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Agatha Odigie: 3D Printing & the Future of Aso-Ebi



AsoEbiIt’s a Thursday evening in the year 2036. In Lagos, Ehiwenma has a society wedding to attend on Saturday. To be frank, she has thought of little else for several weeks now. Unless you live under a rock somewhere in Mars, EVERYONE knew that “ain’t no party like a Lagos party”. Her major preoccupation is how to make a resounding fashion statement and make the occasion’s best dressed list. Her appearance in ‘AsoEbi Bella’ is already a foregone conclusion! Lagos babes certainly take no prisoners with their overall appearance at these functions. Some even do pass the bride sef!

An interesting angle to her grand fashion take-over-plan is that a key element, her dress, is not ready but she is not losing any bit of sleep over that. Smiling to herself she remembers a little over a decade ago when this would have been a prime ingredient for a major meltdown and high blood pressure to boot. Ah! Designers and tailors alike ‘showed her pepper’! But all that had been relegated to a very distant past.

Ehiwenma is in receipt of the digital file of the wedding fabric for guests (popularly known as Aso-ebi) which had been distributed to those who subscribed. She would use the design from House of Deola’s latest collection which, come to think of it, is reminiscent of their ‘Komole Kandids’ collection that was the entire rave in 2016. Fashion indeed does come full circle. Phew! Had that digital download cost a fortune or what? It was worth every single naira. As they say,“soup wey sweet, na money kill am”! According to her plans, printing of the aso-ebi outfit to her exact fit commences on Saturday evening. The embellishments to be attached to the bodice of the dress were printed a week earlier, same for the shoes and other accessories.

Wait! Was printing mentioned in the same breath with fashion? Yes indeed! Welcome to the world of 3d-printing. Also known as additive manufacturing, it is being compared to the industrial revolution witnessed between the 18th and 19th centuries. The 3d-printing technology is poised to radically disrupt the status quo of our existence as we know it.

In simple terms, it is the process of creating a 3- dimensional object either from a digital or virtual file or by the process of scanning an existing object with a 3D scanner. In 3d printing, successive layers of materials are formed under control to form an object. Plastic is at present the most common ‘ink’ used, but other materials like ceramic, metal, sand, sugar & chocolate are also utilized.

3d-printing has been in use for decades by manufacturers in preparing prototypes. Its applications also cuts across a broad spectrum of fields. From architecture, the medical sciences, fine arts to even the military and of course fashion, 3d-printing is gradually changing life as we know it. For example, a group of architects in Amsterdam have created a shipping container sized 3d-printer to print large Lego-like structures made from recycled plastic which would form the building blocks for a full size house held together with industrial glue. In space exploration, plans are in top gear to build lunar space stations using 3d-printed bricks made from, you guessed right, moon dust. Aerospace industry giant, Airbus, has announced by 2050, their aircrafts would be entirely 3d-printed. In the field of medicine, it is referred to as bio-printing which utilizes bio-ink comprised of living cell mixtures. Already skin and cartilages for replacement surgery are in use. The possibilities are indeed endless.

In the fashion industry, 3d-printing is making major inroads with more designers showcasing 3d-printed designs at major fashion events. Dutch designer Van Herpen is considered a pioneer in this regard. Her 3d-printed dress for the 2011 Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week was one of Time magazine’s best inventions of that year. At the 2016 New York fashion week, New York based designers ThreeASFOUR and Travis in collaboration with Stratasys, a major 3d-printing company presented a pair of 3d-printed dresses. In Israel, a final year student of fashion design at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design for her project showcased a 5-piece fashion collection entirely 3d-printed using home printers. The models also wore 3d-printed shoes. Biz Stone, Twitters Co-Founder recently predicted that Nike could be purely a software company in 10 years time.

In Nigeria, one has witnessed in recent times, successful design collaborations between fashion designers and artists prominent amongst which have been Tiffany Amber / Kolade Oshinowo and Ituen Bassey/ Victor Ehikhamenor. In the coming decades, with 3d- printing technology becoming mainstream, less expensive and widely available, there would be a flurry of collaborations in the fashion industry. This time, it would be between fashion designers and architects, engineers, 3d-savvy professionals for the creation of wearable 3d-printable digital files.

So back to Ehiwenma, all the planning for the 3d-printing of the wedding aso-ebi has got her really hungry. For dinner, she’s torn between 3d-printing either a meal of beef burger or yam pottage!

