The fashion industry constitutes a significant role in driving global economy yet the digital transformation of the same is highly fragmented. Though there are brands going for digitisation in their business aspects, it is not just about the garments that consumers wear but the overall value chain in which brands, tech companies and vendors work relentlessly. Today’s market is being driven by tech-savvy fashion shoppers who are actively looking for different and innovative ways the fashion brands connect with them on channels like Instagram, e-commerce, and even bricks-and-mortar stores.
Physical models, showrooms, clothing, influencers and even workspaces have gone virtual and, undeniably, this is giving a whole new experience to everyone involved in the process including the end-customers who can clearly see voids being filled between a virtual and real fashion world. 3D tech start-ups have played a critical role in fashion industry’s transition into a digital world and the same needs to be talked about. Team Apparel Resources researched and found eight 3D or digital fashion tech start-ups which are busy in fashion sector’s digital makeover.
A UK-based virtual modelling agency and digital fashion hub The Diigitals has been behind some of the most innovative 3D fashion campaigns lately. The company is utilising the rising accessibility of new technologies and taking the first steps into a new frontier of digital exploration. Within a collaborative hub, The Diigitals demonstrates the potential of 3D fashion modelling and showcases its applications for innovative brands.
Acting as both a showroom to illustrate possibilities and a gallery where a portfolio of diverse digital identities can be appreciated, The Diigitals erases the boundaries between reality and the digital. The most talked about digital creation of The Diigitals is ‘Shudu’, that has been a muse who’s inspiring a new generation of artists. Shudu was made public in April 2017 on Instagram and it quickly attracted thousands of followers who wanted to know more about her identity. Initially believed to be a real human, it became apparent after some time that it’s just a digital creation! This is how The Diigitals is filling the gap between virtual and real world.
The Diigitals has also created some ‘shop the look’ stories for Instagram, which help with engagement and show clients how these assets can be used. These are ideal for social media campaigns and consumers really engage with 3D renders of clothing and models. Even after return of the physical shows, the industry professionals will expect the use of digital 3D tools will permanently shift the schedule, cadence and strategy of virtual catwalk shows.
A Turkey-based digital technology start-up ART Labs believes in disrupting the traditional market. In traditional commerce, although the customer gets to experience the product in real life, the limited number of products reduces the customer’s shopping scale. Factors like colour and size are often a limitation. However, with technologies like AR, the consumers are now able to experience a product in every size and colour in the comfort of their own homes. This is what ART Labs is doing through its cutting-edge technology.
Imagine you’re buying a shoe from an online store. It can be tricky to know how exactly it will look on your feet before making the actual purchase, right? Not anymore, as revealed by ART Labs. With the help of augmented reality, the shopper can virtually try, spin, move and in some cases customise any shoe from any angle. Today, customers can have a better idea of the products like the actual size, colour and texture.
As brands are trying to digitise their products and reach out to bigger audiences in this new digital realm, ART Labs makes 3D modelling for brands so easy with a no-code/no-developer solution. With ART Labs, one can convert physical products or existing design files into interactive AR experiences within minutes. The users can also manage and deploy 3D assets through their Content Management System, enjoy AI-powered automated quality assurance and publish them on all platforms easily.
TG3D Studio is a Hong Kong-based 3D fashion technology solution provider and hails itself as a frontrunner that’s on a mission to help the fashion industry’s transformation through digital technology. TG3D believes the industry will benefit substantially from the data and digital tools available through its innovative Scanatic™ product lines.
Scanatic™ for Fashion (S4F) is an all-in-one platform providing fully integrated, open and industry-compliant file interfaces, digital tools encompassing body, materials, clothing digitalisation and retail solution modules. The technology developed by TG3D studio helps fashion manufacturers to understand the body shapes of their target customers and the opportunity to streamline the design and product development process – facilitating more flexible and on-demand manufacturing. The company provides solutions such as 3D strategy consulting; body digitisation; fabric digitisation; 3D fashion design; 3D style management; and digital retail experience.
Of all 3D projects, what TG3D Studio aced the most are – tie up with a patternmaking company CHING; partnership with a fashion brand QORE; and collaboration with Indie designer G1 Lab.
LFX – a Li & Fung’s Offshoot
It’s worth noting here that digital product development has long promised faster product development cycles, faster time-to-market and enhanced sustainability, but transitioning has been challenging for many brands with mixed results. Keeping this in mind, Li & Fung Limited launched a new company – LFX – in 2021 to capitalise on new digital opportunities transforming the retail industry and enabling supply chain sustainability. The launch came in the wake of the rapid evolution of the retail industry which is shaped by digital technologies and complex consumer demands. The major focus area of LFX are to operate digital ventures delivering solutions directly to brands, retailers, e-commerce companies, C2M (consumer-to-manufacturer) players, as well as manufacturers.
Just after its inception, LFX came up with UNIFi3D which is a 3D-as-a-Service company that helps brands accelerate their digital transformation. The team of UNIFi3D partners directly with apparel brands and retailers to guide them on their first steps in 3D or scale their efforts.
