This is the first in our three-part blog series on how 3D technologies are impacting the Fashion, Apparel and Footwear Industries. At last…the fashion industry is finally catching up to the automotive and architecture industries. Some early adopters brands are taking a giant leap away from their ‘legacy’ way of doing things and stepping into the world of 3D technologies for the design, production and marketing of their apparel, accessories and footwear. Not since 1826 and the invention of Elias Howe’s sewing machine have we witnessed such disruption in our industry. Hold on to your hats… the Future is NOW!
The Focus of Our Three-part 3D series:
- Part 1 –The meaning of 2D, 3D and 4D; the history of 3D body scanning; how body scanning is used in the fashion industry; the key players that are driving 3D scanning technology.
- Part 2 – 3D CAD technology; the role of avatars in 3D software; the key 3D software players and industry groups that support the advancement of 3D technology; 3D terminology.
- Part 3 – The benefits of 3D, the cost of 3D technology; how brands use 3D technology and how to choose a 3D design software platform.
Is the fashion industry ready to take the 3D Plunge?
The fashion industry has been notoriously resistant to new technologies in favor of ‘legacy’ ways of doing things (i.e. pre-computer methods of design, pattern making, manufacturing, marketing & sales). They have long held on to the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We all can agree that a solid foundation in the disciplines of draping, pattern making, fashion art and product development, etc. (like the one we provide at University of Fashion) is mandatory, otherwise you will sink like a rock. But today’s fashion brands are recognizing that they can actually build upon those legacy processes and are implementing 3D technologies. Why the sudden change? The main reasons are both financial and cultural:
- With the advent of internet shopping, brands have been struggling with the staggering number of online ecommerce returns. According to the new book by Dana Thomas, Fashionopolis, that rate is a whopping 52%. Brands are realizing that if they can better understand their customers’ body shapes, they may be able to create better-fitting products, thus reducing the number of returns.
- A new, young and tech savvy generation of consumers expect ‘on-demand’ everything. Brands using 3D technology gain a competitive edge by adopting faster turn-around times from design to delivery.
- The sample making process for brands is quite costly and time consuming. By utilizing 3D design software, brands are able to reduce the sample process down to weeks instead of months. And using avatars for design, pattern making, presentation and sales & marketing purposes not only reduces the number of samples being made, but can facilitate on-demand manufacturing options.
- By embracing on-demand manufacturing, the concept of a circular economy and using sustainable materials, brands can reduce their carbon footprint; a key driver in today’s consumers’ demand for full transparency. In addition, 3D technology is a source for greater efficiency, speed to market, sustainability & innovation, supply chain optimization and the ability to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
What exactly is 2D, 3D and 4D?
2D – Everyone in the fashion industry is quite familiar with the concept of 2D, for example, a sketch, a textile or a paper pattern.
3D – When we speak of 3D, we reference the draping process, where fabric (2D) is manipulated around a dress form to create a 3D pattern. Or, a 2D piece of paper that is folded to create a 3D form, such as origami.
4D – 4D, a mathematical extension of the concept of 3D. Sometimes 3D becomes 4D when motion (a way to represent time) is added (for example, a video). to learn more about 2D, 3D and 4D, click on this link.
What is 3D Body Scanning?
For the past 15 years, the general public has become more acquainted with the concept of body scanning, the 3D method of scanning the human body to capture various body measuring points. 3D body scanning actually dates back to the 1960s, but didn’t break into the engineering field until the 1990s. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, 3D scanning expanded to include applications for medical, biometrics, human factors, high-end fit apparel and anthropometrics. The fashion industry came to learn about body scanners when in 1997 Cyberware introduced their WB4 scanner, which was used to scan U.S. soldiers for the purpose of creating better-fitting uniforms. Previously, Cyberware’s body scanners were mostly used for special effects by the movie industry (as in the film Terminator) and in hospitals.
In 2001, [TC]2 body scanners were used to conduct Britain’s first national sizing survey called SIZE UK. In 2002, the same scanners were used to scan 10,000 Americans (SIZE USA), which was the first major study of the size and shape of Americans since the ASTM study during WWII.
By the mid 2000s, body scanning booths began appearing in stores like Bloomingdales and Gap as a way to get consumers into their stores to buy merchandise.
When a fashion brand is considering 3D software for design, product development, sales and marketing, their first priority is to perfect a virtual fit avatar (as a technical fitting tool) and a parametric avatar (for presentation & marketing purposes).
Who are the key 3D body scanning players?
Each of the companies listed below have in one form or another been active in 3D scanning.
How is 3D body scanning used in the fashion industry?
3D technologies encompass both 3D scanning & 3D software. 3D scanning is used to: 1) obtain customer data (body scans), 2) to evaluate properties (textures for textiles) and 3) to understand how the product was formed (reverse engineering).
Body scans of customers provide data that brands use to understand not only the ‘size’ of their customer but their ‘shape.’ Better garment fit can be achieved by expanding beyond a standard fit model. Avatars of their generic customer in various sizes and shapes can be created and later used in computer aided design (CAD) or as input to Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) scenarios.
For custom-fitting in clothing, avatars within the CAD software can be modified to reflect a person’s actual measurements. Sometimes, custom avatars are created for specific customers. These are known as Virtual Fit Forms.
Designers use avatars during the design process in an attempt to reduce the high cost of sample making. Marketers use Virtual Fit avatars and Parametric avatars (those that have more motion, such as avatars that can walk, run and jump) to help sell/market product to potential buyers. We will go into depth about 3D CAD software and these types of avatars in our next blog.
Our 3D series continues…
As a fashion education resource, we at the University of Fashion are committed to delivering the latest news in the fashion industry. This blog post focused on 3D scanning technology, the first step in the process of ‘going 3D.’ As more and more companies adopt 3D technology, just as the sewing machine revolutionized fashion in the 1800s, 3D will become a very important component in the design, production, marketing & sales of apparel and footwear.
Next week, in Part 2 of our series, we will discuss 1) the role of avatars, both parametric and virtual fit forms, 2) the key players in the 3D software industry and, 3) explain the ABC/terminology used in the 3D space.
CARE TO SHARE YOUR OWN BODY SCANNING EXPERIENCE?
Here’s some additional links for 3D Body Scanners
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