Key takeaways:

  • Architecture has already reached a mature stage in its use of 3D, enabling more realistic simulations, allowing architects to design with emotion and experience in mind, unlocking greater diversity in foundations, and enabling data-driven decision-making throughout construction. All of these have parallels in fashion, where 3D maturity is at an earlier stage.
  • Key to these benefits is objectivity and accuracy, and this is an area where fashion’s use of 3D still has significant distance to travel. For brands to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and align different disciplines, a 3D asset must be closely linked to accurate manufacturing specifications.
  • Just as architects account for the surrounding landscape and the earth underneath their designs, fashion designers need to create for inclusive, diverse body foundations – a task where 3D design and simulation excels, and an area where accuracy trumps aesthetics.
  • Subjectively, creating in 3D can allow fashion designers the same freedom and empowerment that architects have unlocked through their use of the same tools.
  • Just as architects design for impact, fashion designers are increasingly being tasked with creating to sustainability goals – both environmental and ethical. Working in 3D can provide a serious boost to these key strategic objectives.

Picture yourself standing before a building so extraordinary, it transports you to a realm of imagination and wonder. Such architectural marvels, like the visionary designs by the Zaha Hadid firm in Dubai, owe their existence to the boundless possibilities of 3D computing. These tools have revolutionized the creation and development of two-dimensional art, infusing it with a touch of organic futurism that leaves us breathless. Iris Van Herpen uses the same techniques for her breathtaking collections.

Iris van Herpen Dress

Unveiling the Potential of 3D Architecture:

Since its industry use since the 1990s, 3D architecture has become an industry standard, captivating us with its realistic simulations and imagery. The ability to visualize and make informed decisions regarding the construction process has been instrumental in shaping monumental buildings. Land surveys now incorporate stability analysis, enabling architects to envision how a structure will harmonize with its chosen foundation. This tremendous progress in 3D technology has been made possible through collective efforts in education and daily business practices. It truly takes a village to drive forward the frontiers of 3D advancements.

Where Fashion Finds Inspiration:

You might wonder, how does 3D architectural design impact the realm of apparel? The answer lies in the ability to test and refine design concepts on diverse body foundations. Just as architects consider the landscape and land integrity, fashion designers must account for the human form as the stable factor in their designs. Both architecture and apparel design industries rely on mathematical truths, where any miscalculation becomes visibly apparent even before construction or fabric cutting begins.

Changsha Meixihu International Arts & Culture Center/

One valuable concept borrowed from architecture is designing to scale, considering the spatial and foundational constraints. Architects evaluate the stability and limitations of a foundation before embarking on a design journey. How much weight can the land bear? What are the surrounding buildings’ sizes and their impact on the space? Similarly, apparel designers need to contemplate the core sizes required by the population and target market.

Imagine the body as a foundation, the skin as the environment, and clothing as a building

By designing for the core size instead of aesthetic ideals, we apply proven architectural principles to fashion. This approach empowers consumers to visualize how a garment should look on them, reducing frustration and unrealistic expectations. In fact, studies reveal that a significant portion of returns, approximately 38%, stem from customers struggling to imagine the item on different body sizes and skin tones. It is not merely about inclusivity but about meeting the factual needs of diverse populations. The chart below is showing how we define our samples for a small majority of the population, while it looks good on a small person, it isn’t necessarily the same when scaling up.

Limiting designers to only what appears flawless on paper, we perpetuate a cycle based on mathematical foundations that do not align with the diverse realities of body types. This approach, rooted solely in artistic aesthetics, contributes to the fashion waste problem, resulting in billions of dollars spent annually on physical sample-making. By adopting 3D technology, we can drastically reduce these costs while aligning our designs with the human form’s authentic foundations. 3D can and should be used throughout all size opportunities within tolerance of programs. We have to work within mathematical truths as much as the creativity.

Harnessing the Power of PLM

The influence of 3D technology on architecture extends beyond visualization. In the architectural world, the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) process has revolutionized how projects are executed. By comprehensively tracking every detail, from bolts to material specifications, architects optimize the efficiency and organization of their construction process. Detailed buildings now come together more rapidly than ever before. An exemplary illustration is the Gherkin Building in London, which utilized these cutting-edge concepts to ensure minimal waste and structural integrity.

Apparel has a form of design for impact that has improved with techpacks over time. However, the 3D programs track as you go. It also allows a company to target the best manufacturing methods, locations, and etc. that will impact the end cost, waste output, testing, and even the emissions created in the transportation process. Some programs are more factory focused in the sense that the steps of what seams are done first to last will allow both micro factories and large factories to scale work and get cost labor specs completed much more accurately than ever before. This process forces the communication to become better between factories and design teams. Hugo boss M2M uses design for impact to adjust the days tasks based on orders and type of sewing required for the customized suits they need to deliver. The machines are programed and communicate goals and proficiency to the worker. The gamified approach improves work output metrics. All of this stems from 3D computing processes and its relationship to real world manufacturing.

Metrics related to the 3D DESIGN & Manufacturing 4.0

  • Machine downtime: 30%-50% improvements
  • Throughput: increases 10%-30%
  • Labor Productivity: 15%-30%
  • Sample rates: decrease 50%-75%
  • Forecasting: 85% more accuracy

There is much to learn and improve upon if we lean into the importance of apparel as it relates to the human end use experience. Improve the technology and tools required to fuse 3D design into reality. Gain better mathematically sound human data.  Lastly fund the technology and get the schools that teach apparel design to adopt 3D apparel design to curriculums.  Currently the industry is overlooked for funding on a collegiate level, yet all humans require clothing, and apparel industries are the 4th largest producer of waste & pollution. The path forward is asking our governments and our businesses can make investments to move these tools forward. Not just improving design, but also the space that humans participate in every day.