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3D design-and-fit tools could reshape fashion

While apparel brands and manufacturers have so far been slow to adopt 3D design and fit tools, the technology can deliver significant long-term rewards, according to GlobalData.

The software provides 3D visualisation of garments in real time, enabling companies to share and monitor their designs, fit and sizing across the supply chain on true-to-life virtual avatars. The process helps speed the product development time, reduces the need for physical samples and can improve workflows.

Leonie Barrie, apparel analyst at GlobalData, says that faced with growing pressures for shorter development cycles, faster time to market and reduced waste, clothing brands and retailers are increasingly looking to leverage the benefits of 3D virtual design and prototyping tools to deliver quick wins across areas such as fit, design, sampling and workflow.

“By enabling brands to shorten the time to market, 3D technology can give them more agility and flexibility to address current market needs, as well as reduce their inventory. 3D solutions can also have a big impact on sustainability and waste reduction, with fewer samples meaning less material waste and a smaller carbon footprint.”

As with any new technology, it is taking time for companies to gain critical mass in using 3D design and prototyping software.

Key challenges to overcome include ensuring that designers begin the creative process in 3D and get used to taking consumer feedback on board before investing in product development. Another key area is connectivity and automation, so that there are seamless links with all the software and components in the chain, such as CAD (computer aided design), product lifecycle management (PLM), fabrics, avatars, body scanners and production.

“It’s not just the design and product development teams that can reap the rewards from transitioning to 3D,” says Barrie. “Photorealistic 3D models can be shared with suppliers before production to create personalised products. And designs can be created and pushed out on social media platforms to gauge interest even before a production run is started. 

“Imagine being able to build a virtual clothing line, put it out on social media, see how many likes you get and then make the styles with the highest likes only. This is also hugely important for retailers as it helps to tackle another major pain point: the high volumes of returns.”

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