We all know that denim is a product which is purely handcrafted and involves a lot of manpower. Recently we have seen a huge drift towards digitalization in the garment industry. I am a denim designer, 3D apparel designer and a consultant. I have spent more than five years working in the denim sector. I am a self-taught 3D designer and material artist. I work with brands and clients to provide 3D digital aids starting from material creation, virtual sampling to fit samples. I also deliver 3D design consultancy services to my clients.
In the current times, there is a wide range of digital tools being introduced in the apparel sector. We are all aware of various kinds of software products available in the market that make life easier for a designer in order to visualize, develop samples and deliver eye catching presentations with an added benefit of being production friendly too.
However, there is a lot of hesitation towards adoption of 3D technology in the denim industry and there are several supporting reasons behind that too. There are various tools available in the market which are offering 3D solutions but companies are still struggling to opt for a single software solution for all their needs.
Some of the common concerns we hear from the industry are that the 3D jeans being created by the users seem to be plasticky, rigid and lifeless which also lack the visual character of denim fabric. Denim mills are facing challenges in bringing out the real character and shade of fabric through digitalization. There is also a challenge in creating the wash effects including dry process and seam highlights. The 3D jeans when rendered do not appear to be realistic and lack the commercial aspect of fabric and wash visualization.
The reality of 3D, however, involves a good deal of training, learning, and workflows which are quite complex. Most companies are ending up with inconsistent quality and results as there is a significant amount of data to manage.
Since I come from a denim background and I understand all the technical aspects about the product, I was able to co-relate my experience with the underlying 3D tools. It was not an easy path to uncover the best possible 3D workflow which can provide all kinds of commercial solutions and are industry feasible too. I have broken down all the problems and challenges and have worked upon each of them in my workflow.
I’m sure that people from the denim industry would be able to relate and understand why it is so difficult to recreate a pair of jeans digitally unlike any other garment category. Creating an authentic looking 3D jeans involves several steps and the process involves creating multiple 3D assets which itself make the whole process quite complicated.
The most interesting part of a denim jeans lies in its fabric and character. To create an authentic looking 3D jeans it is very important to have a photorealistic fabric material developed. An inappropriate fabric material can completely eliminate the authenticity of a digital jeans. So it’s very crucial to create a photoreal fabric material. Fabric digitalisation is one of the major challenges which comes in the way of creating 3D jeans. Industry is still trying to find a best solution which can resolve this issue and works best with their workflow. There are few options available but they are expensive and can’t be adopted by the industries of all levels.
Denim, as we know, is known for its versatility and faded look. A jeans goes through a lot of dry and wet process treatments to achieve that real worn look. It contains whiskers, wash effects, puckering, rip and destruction.
To produce a pair of digital jeans, it’s necessary to combine and create all these textures together. Creating these textures is also a big challenge as this involves creating detailed texture of each part of denim which is a bit complicated. Also, handling too many digital assets for making a single product is itself a complex procedure.
Application of these textures of whiskers, distress, puckering etc calls for a detailed observation of its intensity and placement. And there is no single designated platform which provides end to end solutions for creating 3d jeans. You will have to go back and forth to multiple softwares to create different assets for your model.
Also I have observed, a lot of times people tend to overlook the characteristics of an original pair of jeans. It is equally important to maintain the intensity of the dry process, shapes of the whisker and all the other details of the garment in a balanced proportion.
Creating a jean digitally also involves the same procedures and steps as compared to making a conventional pair of jeans. The digital world also has involvement of multiple techniques and technologies.
The key to creating a pair of 3D jeans is to first understand the aesthetics and emotion of denim. I discovered my own techniques and a combination of different softwares to ease the workflow and overcome the challenges on the way.
First major challenge was the material creation. To solve this, I use high quality scans of fabric swatches which capture accurate shade and visual character of the fabric. Using these high-quality digitals, I convert these images into PBR materials. The fabric materials are compatible with any 3D software engine. Once your material gets created for a specific fabric style, it gives you immense freedom and can be applied to endless styles and silhouettes.
After the material is done, I work on the 3D modelling. To create a precise and accurate model, I use a professionally made pattern. The model created shows you the real time fit, size and shape of the garment. It’s an effective way to make alterations in the pattern which can be later converted to commercial use too.
The next step is adding major details where I use the material that I had created into my 3D model and then add the wash effect which includes laser artwork, dry process and seam highlights. I also use these methods to create the “jeanology” of a single fabric. Using scans of different wash downs of the same fabric, I create a range of different wash down collections from a single fabric. This aspect helps denim mills to reduce the sampling cost and also present the versatility of a fabric to their clients.
Though the world of fashion denim looks glamorous, in reality it causes a lot of pollution in the environment. Denim manufacturing requires an enormous quantity of water and there’s a lot of wastage incurred during the process. Hence, 3D is a great tool to surpass this wastage in the initial phase of development. The key to utilizing these digital assets in the commercial workflow lies in the knowledge of the product along with a simplified approach.