In the era of instant fulfillment, short product lifetimes and frequently-changing consumer tastes, the need for a lightning fast design-to-market phase in retail and apparel is essential for success. Unfortunately, designing new products is a time-consuming process, often requiring dozens of prototypes and fitting sessions and all the labor hours that entails. This is where virtual fit can fit in.
Using advanced 3D modeling applications, virtual fitting allows designers, pattern makers and technical teams to access an interactive 3D simulation of products powered by advanced, physics algorithms to view prospective products in a virtual setting. They can now see how a product’s pattern accentuates features, how the fabric flows with movement and even how the colors match different accessories. This visualization tool can help designers collaborate in a 3D environment, make informed design decisions before the physical prototypes are made and transition 2D images into effective patterns ready for production.
However, as with all new technology solutions, businesses must develop a strategy on how it will fit into their business models.
Here’s what to consider when implementing virtual fit into your digital product creation strategy
Define Virtual Fit’s Role: Before jumping into a virtual fitting session, make sure that its role is clearly defined. Everyone in the room should know the purpose of the meeting, a fitting is not a design review, sales meeting, or product launch. 3D simulations do not make processes faster if it means additional opportunities for changing a product result in a longer timeline. It’s important to define the parameters for change before the meeting and stick to them.
Acclimate your Audience: Audiences, especially in the early stages of 3D implementation, need time to acclimate from 2D flat sketches, photos and physical products. Their brains need coaching. One way to do this is to show both the 3D and photographic versions of existing products before each virtual fitting session, so that users can understand the capabilities (and limitations) of 3D simulations. Companies will need to build a process around training and onboarding users.
Build a Process around it: As with a more traditional fitting, companies should build a process with clear parameters. The avatar for the fitting should have its set poses, relevant metrics such as stress and strain should be defined and tracked, and protocols should exist on how to effectively introduce changes.
Understand the Limitations: 3D modeling is a powerful tool, but not an all-powerful one. There will be limitations to the model. The simulation complexity is not yet at a level where it can identify whether a press snap needs a supportive backing in self-fabric or interlining, and, if so, what thickness is required for these materials. 3D is also limited to the visual sense. While it can imitate the movement of a soft material, users won’t be able to feel it on their skin, smell the scent of the materials used, or perceive the dozens of small minute details that only a real world object can provide. Companies must understand that some prototyping is still necessary.
Digital solutions, like virtual fitting, are happening all around us, and increasingly complex and capable digital systems are accelerating the discover, create, make and sell journey. Meanwhile, customer expectations are keeping pace. The good news is that many solutions like virtual fitting are becoming cross-compatible. Metrics automatically measured in the 3D environment during a virtual fitting can be used to optimize material consumption in the manufacturing process. At the same time, the virtual versions of the product can be used in the sales in both B2B and B2C channels.
To stay ahead of the curve, companies will need to develop a strategy for both selecting technology solutions like virtual fitting and implementing them effectively in their business process.
A Digital Product Creation (DPC) expert in the apparel and footwear industries, Brendon has lead 3D transformation projects for many of the world’s leading sportswear, fast-fashion and luxury retailers. With experience as a 2D and 3D designer and pattern-maker as well as a seasoned supply-chain leader, Brendon helps clients create relationships with the significant digital shifts in our industry.