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How Shimmy Automates in Apparel Production, With an Eye to the Future

Sarah Krasley wondered why the kind of automation that revolutionized automobile production has been slow to infiltrate the apparel industry. Then she decided to do something about it.

Having previously built software for industrial engineers and the like, Krasley brought a similar mindset to founding Shimmy, the cloud-based artificial intelligence-powered startup that removes some of the redundancy from the technical design process in apparel.

The aim, for Krasley, was a new approach to this aspect of fashion that focused on concepts necessary for enabling the “Future of work,” she told attendees at the New York Fashion Tech Lab’s Demo Day. First, new software should “automate the stuff people shouldn’t be doing anyway,” and second, it should optimize processes and tasks so humans can concentrate their efforts on creativity, complex problem-solving and other high-level engagement.

Krasley said she observed a significant opportunity to improve technical design when it comes to processing samples and prepping them for fit sessions. Here, AI helps to automate sample measurements, taking this task off the technical designer’s plate.

Shimmy can also push out reminders that a fit session is coming up. “Nobody’s on time for fit sessions,” Krasley noted. At the session itself, the software helps get all stakeholders on the same page. Everyone is working from the same points of reference so you don’t have all these arguments about stuff you’ve already decided, added Krasley.

Apparel brands can also benefit from Shimmy’s capabilities as a data-capture tool and use the software to snap photographs and submit comments and feedback through voice or text. At the end of the process, technical designers are left with a robust data package that doesn’t require much massaging and can be uploaded to PLM, Excel or email. “We don’t judge,” Krasley quipped.

The Shimmy founder has her eyes wide open about what automation in apparel means for the labor component. “The thing about automation is there’s job loss. There’s no way around it,” Krasley said. “When sewing automation comes to garment factories, we have a big problem.”

To forestall that tidal wave of change, the startup developed Shimmy Upskill, which Krasley described as a “gamified experience” that teaches garment factory workers basic digital literacy related to the apparel industry. During pilots in Bangladesh and Indonesia this summer, factory laborers can use SHIMMY Upskill to discover digital pattern making, how to annotate a pattern and even how to building 3-D models.