Released in the first-ever DPC Report 2022, this executive interview with Yazan Malkosh of swatchbook is one of a twenty-part series that sees The Interline quiz executives from major DPC companies on the evolution of 3D and digital product creation tools and workflows, and ask their opinions on what the future holds for the the extended possibilities of digital assets.

For more on digital product creation in fashion, download the full DPC Report 2022 completely free of charge and ungated.

Digital product creation in fashion seems to have reached critical mass, with more brands than ever kick-starting or scaling DPC strategies. Why now?

Prior to COVID many of the larger brands had their eyes on digital transformation. But when COVID hit, they realized that they should have done this years ago. The technology was there but change is hard so it was something that can be kicked down the road. Now they know that it can no longer be delayed. The industry doesn’t want to be caught in the same situation again whether it’s from COVID or other disruptions like geopolitical challenges, supply chain issues or general economic downturns.

Can you explain why digital materials have such a pivotal role to play in digital product creation? Because while importing them into 3D tools is the obvious application, there is also a lot more a comprehensive digital materials workflow can do – f rom visualisation and experimentation, to sourcing and virtual photography.

Every product is a combination of ingredients and a recipe. The recipe is the design & development process to which the materials are the ingredients. They are the starting point to take that idea from zero to hero. That material certainly holds value visually but also holds actual manufacturing data such as MOQ, lead time, pricing and sustainability tracking info that are all a part of the product story. Now more than ever, tracking all this information transparently and putting it into the hands of the consumer is a critical part of the selling journey for products. Customers want to know where their products came from and what are they made of.

Now, there are several different approaches being put forward to capture and work with digital materials – all of which are trying to achieve the right balance between speed and quality in their own way. How would you describe your approach to digitisation, and what does it mean to capture materials in a fast, futureproof way?

We still focus on quality above all else. We believe in measuring twice and cutting once. Digitized content is already losing some fidelity due to software constraints such as simulations and approximations. We try to reduce the reliance on guesswork and translation until the fidelity increases. This is crucial in order to gain the trust of the user given they are already facing a challenging time in their own digital transformation of process. Followed by affordability and then speed. We want to make sure the cost on the supplier is reasonable and we’ve been able to reduce these costs so it’s on par if not lower that creating the physical sample books or having a booth at a material show.

Across the landscape of DPC, there’s an ongoing push to extend the benefits of 3D assets to new audiences, and to create easier, more intuitive ways into digital workflows. How do you see this trend developing in material digitisation and in the use of digital fabrics?

Well for one, we see this becoming the standard way of working with products and interacting with designs. We think consumers will be the end goal to sell them digitally first before cutting a single yard of fabric. Along the way, we have the opportunity to include merchandising teams, marketing teams and even management. All of which will benefit from utilizing the virtual outputs from DPC.

We’ve focused on brands so far, but when we start to think about truly scaling material digitisation, there’s the question of what that digitisation takes place. How do you see that workload being balanced between brands and their partners, what methods of collaboration stand the best chance of making those relationships sustainable, and what standards should the two parties be trying to set to ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal?

Since day 1 we believe that the digitization should eventually happen at the doorstep of the supplier. The owner of the material. Right now, that’s a bit challenging for a variety of reasons including financial, technical and overhead factors. This is a long journey that will take the collaboration of the tech industry, brands and suppliers working together to make it happen one step at a time. In terms of standards, those should be utilized, when possible, with the understanding that they need to be updated pretty rapidly given how early we are in that field.

Where do you see digital product creation – and digital materials – going from here? What does the near-future look like for the industry and for your business?

We are super excited for what’s to come. The technology we are seeing being developed to provide better digitization solutions is what excites us because we still haven’t seen true full market digital transformation just yet. Once we do, the benefits in sustainability, time savings and general supplier reach is going to transform how we do business as an industry.