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  • Writer's pictureLena Mayberry

Big Red Flags Are Signaling Manufacturers To Go Digital

By Lena Mayberry

A white hoodie rendered realistically in 3D showing its texture and drape in detail. Beside the graphic is the blog title "Big Red Flags Are Signaling Manufacturers To Go Digital". At the bottom the company website is shown in text.

More businesses have to think in 3D as they adjust to the pace of technology and recognize the importance of investigating new avenues for connecting with customers.

So, what can retailers and professionals in the fashion industry do to begin capitalizing on the prospects that 3D offers? For companies, a great first step is to zoom out for perspective. We must abandon the concept of the absolute perfect digital product; not because companies should not continuously aim to be better, but more because advantages are being lost today in the search for flawlessness. Perhaps the questions we ought to begin asking ourselves are:

  • "Where can I make the greatest use of my 3D materials using the technologies available now?"

  • “How do we mitigate the risks associated with new innovations?” (See our blog How to Reduce Adopting Risks and Succeed with Emerging Tech)

  • “How do we initiate a plan to adopt 3D virtualization now in order to stay competitive and relevant?”

The conversation of adopting 3D virtualization may not be a new conversation for some. Especially after the year 2020, many manufacturers were pushed into 3D digital garment design. Shutdowns drove fashion businesses to evaluate the extent to which their processes could be converted to digital, helping to bring 3D design to the center stage. However, that doesn’t mean that the paths to utilizing 3D assets have been clear.

3D design materials can be utilized across the production process, including in development and prototyping, as well as in marketing to clients and customers. Manufacturers are becoming more confident that digital is helping them be more efficient, save time, and save money. The manufacturers that are leveraging new 3D technology well are beginning to digitize their fabric libraries. Naturally, companies start with their core textiles as their fabric libraries can be vast.

What is important to note here is that most of these companies have been open to learning how to use these new technologies. Every day there are developments being made that can help reflect true textile textures as well as how garments drape, which is aiding in creating realistic clothing for clients.

There is so much opportunity that the world of digital brings to the table. You may already have big red flags that are signaling you to go digital:

1. Your Company Has Too Much Overstock

There are numerous factors that play into apparel organizations overproducing clothes, and it is one of the most pressing problems facing the industry. It can be chalked up to bad prediction data, anticipating delivery issues, or even shifts in consumer demand.

Some companies have implemented discounts, bulk sales at cut-rate prices to retail stores like Marshall’s, resale programs from fast fashion brands such as Shein, or even scheduled donations. While it does reduce waste in some capacity, it doesn’t fully address the additional logistical costs associated with such programs, and the garments are mostly buried, burnt, or later found in the ocean where synthetic fabrics contribute the most microplastic waste found in the ocean. About 8% of European microplastics released to oceans are from synthetic textiles — globally, this figure is estimated at 16-35%. Between 200,000 and 500,000 tonnes of microplastics from textiles enter the global marine environment each year.

When apparel brands digitize their garments, they can effectively reduce overproduction and create pieces on demand. They may take it a step further by merging their digitized garments with Virtual Try-On technology into their website to help their customers in choosing the correct and preferred sizing. This increases online conversions, minimizes returns, and provides more data to assist companies in better understanding their customers and maintaining a healthy inventory of items that are more catered to the target market.

2. You Spend a Lot of Time Sampling and Getting the Product to Market

Getting a product to market for apparel brands can take up to 52 weeks. The sampling process alone can take anywhere from 4 - 6 weeks. While it is important to ensure that your designs are executed before they are produced in bulk, fashion brands can streamline their process by adopting digital design tools that enable them to make infinite variations of a design that once physically produced are authentic to the designer’s digital render. Designs can be shared in an instant, speeding up feedback and decision timelines in the process.

The Challenge

Gabrielle Shiner-Hill, Co-Founder of Bureau 555, presented an important point during a panel discussion at the 3D Tech Festival in 2022: tech firms are ready to digitize businesses' clothes. “It’s a question of collaboration, co-creation, knowledge exchange, talking, and partnerships. That’s what we need to keep the energy moving on this.”

The #1 hurdle to overcome is a mindset – the industry is used to a very manual process. The craft of creating clothes has been completed physically by hand for centuries. Brands still want to touch and see products in person. However, just because it is ingrained in part of the process, that doesn’t mean companies should shy away from the tech that helps reduce waste and turnaround times. Learning how to use new technology can be intimidating, but manufacturers are slowly coming around to moving toward tech.

The more companies implement such solutions, the more they will upscale and up-skill the industry and talent. As a result, this innovation will be creating more opportunities for more jobs.

The Bottom Line

Digitization empowers designers’ imagination and creativity by visualizing an idea in 3D instead of a flat sketch. It also reduces lead time with sampling and saves brands and designers money.

Brands are better equipped to reach sustainability goals and set the bar for social and environmental responsibility, ethical supply chain/processes, and ultimately lead by example.

How Can Brands Help?

Brands need to kick-start the process and be open to learning together. With any emerging technology, it is important to realize this is a process of trial and error. Yet, fashion companies need to start soon or they will risk being left behind by competitors.

Again, your digitization plan can start with key items, or small collections of best sellers to get started. That’s where we, Couture Technologies, typically start with a brand when digitizing garments and integrating Virtual Try-On into their e-commerce business.

Digitization is no longer futuristic. It's here and coming fast with Web3 and the metaverse. Virtual product development and 3D are about far more than satisfying sustainability objectives or shortening development time; they are the start of a whole new way of conducting business, as well as a potential danger to competitors.

There is a fundamental lack of understanding about how far 3D technology has advanced recently and how rapidly it is advancing. So serious that it may eventually lead to the collapse of certain brands. Although the fashion industry has maintained its image for pushing boundaries, it is now essential for them to shed its conventional processes and enter the realm of 3D.

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