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Digital Garment Design Saved PVH $1 Million in One Season

The digitization of design processes has been rapidly accelerating in recent seasons. Product teams are relying more heavily than ever on 3D design software that virtually streamlines the creation of new garments.

And naturally, fabric mills are getting in on the action. At the Functional Fabric Fair in Portland on Wednesday, representatives from Frontier, a fabric supply chain platform, spoke about the ways digital fabric sourcing is revolutionizing an inherently wasteful industry process.

“Digital integration stops the massive amount of samples that have to be shipped and saves on courier costs and carbon. Instead, samples can be transferred by digital file,” said Robert Ryan of Esmetex, Frontier’s parent company.

Mills waste millions of dollars air freighting fabric samples around the globe to their brand partners, Ryan argued, when they could be conveying the same information just as effectively through an online database. Where boxes of samples are hard to track and manage, Frontier’s software allows mills to upload limitless sample photos to an easily searchable platform.

The process of uploading a library of fabrics is labor intensive on the front end, but Ryan said it gives mills the opportunity to expose more of their inventory to brands than ever before.

“It allows the creatives to see things they may not have seen if they were just working with swatches and a sales rep,” he explained.

In order to upload new samples to the database, mills can use their in-office scanners to scan the fabrics, or even use mobile photos. Frontier’s AI software levels out the colorization and matches swatches with corresponding Pantone colors.

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Designers are able to search fabrics by color, pattern, texture and formulation. Or, they can simply snap a photo on their mobile device or scan a piece of fabric at the office, which will return a host of relevant suggestions.

Frontier’s database integrates with most design software, Ryan told Sourcing Journal, which allows designers to easily visualize the applications of any fabric available on the platform. They can also share selections with supply chain partners digitally, instead of mailing samples to factories and other stakeholders. All it takes is a login and password, he said, and any member of the team can access the information and photos.

Esmetex introduced the Frontier software to the public in April, and Ryan said mills have “bought in 100 percent.” Currently, 25 mills across Asia and India are using the program, with 20,000 fabrics available to brands.

Mills are selling through a greater breadth of inventory, as well as seeing substantial time and cost savings on shipping samples.

“It exposes product that normally wouldn’t normally have been exposed, and it gives them greater flexibility to sell more yardage,” Ryan said.

But it’s the cost savings digital garment design delivers that’s critical amid so much margin pressure.

Referencing a talk by apparel giant PVH Corp., which owns brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Izod, Ryan said, “In one division alone, during one season, they saved $1 million on FedEx and courier charges, between mailing fabric swatches, yardage and garments.”