Photo Credit: | Nsoedo Frank

Odigie Agatha is Team Lead, Design and Strategy at VERVEPOINTS, an architecture firm. A chartered architect, she believes that life can be optimized through excellent design. Agatha is hung up on fashion, writing and visual arts. Her work-life mantra is “Huge doors are swung on small hinges”. Visit Follow her on Instagram @agathaodigie and Twitter @Afroagatha. Send her an email via [email protected]



    March 24, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Interesting concept and I’m very fascinated with the idea of 3d printed aso-ebi. Cool article, just wish it had some images to help readers visualise what it might look like.

    • Zee

      March 25, 2016 at 5:20 am

      You should check out the 3d printed fashion accessories by thecardiacmovement. A nigerian based charity.


      March 25, 2016 at 10:54 am

      So for people that are saying 3 d printers are expensive, are currently running a contest and they are giving away 3d printers, laser cutters and cool stuff. All you have to do is enter with a creative tutorial of anything .(check out the full spectrum contest). Would be nice for a bellanaijarian to win something 🙂

  2. sylvia

    March 24, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    hope you know the 3D Printers dont come cheap, and even to own them as business center, the end cosumer will still pay as much as buying the real deal

  3. Chima Obialo

    March 24, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    🙁 I didn’t read thoroughly. I was hoping to see a sketch of this futuristic dress.

  4. NG

    March 24, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    @Sylvia, cost will not be such a relevant factor in the future this article speaks of. Wish we have governments at different levels encouraging citizens to position early on these innovations. But then, if not government, how about R&D teams in our companies?. They can help sprint us away from the pack of underdeveloped countries.

    • Yori

      March 24, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      How about INITIATIVE! I recall reading of some youth in Kenya doing this by learning online. Their effort was recognised by an overseas firm that has now contracted them to 3D print TEETH (yes those in your mouth!)

  5. S

    March 24, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    I like the imagination behind this article. Who’s to say it won’t happen and Agatha won’t prove to be quite the visionary.
    @ sylvia, hoping you know that 20 years ago, computers didn’t come cheap and smartphones and tablets were still figments of the imagination.

    • ....

      March 24, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      The comparison doesn’t really level out because even when those devices you mentioned came out, they were made by different companies thus creating competition and need to please consumers with different budget. 3D printers are costly to make and does not target individual buyers the way computers was targeted at all sorts of buyers from individuals, to businesses, schools and so on. So the price of 3D printers and 3D lies both in the novelty, cost of production and the functions. If by miracle the cost of production decreases, then there is hope of cheaper alternatives but the main one will probably stay pricey or get pricier once it’s considered vintage.

      I remember when Roomba robot cleaner came out and my said said make we wait few more years to buy am so the price go drop. We waited and the price went up and hasn’t gone down since lmao. We paid almost $1000 for this small device but guess what? It works like magic and I can say the price was justified because the thing wey e take to make that one small device no be small thing. We purchased another one for wet cleaning like two years ago and again it’s like magic. Once we program am, they function on their own- the dry one sweeps every nook and cranny and the wet one mops it up. It knows when to avoid obstacles such as furniture, etc and it goes back to the base (plugged in charger) on its own once it’s done. While the upfront payment was expensive, it was cheaper in the long run than enlisting cleaning service every two weeks or monthly for $200/cleaning. Some things will never come “cheap” especially if you opt for quality ones/originals because the cost of production is too high to do so.

    • JBoy

      March 24, 2016 at 9:57 pm

      Nicely written. I think some peoole always want everything for cheap without any regards to the people that invest time, knowledge and all that resources into creating the products. I eyed the Roomba one time but after I saw the price, I ran pass cheetah. It’s basically my paycheck for two weeks and I no fit buy that kind thing with an entire paycheck especially while in school. If I buy it that means I have to dodge my landlord for a bit and chop the same meal everyday for a while. You fit share yours? I’m tired of sweeping and mopping *yimu* lmbo

    • Arin

      March 25, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      Also have the iroomba and the wet mopping robot. Certainly worth the cost for sure. I was rolling my eyes at my DH cause I didn’t believe it could it would work well.
      Very happy about the two. If only we remembered to use them often.
      Back to 3D printing, I have found it fascinating since I read Chris Anderson’s Makers a few years back. The idea in the post is a quick on and if the poster doesn’t progress it someone else will for sure.

