Technology will change the fashion industry forever. Why is it taking so long?

When I was an architecture student in Delft more than 20 years ago and working on my first job, I remember the moment I started using AutoCAD. It was like turning on a light. Although 2D software had been around since 1982, most blueprints were still done by hand. Soon, computer-aided design will change the industry forever, allowing, paradoxically, more creativity, not less.

I’ve often thought about that pivotal moment over the years while running a software company working to digitize the fashion industry. Today, despite the prevalence of 2D or 3D platforms such as CLO or eyebrow clothing, many fashion designers still choose to work by hand, just like in the early days of architectural work when the inner pull of the artist was still strong enough to keep some away from the latest technologies.

But the fashion industry is at a turning point. One that has been waiting just below the surface to surface, yet has recently been pre-empted by discussions about it the metaverse and Web3. While these technologies are exciting and sure to be impactful just like the advancements in 3D that Epic has made possible Unreal Engine were, they cannot make the impact that the fashion industry needs to create at a time when pollution and damage from CO2 the environment is undeniably getting worse every year. This damage can best be mitigated now through holistic changes involving key, perhaps less sexy, systems within the value chain from design to manufacturing, marketing to sales. Ultimately it would end in a complete, 3D transformation.

So why does it take so long? Since starting to work with a few of the top 100 brands, I have been confronted with the maturity levels when it comes to how much transformation they have already achieved. These levels can be broken down from 0-3, with zero being ‘The Slacker’ and no adoption of 3D design tools or use of 3D production services, and the third level being ‘The Front Runner’ who has used one or more 3D design tools in the past and currently use 3D designs for internal decision making and scaled 3D design tools across at least one category or business unit. Most companies I’ve seen fall somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.

The fact is that scaling to a full 3D workflow is not easy and there are some big challenges that brands face when trying to become more digitally mature. Let’s take hardware for example. No matter how you look at it, 3D production and visualization require more processing power than creating PowerPoint. I’ve seen some heavy duty PowerPoint files, ‘PowerPoint on steroids’ as they call them, but the processing power you need to handle 3D is drastically higher.

For those brands that can produce enough of their assets in 3D, they face a pipeline problem. When they start building a 3D workflow, assigning a team that develops standards and ways of working is the most important decision they need to make. It seems like a no-brainer, but at this stage you have a lot of choices to make. The ideal person or team has knowledge of business and brand goals, has in-depth knowledge of 3D technology, and knows how to design a production process and how to lead a team. It’s no surprise that it’s difficult, but companies need to be ready and equipped to deal with these kinds of challenges.

Nevertheless, as I observe the latest generation of fashion designers, I am pleasantly aware of the environmental concern they bring to their work. Their ability to keep the bigger picture of the industry in their heads while practicing their craft is an inspiration and one that gives me hope that the steps that need to be taken within companies at a fundamental level are on the way and that they can and will achieve the kinds of environmental benefits that digitization brings. can bring, such as less sampling waste, less CO2 emissions and less pollution.

Certainly, there is still much work to be done. However, one of the key steps is understanding that the real changes needed to achieve sustainability goals will not occur until industry leaders look at the less image-focused areas of their business and invest in them at least as much as they did in the gaming metaverse or social media influencers. networks. Nothing worth having is ever easy, as they say. Once the hard work is done, I’m sure the changes made will bring more creativity and capability to the industry than anyone can imagine.

Written by Maarten van Dooren.
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