offer is the perfect solution for fixing these problems if the right materials and technology can come together. After meeting with Swedish innovation company and development and innovation centre, Wargön Innovation, who was very interested in his idea, they started discussing the huge problem around ­textile waste.

— In particular, we talked about the plastic materials like polyester and nylon. We realised that if we could incorporate that into this project, then we would also be solving another big problem.

Together they’ve collected, sorted, and shredded down used textiles before sending them on to a production centre where the materials are turned into a filament that’s used to 3D print a line of shoes. Calculations show that the environmental impact can decrease by up to 95 per cent per shoe using recycled textiles, and the number of components in a pair of shoes can decrease from twenty to thirty to about two to three, which would ease the recycling process considerably.

— You’ll be able to take last season’s fashion and recycle the material to today’s outfit. It’s a whole new way of thinking. Our next step is to commercialise this material even more to increase comfort and performance while also working on new designs such as sneakers and rain boots. We’ll also be working on ways to add 3D body scanning to the machine so we can scan people’s feet and print personalised shoes to their exact fit and specification on demand. We hope to have these next stages of the project completed within two to three years, Margetts concludes.