3D Fashion Design: How to Lead Supply Chains to Digital Transformation

Is your product development team ready to present the new collection using 3D tools? To design fashion collections using virtual prototypes is no longer best practice in sourcing, but becoming standard.

Whether manufactures sit in China, Vietnam or Bangladesh, 3D fashion has become a pre-requisite to work with big brands in Europe and the US.

3D Fashion Design Supply Chains

Let´s dive into this new technology, learn about immediate advantages and look at the implications for traditional processes of creating and selling products.

A digital prototype makes the delivery overview quicker and easier to plan (Photo: Brand Pilots)

We have been reading about innovative software for digital showrooms for many years now. While this technology is already established in areas such as architecture, marketing or industrial design, the fashion industry is catching up. Progress of 3D fashion design used to be slow, but that changed during the Covid-19 crisis.

The fashion industry realised the necessity of creating a collection virtually, without the need for physical samples. This makes the value chain more flexible and adaptable for fashion’s digital age.

From Physical Samples and to 3D Fashion Design

Fashion is moving towards a more circular, clean and sustainable industry. Brands seek more efficiency, and the alignment of the new collection with different suppliers needs to be faster than ever before.

Designers upload their prototypes directly into a digital showroom, where buyers start with their cross-costing processes and product managers work on the selection of styles and set up new capsules each month. We already wrote about the digital showroom at Tommy Hilfiger four years ago, have a look here.

Large numbers of prototypes and samples are shipped long distances for fitting, reviewing, photographing and marketing activities. Design sketches with the traditional models are time-consuming and heavy in waste.

3d fashion design

3D expert designer working from their home office. (Photo: Couture Lab)

Explore Endless Possibilities at Zero Cost with Unlimited Colours & Graphics

The amount of time a designer will invest in creating a 3D sketch is roughly the same as for a 2D sketch. However, the return on that time is much higher: You get a digital prototype.

Once the BOM (Bill of materials) is uploaded in a cloud share-drive together with the core fabrics digital library, then it is really fast to build up new prototypes. This new way of working allows designers to work more independently without the need to be at Headquarters checking samples and swatches anymore. And managers can now check a full digital collection, without the need of waiting for the proto samples to arrive. Getting support of an expert is the best way to accelerate the learning curve.

Couture Lab specialised in 3D fashion design. They support fashion brands and suppliers in the implementation of 3D design, including digital transformation consultancy services.

3d fashion design work

Working on the 3D outfits for coming Autumn 2021 (Photo: Couture Lab)

3D Sampling Reduces Cost, Is Sustainable and Saves Time

Reducing samples can lower costs by as much as 80%: less courier expenses, and no need to produce sample yardage for the 85% of samples that are never selected and go to waste. 3D fashion design is a best practice in sustainability, as only chosen samples go to production. Reduced CO2 emissions are the cherry on top.

With the time and money saved, designers can focus on innovation in the initial collection plan. With the right mix of software and digital transformation, product development teams can offer more inspiring collections at a lower cost.

And above all, it is a way to shorten lead-times. Product teams need only one week to prepare for an additional drop; done traditionally that can easily take up to two months (from sketch to sample’s arrival at HQ).

hand sketch design

Traditional sketch design (Collage: Enza Avolio)

Faster 3D Fashion Making Decisions

It takes more than a change in technology, as designers need to adopt a digital mindset. Sourcing managers had Skype for more than 15 years, but it took a pandemic to stop them from travelling to manufactures and see the advantage of digital communications. Designers’ relationship with 3D fashion design is similar. It will change collection planning. 3D samples can be used to contrast with other commercial aspects, which was impossible to relate without a digital prototype.

Store managers and wholesale key accounts can preview the upcoming collection online. Key wholesale accounts can focus only on the selected designs to check the samples. The colourways for each style can be updated with a click to suit any special requests. Buyers will anticipate the costing process, and tech teams can identify fitting challenges when fitting on the avatar. Visual merchandising can begin to work early on and check the new outfits for the shop window in a matter of minutes.

3d fashion design software

CLO 3D software is simply a new language in Product development

Clo, Browzwear and Optitex are the leading companies driving this change. But one big challenge to overcome remains: managers who want to touch and feel the collection. Unfortunately, 4D technology isn’t quite available yet. However, we can close this gap if we concentrate on our core fabrics, and on the storytelling around the nature of our fabrics.

Let’s recall the moment we decided to make our very first online purchase. And now let’s count how many online purchases we made for this past Christmas? Or in winter sales?  At the end of the day we compensate touch and feel with other content to build confidence in the online channel.

PVH Corp are already offering a fully digitally guided wholesale selling experience that has allowed the brand to conduct its 2021 selling season entirely online, “practically eliminating all physical samples.”

3d fashion design

New digital order tool at the Tommy Hilfiger showroom (Photo: FashionUnited)

Digital Showrooms Are the New Normal

Before Covid-19, we used to visit textile trade shows to search for the latest trends. We have seen suppliers travel the world with large suitcases, carrying their samples to buyers’ meetings, while designers and sourcing managers flew in the other direction to visit factory showrooms. Not anymore. Many brands now realise that they need to leverage technology in smarter ways to make their value chain more flexible and adaptable for fashion’s digital age.

If you are not there yet with 3D fashion design, it’s time to catch up and invest to bring more flexibility and efficiency to your supply chain. 2D is what landline telephones are in communication: last century.


About the Author:

Agustin Caprile is an expert in buying and sourcing who has worked for top European fashion retail brands for 15+ years and has extensive global experience in the textile production industry. He is passionate about elevating the apparel business to higher levels of quality and consumer respect. Read more of his work here or connect with him on LinkedIn.

One thought on “3D Fashion Design: How to Lead Supply Chains to Digital Transformation

  1. C Marshall says:

    Great article!! An amazing good change to bring us to the new normal

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