The age of retail therapy is over; we are witnessing the rise of the conscious consumer. While conscious consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it is going mainstream. More and more consumers are balancing their buying decisions with their personal convictions. They want to buy from brands that reflect their values and they will not accept empty promises. They expect a company’s social, environmental or political principles to be unmistakable.

This shift in buying behaviour is driving the fashion industry to evaluate, transform and reset its business model. Companies must reimagine their processes in order to set a path toward sustainability, transparency and desirability. These changes will begin in the design office and trickle down the entire value chain. All these challenges and changes will inevitably lead to a redefinition of the notion of creativity and what it means to be a creative. Creativity will become a state of mind, a reflection of society, a synonym for innovation.  

Since the introduction of advanced technologies into the fashion industry, there has always been a tug-of-war between traditional savoir-faire and innovation. However, that distinction is no longer relevant in the current fashion industry. We can no longer contrast the traditional job profiles of fashion creatives with the more data and analytics-driven positions; the way forward for fashion will entail allowing both these profiles to learn from each other and reinforcing collaboration between them.

As the fashion industry has become more mature and sensitive to the concept of innovation, more and more players recognise its value and advantages, especially in terms of boosting agility, profitability, creativity, and customer-centricity. Nevertheless, reluctance to change may remain strong, propensity to invest low, and the fear of man vs. machine enduring.

To boost the adoption of technology and an innovation mindset, fashion companies should rethink the organisation and responsibilities of the roles within their departments. A 360° rethinking of creativity should encompass bringing in new profiles and processes. This will lead to the emergence of hybrid jobs, jobs that straddle marketing and creative roles and will be essential for managing customer data and integrating it into the final product.

For designers, the evolution from the traditional design role to Designer 4.0 will require the mastery of smarter design, which will involve 3D visualisation and real-time simulation. The traditional role of patternmakers will evolve toward a sort of Patternmaker 4.0. Mastering the necessary technological skills to scale up the use of 2D and 3D software will be critical for optimising agility, time to market and profitability. When patternmakers master the use of 3D in order to design to cost and design to desirability, only the designs with maximum appeal (and the highest margins) will go into manufacture.

Ensuring mutual understanding between people and connectivity between tools is a major challenge in the fashion industry. Implementation of visual 3D collaborative tools for stylists and scaling up the use of technical 3D solutions will enable all of the links of the supply chain to understand each other better and faster, be more agile, enhance transparency and be as realistic as possible in terms of fit and draping.

Sustainability is another area that poses significant challenges for fashion, but one for which the use of 3D can transform it into one of the biggest opportunities. For example, the appropriate 2D and 3D tools will be key in developing the ability to integrate the principles of the circular economy into designs, reuse existing fabrics, and reuse existing patterns in order to unlock the true value of sustainable creativity.

While company maturity is an important factor in whether or not a fashion company is ready to integrate a 3D workflow, the company’s DNA and needs will be the deciding factors in whether and which 3D tools the company will integrate into their creative process.

In the luxury sector, keeping traditional savoir-faire at the heart of the process is an essential strand of their DNA. For companies in this sector, the main challenge will be how to integrate new technology without offending the “creatives”, especially those in product development who are driven by the notion of artisanship.

For players in the mass-market sector, the main challenge will centre on integrating data into collection planning, product design and merchandising. In the short to mid-term, this will require a hybrid skillset, someone capable of using visual 3D software as well as tools for data management, communication and marketing.

At present and in the future, fashion brands and retailers will need to build stronger relationships with suppliers and manufacturers. They will rely on them for industrialisation and product development (including pattern design and pattern development, virtual prototyping, etc.). As Designer 4.0 and Pattern Makers 4.0 positions work more closely with manufacturing partners, the use of tools like PLM and 3D software will be key to working together efficiently and increasing agility.

As the industry tentatively steps into the next normal after COVID-19, collaboration and innovation will be critical assets. The transformations and changes that were already wreaking havoc in the industry will only get faster. It will also provoke a natural selection among companies.

Coronavirus will accelerate the decline of those companies that were already in a weak position.  Companies that were in a strong position on the market before coronavirus—because of investments in the supply chain, technology, collaborative tools, and creative tools such as 3D—will remain strong. These early investments will not only be a deciding factor in this economic Darwinism but also a key differentiating factor, even more than before.

New technologies will remove certain time-consuming tasks that prevented people from concentrating on the essentials: customers, experience and desirability.  The use of technologies like 3D, will leave more time for the creation of value. Creation of value in terms of the product and crafting purpose-driven brand storytelling.

After coronavirus, consumers’ move away from waste-producing industries towards more purpose-driven ones will accelerate. As they look to consume even more consciously, data and technology-driven fashion creatives’ will have an important role to play and 3D technology will be essential in helping them fulfil their new roles. 

About the sponsor: For forward-thinking companies that breathe life into our wardrobes, car interiors, furniture and more, Lectra is committed to crafting the premium technologies they desire. Facilitating the digital transformation of their industry, Lectra empowers brands and manufacturers from design to production, providing them with the market respect and peace of mind they deserve. Founded in 1973, today Lectra has 34 subsidiaries across the globe serving customers in over 100 countries.