With labels around the world busy creating new collections, one thing is certain: 3D technology is in fashion. Apparel and accessories designers, small boutique brands and major labels are all discovering the value of 3D modeling in creating and selling products.
In this blog, we’ll look at how 3D is changing the way we dress, and radically reshaping fashion all over the world.
When we talk about 3D, we don’t mean simple CAD design software. Today’s 3D technology is based on sophisticated imaging and modeling tools that can create almost photorealistic versions of dresses, handbags, and jewelry.
We’ll look at the way this tech is feeding into fashion workflows in a moment, but let’s start with a few broad benefits that 3D brings:
Fashion starts in the mind of the designer, which seems like a good place to begin. Many still work with sketches to bring their ideas to life, building their designs into finished images ready for factory production.
However, creating images in this way is often slow, difficult, and inflexible. There’s no way to visualize how garments will look on actual bodies before creating physical versions, so guesswork dominates. Pattern making is also a minefield, leading to wasted time and materials as creators try out varied colors and styles.
The whole process results in long lead times to create new collections and the constant possibility of missing emerging trends. But there is a better way. 3D fashion design software changes that situation completely for apparel brands.
Now, fashion designers can create 3D representations of their apparel and dress virtual models to get an idea of how they look. Pattern makers can use 3D fashion design software to experiment with colors, cuts, materials, and textures. They can design lines of fashion ideas for retail partners to choose, and they can do all of this in days instead of weeks.
3D modeling can also integrate with existing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software for fashion design, allowing teams to collaborate efficiently. Marketers, design professionals, sustainability experts, and managers can provide their input, resulting in leaner production processes and higher-quality products.
Designers aren’t the only fashion professionals finding a use for 3D technology. 3D is also changing the way fashion brands run their logistics and supply chains, providing slicker, more responsive, and more efficient ways to supply customers with the designs they love.
Smaller labels have always needed to liaise with retailers to promote their designs and spotlight their skills. 3D fashion design provides a way to deliver realistic models of their latest creations instead of delivering actual prototypes or waiting for major fashion events. This helps labels to serve their main partners while cutting the costs of promotion as well.
Sri Lankan footwear label Norlanka shows how this can benefit smaller operators. The company has been using fashion design software to replace physical samples since 2018, a move that helped it handle the pandemic as large-scale online ordering exploded. Norlanka’s team could promote their creative designs across the world with the click of a button, placing them at a huge competitive advantage.
Other fashion companies have also pioneered ways to respond rapidly to consumers, using 3D fashion design software to create supply chains that are more dynamic than ever.
For instance, new start-up FINESSE only uses 3D prototyping to create its garments targeted at the constantly changing Gen Z market. Data analytics monitor trends and feed information to designers, who use fashion design software to rapidly bring new outfits on stream. On demand manufacturing is becoming a real possibility as 3D slashes the time to market.
The same 3D prototypes are also used instantly on the brand’s social media channels and marketing, adding even more value to the process. The result is apparel that’s totally on trend, efficiently produced, and ready to wear within weeks of inception.
Another beneficial aspect of 3D fashion is the chance to cut waste and reduce the environmental footprint of fashion operations. The fashion industry has historically been a major producer of carbon emissions and a heavy user of scarce resources, but efficient logistics powered by 3D design can help improve the situation.
Currently, approximately 35% of the materials used in fashion supply chains end up as waste. By making prototyping and sampling more efficient, that number can be dramatically lowered. Fabric sourcing tools make it possible to sample materials and make a pattern modification without using physical resources.
3D also allows retailers to make higher-quality decisions about their stock levels. According to fashion label Son of a Tailor, 18.5% of garments go unsold – another massive source of waste.
These changes aren’t limited to niche companies. Tommy Hilfiger has made a high profile commitment to virtualize 100% of its design work, and iconic brands are following suit.
3D modeling is also making waves in the world of direct fashion retail, providing new ways to showcase collections and reach high-value customers.
Many brands have embraced 3D product viewers that enable customers to manipulate models of clothing and accessories. This increases engagement rates and conversions while providing maximum information to make informed purchases. That should make a dent in return rates that average 25-45% in the fashion sector.
However, 3D allows fashion retailers to do more than offer 3D viewing. For example, Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba has used Facebook fashion shows to promote Pink Label Congo creations from her Hanifa label.
Mvuemba regularly stages virtual events where digital models show off 3D versions of her colorful and creative designs, an approach that she sees as anti-elitist and accessible for everyday fashion lovers.
Major brands have also explored the huge potential for 3D fitting rooms, letting them create ways to try on clothing without touching physical products. This makes shopping more convenient and also helps to cut return rates – a major challenge across the fashion sector.
3D printing is also taking off, both in-store and remotely.
Adidas has blazed a trail here with STRUNG trainers that can be tailored to a specific foot. Innovative apparel label Ministry of Supply routinely uses 3D-knit printing to eliminate waste and maximize comfort, while New Balance is experimenting with biometric scanning to create customized insoles.
In the near future, it's easy to imagine eCommerce sites equipped with a totally personalized design tool, allowing customers to carry out their own design process - at least for products suited to 3D printing.
3D has also started to disrupt the way fashion brands face customers, with interactive ads and apps challenging video and static ads. And the most forward-thinking brands are mobilizing 3D design as preparation for the Metaverse. With NFT garments now commanding huge prices and the prospect of purely digital fashion taking off, brands are looking to blend physical and virtual 3D design to boost their revenues.
Zara is a case in point. Long known for its fast-fashion techniques, the Spanish business has launched a “Metacollection” for users of the Zepeto domain, offering Metaverse users the chance to clothe their avatars. Designs closely track Zara’s real-world range, adding a promotional boost and a familiar look that attracts buyers. It’s a natural step for many brands as digital realms expand.
All of this is happening right now. Across the fashion sector, big names and dynamic smaller outfits are using 3D to innovate and compete, whether they are 3D printing sneakers, hosting digital fashion shows, or using fashion design software to ditch fabric samples and cut waste.
The great thing is that thanks to affordable 3D design, any fashion company can emulate them. If you want to follow Nike’s 3D viewing systems or launch Snapchat AR filters to create virtual fitting rooms, Modelry can help.
At Modelry, we have the expertise to digitize fashion and take your operations into the Metaverse. Whether you plan a design switch or a marketing revolution, our team of 3D modelers and 3D content production engine will make it happen. Get in touch with the team and we’ll come up with a way to get your business back on trend.