Released in the first-ever DPC Report 2022, this executive interview 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?
The pandemic was certainly a big catalyst for those companies who have been “on the fence” about adopting 3D technology. For other companies who had already purchased a 3D technology but were not really using it, the pandemic forced them to refocus on their 3D implementation strategy. Remote became the norm and digital collaboration a must. Sharing 3D across the supply chain; design and development, at the factory level, and even in areas of e-commerce, merchandising, and marketing was also accelerated.
Fashion differs from other industries in that the primary use cases of 3D working have been weighted towards visualisation, whereas some other sectors use their digital twins to fully define their products – from materials to operations. Your philosophy is that the digital twin of a garment should be exactly that: a complete package containing full technical specifications, physical properties, and aesthetics. That represents a shift in thinking, so can you unpack it a little for our readers, and explain why you think the industry is ready for it?
For many reasons, the fashion industry is trying to become more efficient. This means lower costs, more sustainable, less waste, etc. The traditional approach to product definition in the industry is one of the main obstacles to improving efficiency. Most garments are defined by creating a tech pack and a pattern. In addition, virtual samples are now used to visualize and validate the garment design. This approach to product definition suffers from three main problems.
- Ambiguity: The tech pack is a human-readable document. It is typical for there to be a period of back and forth between the technical designer and the supply chain to make sure that both sides fully understand the requirements.
- Synchronization: If a detail is changed on a tech pack, it does not update the pattern or the virtual sample. If the virtual sample is modified the tech pack is not updated etc. It is very easy for there to be multiple sources of truth.
- Missing information: Even with all the information in the tech pack, the pattern, and the virtual sample, the information cannot be used to tell a robot or an automatic factory how to produce the product. The information is not complete and much of the information is not digital. It requires a garment expert to interpret it.
Our approach to Garment Digital Twins is to combine all the information in the tech pack, the pattern, and the virtual sample into one digital document. If the garment is modified in any way, the tech pack, the pattern, and the virtual sample are all updated automatically. The product is completely defined so there is no ambiguity or missing information. A robot or other automation devices in a factory can read this information and use it to produce the garment.
Beyond the technical level, the same approach to creating genuine digital twins of garments could also impact creative designers who do not necessarily need to interact with the mechanics of technical development and production. What value do you see being created here?
One of the things that have been missing in the industry are simple tools for a designer to interact and modify the garment without being a 3D expert, a pattern maker, or having a detailed understanding of how the garment is to be produced. Our product in many ways changes this. We provide a simple set of tools that allow designers to adjust the garment in
3D without ever looking at or interacting with the 2D pattern. This includes changing finishes like swapping the neck binding for a collar or adding pleats to a seam or adding a pocket or a vent to the garment. We have created simple tools to adjust the garment shape by adjusting the waist dimension or the bust or lengths etc. Using a parametric CAD approach, we convert the garment parameters into pattern making instructions and then resew the garment in 3D so you can see the changes in seconds. Seams can be added or moved. Garment openings, like the neck, can be reshaped using a simple Bezier curve tool.
The word “parametric” is often used, but not always correctly. What does it mean to you, and what implications does it have for digital product creation?
Parametric CAD means adjusting the shape of the product by its parameters. For garments these are the points of measure. For most adjustments to the pattern in current 3D CAD software, you need to be a pattern maker. Adjusting the waist of a dress means adjusting each pattern piece that makes up the waist. This means lots of clicking by a trained expert. With a parametric approach, the user types in the new waist “parameter” and the adjustments to each pattern piece is made automatically and when sewn together the new garment have the desired waist measurement. This simplicity removes many of the barriers of brands adopting 3D CAD into their processes.
Moving on from the ways that brands and their suppliers can interact with digital assets, they also have a long lifespan downstream. How do you see digital twins influencing and responding to consumer expectations and shopper behaviour?
Currently, digital assets are created primarily to replace or reduce the number of physical samples. As we include 3D into earlier stages of design and costing, not only are these processes more efficient but you get a 3D asset for free. The assets can be used to engage the customers to get feedback. They can be used to create images for marketing, and they can be used as part of a virtual fitting room where customers can try on clothing to evaluate fit and style with the goal of reducing returns and increasing engagement.
Where do you see digital product creation – and digital assets – going from here? What does the near future look like for the industry and for your business?
We see a greater focus on standards in the industry. Compared to other industries there are very few standards in the garment industry. You cannot take a digital asset from one 3D CAD system and use it in another. There are no standards for digital fabrics, no standards for tech packs, no standards for avatar measurements, etc.
At Clothing Tech we are focused on automation, simplification, and integration.
Automating the conversion of patterns and tech packs into 3D digital twins. Automating the connection between the design and the factory processes that are producing the garment.
Simplifying the user experience for users when they are creating a new garment style from an existing style.
Integrating additional tools such as PLM and high- resolution photo realistic rendering solutions.