Now or Never: It’s Time to Reshape the Apparel Industry
The dynamics of the fashion industry are constantly evolving; an industry that has traditionally veered away from technology has begun to embrace it at an accelerated rate. As recent global events have led the apparel workforce to gradually become more remote, digital tools play an increasingly vital role for apparel brands in a post-pandemic era. 2021 alone saw apparel organizations invest between 1.6. and 1.8 percent of their revenues in digital technology.
The apparel industry was one of the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. All sectors of the fashion world, from brands to manufacturers and fabric mills, have faced new challenges, giving the industry little to no choice but to adopt digital alternatives to physical processes to remain competitive.
In light of the pandemic and its continuous impact, apparel brands of all specialties have found themselves in a position where they cannot operate as they have in the past. It is increasingly challenging to receive physical samples from suppliers within a reasonable time, making it even more difficult for stakeholders to approve new season design cycles in line with the market release time.
However, such challenges have brought light to flaws in the system that pre-existed the pandemic, and apparel organizations are now looking to double down on their digital transformation strategy to be well-equipped for whatever the future may have in store. It is expected that by 2030, apparel companies will double their investment in technology to keep their competitive edge.
Adopting a Digital Culture
As with any transformation process, change must be adopted from an organization’s core to be effective and sustainable. It’s not as simple as downloading 3D clothing design software, apparel companies must undergo an end-to-end transformation, embedding a digital culture throughout the entire organization, from the stakeholder to the consumer level.
To achieve successful digital transformation, there must be a strong alignment between the members involved. Each plays a constructive role, along with the processes and technology itself. In addition, companies must ensure that they are well-equipped and prepared to build the infrastructure for digital adoption.
Firstly, building the foundations for 3D implementation and gearing up their personnel to create a digitally skilled workforce. Once the teams have been identified and the level of proficiency has been established, a framework is formed in which digital product creation can be effectively carried out. At this point, an organization can begin to scale up through digital asset sharing, which can then be applied to the consumer front.
When looking at digitally transforming your apparel business, remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Here are the 4 pillars of success:
Building a Digital Foundation
When gearing up your organization for digitization, the right infrastructure must be built to establish a solid base prepared for 3D adoption. Which means:
Advocating – The 3D apparel design journey can sometimes be a bumpy ride. Not all organization members will be open to change or willing to adopt new technologies. Therefore, recognizing the personnel and teams that will be your partner in this journey is essential. In the long term, you can better understand the internal challenges and use the support to handle resistance from within. This team will also evolve to share knowledge of workflows and tricks to help people embrace the change.
Learning – Onboarding employees to 3D requires professional training and accessible learning tools to create and empower a digitally skilled workforce. Before starting, the learning process needs to be put in place, in which users should be skilled first and will be critical to adopting the change. It is key to provide your team with an accessible and relatable learning source, such as Browzwear University, where they will gain all of the essential tools and skills needed to become an accomplished user of Browzwear’s 3D clothing design software, VStitcher.
Once more employees have successfully adopted 3D and are at a certain level of proficiency, it is then essential to identify the teams working with the digital tools to be well aligned to establish smooth-running and fluid workflows.
Defining – Taking the time to sit down and write up all the systems that will be associated and collaborating with the digitized workflow. Systems should be connected, and libraries will need to be defined as the base of the 3D work, including digital fabrics, trims, prints, S/N, and more. Working with internal teams and vendors will enable a standardization that will come in handy for short and long-term onboarding.
Digital Product Creation (DPC)
Once a digital infrastructure has been established, the Digital Production Creation process can be carried out gradually, with Browzwear’s fashion design software at the core. Yet this process is complex, requiring cooperation between each of the stakeholders of the product, from design teams to vendors, while maintaining a collaborative environment. Therefore, as changes and adaptations are made, all members can be kept aligned throughout the process. Rather than being a siloed process based on a single technology, DPC requires cross-functional collaboration and integration, covering aspects including:
- Vendor collaboration
Prototyping – Shifting from a traditional physical prototype to a 3D apparel digital twin is not an easy process, and trust must be established by both the creators and the validators that what is seen on the screen will bring the same outcome from the manufacturer.
