The fashion industry has been notoriously slow to embrace 3D design, citing the loss of “touch and feel,” not to mention the difficult existential mindset of switching from more familiar processes. But converts to 3D design technology praise the agility, cost savings and sustainability it brings to design and production, and they’re eager to spread the gospel to the rest of the industry.
Sourcing Journal September 13 webinar, “Leveraging 3D design, adding agility and sustainability to production”, deepened this topic with those in the field. Panelists included: Amber Isaac, 3D Clothing Consultant for Artistic Milliners/Star Fades International (SFI); Bill Wilcox, president and founder of fashion software company 3D Design Clothing Tech LLC; and Ani Wells, founder and director of sustainable denim brand Simply Suzette. It was moderated by Lauren Parker, Sourcing Journal’s Brand Content Manager.
While the apparel industry has made strides in 3D design, the practice unfortunately lags behind other industries. Fashion is traditionally sketched in 2D and then converted into a pattern which can then be viewed in 3D. The automotive industry, on the other hand, has been designing in 3D since the technology’s inception (imagine shipping development cars back and forth with each iteration) and lags far ahead of apparel in this regard.
Clothing Tech’s proprietary software and patented Garment Digital Twin mimic this technology; embed the tech pack into the garment pattern, so any design tweaks are automatically reflected in the pattern, noted Wilcox, who worked in the automotive and other industries before starting Clothing Tech LLC as a fashion-oriented industrial solution.
“The model is an outcome of the process, not the input to the process,” he said. The software also adjusts prices based on changes in materials, yardage, added embellishments, and more, providing a real-time assessment of the true cost of designs.
The best part? Brand teams, even those without advanced technical design skills, can iterate and experiment until the design reaches the point where the product looks promising enough to start creating samples.
Durability and time saving
Along with the obvious time-saving and efficiency benefits, adopting 3D design has measurable impacts on sustainability.
“If I were to ship 10 samples back and forth, that would be a lot of CO2 emissions,” Simply Suzette’s Wells said. “Plus, a pair of jeans can take up to two yards of fabric, so for every physical swatch you skip, you save usable fabric that could go into actual production.” In terms of time, physical sampling “can vary between 15 and 25 days”, but depending on a client’s products and many factors, 3D design “can almost cut that down to just a few days”.
3D design doesn’t have to be anything, either. “Looking at a model where we inject 3D into the development phase alone, the 3D ends up taking an average of 12 hours of labor,” said Isaac of SFI. “Compare that to [a traditional physical process], which sometimes takes up to 40 hours. So you can see how this alone, in a single development, has enormous effects.
The process also streamlines interactions between designer and client teams, who are most often located in different cities, countries and time zones.
In one instance, Artistic Milliners’ Isaac sat down with Wells virtually to discuss pocket placement on a pair of jeans. The pocket was moved to the split screen and the new placement agreed within seconds. In the real world, this small modification would have “resulted in the creation of another physical sample, which was shipped to me, measured, marked and returned to SFI in the hope that they would understand my crazy markings”, has Wells said. “But with 3D design, it’s almost as easy as sharing a Google Doc.”
As with any emerging technology, resistance can thwart progress. The main objections to 3D design usually relate to loss of touch and feel, cost of set-up, team training, or simply fear of not “doing things the same way”. than usual,” but panelists were quick to debunk those worries.
“I hear from colleagues and friends that often their best work comes from errors in the physical sampling process,” Wells said. “Maybe it’s a little pleated detail that they didn’t design on purpose, but they ended up really loving it. Maybe there was a different reaction in the laundry that wasn’t intended but they ended up loving it. But, she insists, with the digitization of fabrics, the technology is so advanced that designs can show how a fabric blows in the wind or drapes over the figure.
Judging by the number of job postings for 3D designers on LinkedIn and other job sites, it’s clear that 3D is gaining momentum. Isaac notes that there is also a lot of overlap between industries, which will be good for the fashion world.
“The more we can pollinate all these different disciplines, the faster and better the apparel industry can catch up with the rest of the world, like the gaming industry, the film industry, etc.,” she said. “The more we can reach out and collaborate, the better.”
Watch the webinar Leverage 3D design, add agility and sustainability to production learn:
- The pain points in the industry that 3D design solves and what the opportunities are
- How SFI/Artistic Milliners applies 3D design and how it affected the sampling process
- How Clothing Tech integrates the technology pack into patterns with its patented Garment Digital Twin and how it differentiates between 3D design and 2D visualization, and why it matters
- What Simply Suzette learned working with SFI/Artistic Milliners on a 3D fit design and modeling project
- What other industries can teach the fashion industry about 3D design
- How 3D design can reduce returns and make a business more sustainable