Every week, The Interline analyses one or more vital talking points from across the landscape of fashion technology news. This analysis is also delivered to Interline Insiders by email.

Ferrari: a case study for create-and-reuse 3D that fashion could follow.

In all but the most forward-thinking brands, fashion has something of a fragmented approach to 3D asset creation and use. While most people are familiar with the different scenarios where a rendered counterpart to a physical garment can stand in for (and often enhance) the value of using the physical asset instead. From eCommerce catalogues and product configurators, to supplier co-creation and internal line review, the discrete applications of CG renders of physical products are on most brands’ and retailers’ radars.

Crucially, though, these applications are rarely served by the same assets. In a hypothetical brand, product renders created for in-house use may be distinct from renders of the same product used for downstream customer engagement.

This disconnect sits at the heart of the difficulties that a significant number of brands recently reported (as part of the Digital Product Creation research The Interline partnered with Kalypso on in late 2020) with scaling individual applications of 3D rendering – real-time or otherwise – into an enterprise-wide transformation strategy.

In practice it may not be necessary – or even desirable – for a single 3D asset to be used in each of these different applications, but what is desirable is a vision for a single workflow, toolset, and asset creation pipeline to extend across them all.

In that context, this week’s showcase of how Ferrari is making use of digital assets and real-time rendering (using Unreal Engine) for the full suite of creation, customisation, sale, and marketing is fascinating. With a single set of real-time tools, Ferrari has built a configurable version of its 296 GTB for prospective customers to build, a version of the same car for players to drive in Fortnite, and entire virtual environments through which a real 296 can be “driven” to film promotional materials.

While this is clearly a testament to the ubiquity of the Unreal Engine (and the maturity of the domain-specific workflows and skills the automotive industry has built around it) it also paints a picture of a breadth of 3D / CG usage that the fashion industry is keen to mirror.

Key to this realisation is the understanding that while each domain has unique requirements when it comes to recreating physical items digitally, much of the possibility space created by asset creation and real-time rendering workflows and pipelines is universal. And just as Ferrari is making use of real-time 3D assets and – presumably – scanned digital materials, in its product configurator, the same principles are applicable to any number of product categories in fashion and footwear.

This week’s showcase of what is already being achieved with universal 3D assets within the automotive industry should, therefore, be seen as a template for what’s possible in fashion – provided the right principles and best practices are borrowed from other industries.

This is an area The Interline will covering in depth – through our contributors and with some unique collaborations – later this year.

Fast moves support a future where fintech defines the retail experience.

This week we released the latest exclusive feature from Aasia D’Vaz-Sterling, which tackled the extremely topical subject of financial technology, or fintech.

Aasia’s article is essential reading to quickly build an understanding of how the potential of universal, on-tap access to buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) financing is being counterbalanced by broader cultural considerations around consumer responsibility and fiscal education.

Since Aasia’s article was published, two major announcements have followed. First, payment giant Square (the “other company” of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey) acquired Afterpay for a significant sum – $29 billion – the scale of which helps to frame just how dominant a force alternative payment structures are likely to be in the very near future. Second, another BNPL service received $50 million in funding to expand beyond its native Dubai and into other Emirates and, in the near future, North Africa.

For context, Afterpay was purchased for more than the sum Salesforce paid to acquire Slack – a deal that was itself painted as being emblematic of how rapidly new technology spaces can progress from initial concept to consolidation.

One of the other major players in BNPL, Klarna, could now potentially be eyeing up a similar move, according to a Reuters analyst. Klarna are quoted extensively in Aasia’s feature, but the key takeaway for The Interline (which is based in the UK, where Klarna is by far the most visible force in BNPL today) is how quick both companies’ ascents have been. Klarna may have been founded in 2011, but the most precipitous phase of its growth has come in the years since it expanded into the US, and Afterpay itself is only a seven year-old business. The speed with which this sector has reached the point of the so-called “land grab” is impressive, even if the services themselves are, at least in some ways, repackaging well-worn models from traditional banking.

While these power moves may not be of immediate interest to retailers, their impacts should be. Klarna is more than a payments company: its app also serves as a shopping gateway, with users being presented with product and style recommendations from brands and retailers that have added Klarna as an option for their consumers. From the brand or retailer’s perspective, this provides a double incentive for integrating BNPL into their checkout process: the improved conversion rate and a new channel for discoverability.

This matters in the longer term, though – when the dust of acquisition has settled – because that discoverability channel will become narrower as the playing field of fintech companies offering BNPL becomes more restricted. And in that context, the companies that occupy prime position after the land grab will find themselves in control of a trove of consumer data and a valuable channel for consumer engagement.

If that consolidation of power sounds familiar, it will be because these same data streams have already been successfully ringfenced by online marketplaces and eTailers. And it’s not difficult to envision a future where, just as they are doing today with the likes of Amazon, brands opt to stop selling through a particular BNPL provider in order to seize back control of their consumer experience.

That may sound premature, but in a week where such rapid land-grabbing is taking place, the geographical lines between the different dominant platforms may already be being drawn.

And the best from The Interline this week:

Also published this week was our exclusive video interview with Chris Govier, President of EMEA operations for digital printing giant Kornit.

The full video is available to watch on the Kornit YouTube channel using the embedded link above, but anyone who prefers can read a shortened, edited transcript on The Interline.

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