We had the opportunity to speak, for a second time, at the Transformer’s Foundation 2020 Catalyst event on July 14th about ‘Digital Denim: Practical Strategies for Industry Change’. We want to present our predictions for the denim industry, and visualise what the ideal supply chain could look like if denim manufacturers collaboratively design, develop and implement digital tools with innovative business models.
By identifying the current state and opportunities of the denim industry as it is, we have mapped out how we can get to the proposed future desired state with three realistic areas of change.
In the process of designing and developing garments, designers now use advanced 3D garment design software, such as Browzwear, CLO and Optitex, that allow them to create digital versions of production-ready garments. The key components of digital garments are the same as for physical ones. Fabrics are scanned and prepared in correct formats. Patterns and trims are designed virtually, and we are then able to render out a preview of the final garment and fabric. This takes us a long way, but denim is different from most other textile products due to added laundry process - wet and dry processing of the garment.
With great advancements in laundry production technology, such as laser and ozone, we are now seeing another area of development gaining attention - digital denim laundry software side. With aligned advancement of hardware and software, we now see see enhanced opportunities for for developing new wash recipes with little to no physical samples.
Jeanologia is a great example of this, with their latest designer software - eDesigner - creating a seamless workflow from wash design concept to physical product. It will be critical for laundry software makers to collaborate closely with 3D garment design software companies, to ensure that the development flow moves smoothly across the supply chain with open integrations.
3D rendering and animation is another way to reduce the need for physical samples and also move faster to market validation with new developments. Producing realistic and accurate 3D renderings of the final garment allows brands to bring “virtual products” to the market quickly.
If the response is not meeting the requirements for taking the product to actual production, companies go back to the drawing board. Some brands that are are already using 3D renderings for marketing are IKEA and Carlings, and we are seeing impressive 3D renderings for the fashion space created by companies like the Fabricant.
"We strongly believe in a future where we will see an increasing amount of 3D renders being used for marketing, to conduct market testing even before going into production."
3D and digital product development creates a game-changing opportunity for new products to be presented to the market earlier. To move closer to this reality, we will be looking out for more simplified tools for working with 3D models to make rendering and animations easier for “non-technical” workers. These tools will also need to integrate closely with other 3D digital product development software to easily move back and forth between development and market testing.
The current main business model for fashion production is based on forecasting demand to deliver (often the wrong) products to the market quickly, all the while sacrificing the people and the planet to do so. Consumers around the world are changing, and a question for the future is to ask:
“Would consumers be willing to wait for better products by sacrificing immediate availability?”
If so, this dramatically changes the rules of “the game” and may solve other challenges, such as production financing and cash flows, which we are seeing the devastating effects of in currently difficult COVID-19 times.
A possible new business model that directly enables consumer feedback is the crowdfunding / pre-buying models, where customers can pre-buy products for a cheaper price by paying for it before it’s in production. This allows brands to get direct feedback from the market, and pre-fund the production of these products - knowing exactly which colours and sizes are in demand. One company that has been developing and adopting this model for a while already is Taylor Stitch, a California-based clothing company.
The Transformer’s Foundation is designed to educate and inspire Corporate Responsibility officers, brands, designers, mills and members of the denim supply chain, Transformers Foundation events are created to share ideas and solutions to make the denim industry more environmentally viable, socially responsible and financially sound.