  6. Tofunmi

    March 24, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Is that why Deola Sagoe is charging 450k. Oya now. If it was somewhere like the USA now, as Balmain is bringing it out, Zara will bring out their own version, then H&M will bring out their own version for those on the average budget. But in our own country where even the people on the average budget will want to borrow money to buy the Balmain one so they can flex on Ig and Bellanaija. This is a fundamental part of BuyNigeria: the ability to invent and make top quality things available to people of all pockets. So I hope that as we’re all reading this, rather than aspire to buy it just because it’s en vogue, we should start thinking of how to invent the machinery and everything needed to make it readily available on a large scale

  7. Naijamum in London

    March 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Great things come from great imagination
    Loved reading this and absolutely loved the concept.
    Great article Agatha! You brain na fire!!!

  8. "changing moniker "

    March 24, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Her brain na real fire!!
    I love this article… So vivid in my mind… The 3D printed asoebi would not be for the poor just like phones initially were not.. But maybe in 2050 like you said, everyone would be able to afford them… But tailors must still have jobs o. Maybe they would be the ones to print the asoebi … Maybe we wouldn’t have the artistic inclination to print them properly…
    What about make up? Biko they should release a printer for “on -fleek “make up… Agatha pls help with that area of research…
    I enjoyed reading and fantasising…
    Write more often jarey..

  9. "changing moniker "

    March 24, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Btw, she should print beans and efo riro because in this year 2035 we are even more fit fam than we were 20 years ago…
    And nobody got time for carbs

  10. Bridget

    March 24, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Thumbs up Station!!!!! Making us proud. Infact u are seriously 3D-ing ur imagination ooo

  11. Avosiya

    March 25, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Want a like button for posts!!…….loved this article

  12. Suri

    March 25, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Those of you that say “we want everything for cheap” …. Umm what kind of reasoning is that? Because you have $1000 for a hoover we shouldn’t hear word. You think we don’t have $1000 too because we’re looking for how to help society grow. Okay :/
    If everyone had this mentality when things were invented, do you think you’d have your mobile phone, computer, even education? Are you part of the 1% that you think you can afford to think like this? People are asking that we become more innovative so more people have access to the good things in life, you’re busy insisting on a nouvea Riche induced thirst for the status quo. Congrats ??

    • Mschewww

      March 25, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      You sound a little resentful and it’s evident from your ignorant comment that you didn’t understand what you read. Maybe you should try to understand those comments in depth and see the angle the commenters were coming from before you start tagging them negatively. I just reread JBoy’s comment and dude clearly wrote he saw the price and fled because he couldn’t afford it. The other comment talked about how expensive it was to buy it even though it was worth in the long run. How does either comment reflect the blind argument you are making? Please stop acting like some people in and outside of our society don’t want to have everything for cheap or free. The way the comment pained you indicates you might be one of those people lmao. Bahahaha @ nouvea riche induced status quo.

    • TemiT

      March 25, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      I think your comment was rather high-handed. What is ignorant about the statement? I wouldn’t be so aggressive if I wasn’t the one challenged, let them maybe come out and defend themselves, so we can all have a brighter view of who to defend

  13. Gelena

    March 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    @mschewwww you’re silly. I go to school in England and I’m from a very wealthy family so I could have scoffed at the fact that someone was calling Deola Sagoe’s Komole collection too expensive, but it’s clear that the writer, like the one you just attacked, had a good point. If anyone sounds hurt, it’s you. You sound very embittered by someone’s criticising you (maybe Jay1 or whatever) and rather than lay out your point you’re hurling insults.
    Did the person not say we should focus more on making things readily available at all prices, like the person who made the Zara-Balmain example? What then can’t you understand? You’ve just defended a very typical trait of Nigerians, who want to pretend it show that they’ve risen above a problem, rather than proffering a solution.
    We get it, you have a thousand dollars. Kudos??

    • Mschewwww

      March 26, 2016 at 3:21 am

      Lmao when you are done barking kindly simmer down. Stop writing fatuous comments under multiple IDs, it makes you appear more foolish than you already are. You and your multiple IDs are now on ignore mode, bye bye 😉

  14. Gelena

    March 25, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    *pretend to show

  15. Anon

    March 26, 2016 at 1:53 am

    There’s a Nigerian group that creates affordable 3D printed fashion accessories with a focus on raising awareness and funds for Cardiovascular diseases. Someone mentioned it above….it’s called The Cardiac Movement. Technology and design is always a great combination. I can’t wait to see the prototype.

  16. Brenda Unuavworho

    March 30, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Nicely written Agatha! Indeed it would have helped to add a few images to completely whet our appetites…. but I applaud you and oh so look forward to when I can ditch my tailor! I love Rebecca and all but hey, who needs the headache of following up with her when I can 3D – print my dress? *wink*
    But wait o, the last line about 3D – printing food was a joke right?

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