Welcome to the new age of production and consumption where fashion is fast, and shoppers are faster. It’s not completely clear whether the “see now, buy now” model of consumption created the need for fast fashion or if it was the other way around. One thing is for sure—shoppers know what they want, and they want it now. At the same time, fashion and apparel brands need to evolve to not only answer the market’s needs, but to lead the next fashion trend simultaneously.
In the era of Industry 4.0, changing the way brands develop, produce, and market their fashion lies in digital transformation. Virtually a synonym of automation in manufacturing technologies, Industry 4.0 is currently revolutionizing every aspect of our lives including commerce, travel and even healthcare. To keep up with the winds of change and innovation, one after the other, entire industries fall in line and embrace automation and optimization processes. The fashion and apparel market is no different, and the need to create efficient workflows is met by tech innovation, which in the “see now, buy now” landscape is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.
The Move to On-Demand Manufacturing
The delicate balance between the industry and the consumer is greatly influenced by the digital sphere as consumers are now purchasing items in ways they haven’t before. A lot is happening online, while a lot less is happening offline. Customers are being pickier and expect their purchased items to arrive in two days or less.
With the understanding that millennials expect fast-fashion, perfect made-to-measure fit and style, immediate delivery and mass-production comparable costs, brands no longer have the luxury to lay back and discuss the fashion calendar. The “see now, buy now” model encourages a faster development pace along with a growing need for an end-to-end solution that will solve the pain of on-demand manufacturing.
Embracing digital transformation and connecting the fashion supply chain through digital innovation results in much more than the ability to deliver faster to market. It also plays a significant role in saving valuable resources and maintaining, even improving, the industry’s social responsibility efforts regarding waste and pollution. By going fully digital and sewing garments on demand, fashion and apparel brands can save massive amounts of physical samples and an abundance of garments that end up being destroyed due to lack of demand.
The Real Game Changer is 3-D Technology
3-D technology stands at the heart of this entire operation. The initial interest in this prominent technology regarded pattern validation as this tool has nearly infinite possibilities for fit analysis and virtual sampling. However, the optimization and cost-effective potential 3-D holds is truly groundbreaking.
The cross-industry digital transformation changes the way different elements in the supply chain communicate. The apparel industry, for example, has been using 2-D CAD for many years, but the combination of a 2-D and 3-D toolset opens the door to a world of automation like grading in 3-D over multiple bodies. This transforms pattern making into actual design. Advanced software solutions in the field of 3-D can optimize the entire development and production processes while saving time, money and fabric, which can result in manufacturing on demand rather than mass producing garments in various shapes and sizes, some of which will ultimately go to waste. Furthermore, virtual samples don’t require water, dyes or fabric, and hardly leave a carbon footprint, which makes this an eco-friendly solution on top of other benefits.
The creative minds who lead this market constantly think of the next hot trend that would sweep fashion consumers off their feet. Thus, the concept of innovation is no stranger to the fashion and apparel industry as it is virtually the corner stone of this market. The advent of Industry 4.0 with its cutting-edge technologies to the textile industry marks a whole new era in development and production processes as emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence are disrupting the already very dynamic landscape and bring further change in consumer behavior. In that sense, VR fitting rooms and 3-D body scanning, in addition to innovations in the area of soft tissue avatars and 3-D printing are definitely making their way to disrupt the market further.
A Textile Eco-System
As the analog-to-digital transformation continues to unfold and innovative technologies claim their spot in the digital sphere and change consumption methods, it becomes clear that the future of fashion and apparel lies in on-demand manufacturing. There’s a clear shift in focus as fashion and apparel brands are no longer discussing the ability to adopt software solutions to optimize their production process. Instead, a new and refreshing discourse rises, which deals with the use of technology and the value of an end-to-end approach rather than the use of a single tool.
Nothing is more important than productivity and accelerating the supply chain in the textile manufacturing industry. Thus, a combined hardware and software end-to-end solution aimed at shortening the concept to shelf cycle all while constantly improving quality and fit is the answer. A textile eco-system can enable manufacturers to gain a real-time view of their processes—from the design table to the shop floor, to the retailer’s shelves. Gaining access to real-time data leads to greater operational flexibility and supply chain transparency, such as forecasting, planning and production control.
With this in mind, a tech-driven solution that aims to solve the pain point of waste of resources must be led by 3-D technology as it is the key to a truly optimized production cycle. The use of 3-D technology enables greater communication throughout the supply chain, connecting designers to manufacturers and manufacturers to retailers, which results in faster, more informed decision making and significantly shorter time to market all while maintaining a high competitive level and a sustainable workflow.
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