The fashion sector is barreling toward digitization, with a proliferation of tech platforms changing the way brands develop products and market them to shoppers.
The Sourcing trade show in Las Vegas this week sought to highlight some of the efficiency-driving benefits that these tools can provide. At a panel entitled “Why Fashion is Going Digital,” experts spoke to innovative advancements in 3D design and blockchain.
Design software Heartdub allows creatives to develop products in a fully virtual environment, using advanced graphic visuals that cut down on the need for sampling. “When you traditionally see a 3D design online, you’re seeing a texture applied to some sort of some sort of item,” director of sales Alexander Petrou said. “What we’re doing is actually creating a completely different avatar that is the digital twin of the clothing, so it has all of the properties from the textile,” allowing users to visualize “the weight, the density, and the sheen” of an article of clothing, he added. Meanwhile, collision detection, a form of computational geometry, shows how the garment would behave on the human body as it moves.
The platform houses its own library of digitized fabrics, so designers can toggle between materials, from cotton to jersey, silk and more “in a matter of seconds, without having to mock it up in person.” Petrou said the process cuts costs and waste, giving independent artists the ability to create and sell their designs without high overhead costs. It was important for the company to democratize the virtual design process, as it hopes to attract young designers who are just getting started, he said. The web-based SaaS platform offers a free trial period along with a library of royalty-free designs for those who are less experienced.
“Hopefully it creates a whole new wave of creators and helps people who were previously not able to get their designs out” due to lack of education or access to software, Petrou said. The company aims to see the open-source software become compatible with all other design software and 3D file types being used across the sector. What’s more, he said the digital garment twins can be used in a number of channels, from the metaverse to advertising.
Style3D global operations manager Jane Hu said the China and U.S.-based company’s virtual library of fabrics provides a sophisticated solution for designers, allowing them to view material properties like texture and draping on their virtual patterns. The program creates a simulation of a real-life garment, and has the capacity to render draping for all types of fabrications. Not unlike Heartdub, the program limits the need for physical sampling and allows designers to maintain their own material rosters for easy access.
“You can model the garment and see a more accurate fit along with all the creative elements that you want,” from prints and patterns to colors and other material properties, Hu said. Soon, the company aims to offer complete integration with Assyst, a Munich-based 3D CAD platform that it acquired in January. Doing so will strengthen Style3D’s foothold in the European market, Hu said.
While blockchain buzz has largely centered around promoting traceability and transparency in the apparel supply chain, Polish technology firm Prown is creating consumer-facing solutions. Co-founder and CEO Tomek Sienicki said that fashion counterfeiting represents “an existing and increasing problem” for brands. “Our solution helps companies protect their IP,” he said, noting that Prown enables them to attach digital certificates to their products that serve as proof of ownership and authenticity. The digital certificates can also serve as storage vehicles for other types of information—from an item’s carbon footprint to its provenance.
Sienicki said he foresees interesting use cases for the technology when it comes to post-consumer chain of custody. Individuals who buy Prown-certified products may transfer physical ownership of those items through the resale market, and the certificates could provide brands with new connections to secondary or even tertiary owners of their products. “When somebody resells this stuff or gives it to somebody else and transfers the certificate, you’re in touch with this new person that you even didn’t even know,” he said. If cryptocurrencies become more widely used in the future, it’s possible that brands could even earn royalties off of secondary-market sales. Digital certification could also authenticate NFTs of fashion items to be used in the metaverse of the future, he added.
Accelerating adoption will require user friendly SaaS solutions. “The process for both consumers and brands must be so easy that nobody even notices the use of advanced technology,” he said, noting that “user experience is the most important part to develop and to implement.”
“In our opinion, this should be done in a way that nobody needs to know what’s under the hood,” he said.