According to LFX, working with UNIFi3D makes it possible for apparel brands to reduce product development time by as much as 70 per cent; accelerate time-to-market; respond more quickly to consumer trends; begin sales and marketing prior to manufacturing for increased sell-through; and drive sustainability initiatives to minimise wastage by eliminating or reducing physical samples while increasing sell-through.
The company also provides 3D education services to its client base, focusing on how to ensure the successful adoption of 3D. Workshops focus on helping brands avoid the common pitfalls for transitioning to DPCC, as well as learning the different ways 3D products can be used to identify market trends, gain greater confidence in buy-orders, and how to better coordinate between sourcing, merchandising, design and e-commerce teams.
Established in 2013 in the USA, Zoic Labs is an advanced visualisation company focused on the intersection of Big Data, narrative, design and emerging technologies. The company is the creator of advanced digital design tools to help industries like architecture, web design and others that have benefited from collaboration and presentation tools to share designs digitally at every step.
However, Zoic Labs believes, the same is not true for apparel as it is still a laggard when it comes to digital design utilisation. Moreover, a transition to remote work has forced the industry to make do, while technology gaps delay the product development and retailing processes or force parts of it to come back into the physical realm. Recently, Zoic Labs showcased a ‘collaborative digital showroom’ for the fashion industry in photo-real 3D during Alvanon’s 3DTF21 where it reviewed rendered samples from various sources together in the same showcase, closing some of the gaps in the digital tool chain.
Showroom is a collaborative 3D workspace that brings designers, buyers, marketing representatives and others together to share ad review fashion designs. Why this workspace is different and a new concept is because people working on different softwares like Browzwear, Clo3D etc. are used to the idea but they are rendering still images and emailing them to concerned teams. Whereas, this collaborative workspace allows designers to upload rendered images straight out of their software to this showroom and review them together all at the same time.
Vital Mechanics Research Inc.
Vital Mechanics Research Inc. is a US-based start-up focused on virtual fit testing of clothing using high-fidelity soft avatars. According to the company, accurate fit prediction requires trustworthy avatars that behave the way humans do – they must be soft, based on data measured from real humans, and respond realistically to contact with garments.
To provide the fashion industry with high-fidelity soft avatars, the start-up has come up with VitalFit solution that integrates easily into existing industry-wide workflows and 3D garment CAD software. VitalFit soft avatars are based on more than two decades of university research and soft tissue measurements of more than a hundred human participants. Advanced finite element methods are used to simulate soft tissue behaviour for a large range of body types, to promote inclusivity.
Its scalable cloud architecture offloads compute-intensive fit simulations to the company’s servers so there is no need for an additional investment in computers. 3D fit tests can be run at different stages of the product life cycle, and results can be accessed securely from any Internet browser by authenticated users, facilitating communication within a team working remotely, and collaboration between retailers, brands and vendors.
Frontier.cool is an enterprise collaboration SaaS for the textile and apparel industries. Its comprehensive solution includes an AI-powered fabric digitisation platform, a database of 20,000+ digital fabrics and the ability to instantly export to 3D file format at scale.
It’s true that digital materials have become one of the fashion industry’s most in-demand resources. But because of the bottlenecks in traditional material digitisation, digital product creation is hard to scale and not accessible into routine processes. By applying new AI-powered technology, Frontier’s material digitisation does not require intensive hardware investment nor complex processes. Within a few clicks, the swatch card could transform into a meta-data digital material, which provides brands a new solution to have suppliers on board for digital transformation.
According to Frontier, its user-friendly platform environment builds up mutual communication between brands and suppliers. To reduce the barrier of adoption to technology, it provides a ‘smart-upload’ feature to easily digitalise fabric inventory by simply using a flatbed scanner, to showcase and distribute digital material online.
With its AI-based material digitisation system, Frontier is said to be devoted to assist apparel brands, retailers and designers those who can any time try its AI-generated high-quality 3D fabric file with their 3D/CAD design software, to source digital materials quickly within the platform, and to optimise their workflow. The platform can be integrated seamlessly into existing textile ERP and PLM systems, as well as fabric libraries, to realise a fast-growing 3D e-commerce market.
A Netherlands-based 3D tech company REBLIKA believes in blurring the lines between real and digital world by creating state-of-the-art digital humans, 3D scans and digital doubles for the fashion, gaming and film industries.
Particularly for fashion industry, REBLIKA offers four tech solutions – Virtual influencers; Realistic fit models; Virtual showrooms and 3D scanning. As the company comes from VFX technology industry, it says its solutions can be used to address most technical issues the fashion industry is facing to move towards being digital.
Virtual Influencers of REBLIKA are rapidly establishing themselves as the brand ambassadors, celebrities and style icons of the future, with huge audiences, impressive engagement rates and real earnings potential especially on Instagram. These avatars, digital doubles, and virtual beings are computer-generated characters, carefully crafted for maximum appeal in looks, personality, and actions, in order to generate real emotional connections between brands and their target audiences, through compelling storytelling.