Fitting –The first step to achieving accuracy is by validating the sizing and technical fit of the garment, ensuring that each physical property of the garment and how the materials behave and interact when worn on the body.
Vendor Collaboration – Another way to ensure accuracy and consistency from DPC through to production is by enabling the vendors and manufacturers to participate in the process and understand the 3D garment they will receive. Reading the details, knowing the internal VQS, and proactively working on the garment before production is key to receiving a physical twin.
Sellability– At this stage of the creation process, digital tools promote a cost-saving approach and prevent errors and waste from occurring further down the line. One essential tool is Voice of Customer, which enables brands to manufacture the sellable to avoid garment write-offs. When you gain consumer knowledge and insights at the pre-production stage, future collections can be prepared and adjusted accordingly. This works to hasten time to market by selling sellable products only and minimizing future costs.
Having a well-functioning DPC stage enables the organization to run the rest of the digital transformation process. If this process is accurate, then it will achieve the following:
- A common ‘digital’ language across the organization is established
- Decisions are made over true-to-life digital samples
- Significant reduction in both textile and resource waste
Digital Asset Sharing
Once the DPC process has been solidified, all foundations are set in place, so you can begin scaling the technology across your organization. Now’s when it’s time to think about managing all of the digital assets for selling throughout the B2B pipeline. One of the most significant differences between digitally transformed companies and those that have kept the traditional model is digital asset sharing. This most often consists of the following:
- Digital Ecosystem
- Visual Merchandising
- Digital Assortment
- Virtual Store Layout
Digital Ecosystem- Through Browzwear’s Open Platform, companies can be a part of a constantly expanding, pre-integration partner ecosystem and services to integrate in-house software and processes. By taking advantage of a diverse system of technology solutions, apparel companies can leverage the power of 3D from design to production and selling.
Visual Merchandising – By having a digital twin assortment that accurately represents the physical collection, retailers can roll out the 3D store simulation faster and with a high level of precision.
Digital Assortment- Apparel brands can only prepare seasonal collections using digital garments. This enables retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers to plan and ensure they meet customer demands before physically producing the pieces.
Virtual Store Layout- With digital assets, the internal pitching process can be carried out virtually using digital, photorealistic showrooms and interactive catalogs. This facilitates the development of an end-to-end digital workflow covering each aspect of the supply chain and product lifecycle from the design to the consumer level.
As the level of proficiency grows across the board, and digital is now innate in the production and business workflows, the company can venture into customer-facing venues. Although this can be done earlier, building upon a solid foundation enables a smoother and more efficient process.
Digital selling on the consumer front includes:
- Digital showcasing
- Interactive tools for eCommerce
- Consumer insight
Digital showcasing allows the selling process to be conducted with digital garments only, and buyers can enjoy an immersive and interactive online shopping experience. Tools such as digital catalogs offer brands a virtual alternative to in-person meetings. Moving to a virtual showroom significantly reduces the cost of physical sample production and facilitates risk mitigation. Pricing can also be aligned across the board, eliminating cost uncertainty.
Interactive tools for eCommerce– Interactive tools can showcase digital garments across eCommerce platforms. For example, 3D product configurators allow users to maneuver the garment and view it from different angles to achieve their desired result.
Additionally, other tools that work to combine a personal avatar with a made-to-measure garment create the ultimate personalized shopping experience. It’s solutions like these that untimely boost buyer confidence in online shopping.
Consumer insights– Utilizing sales data to understand and analyze the market’s behavior and have the ability to make informed decisions before releasing a collection. The information obtained can be used to improve or modify garments in 3D to optimize the collections, speed time to market, and significantly save on production costs.
Let’s Wrap It Up
In essence, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach or a single technology that can be applied to widescale digital transformation. An organization must undergo several transition phases to embed a new digital culture and implement the following core processes. Once a solid infrastructure is established, it can be further built upon and curated in line with the organization’s needs, starting from the foundations of the organization to the technological aspects and, of course, the consumers.
If you are considering embarking on a digital transformation journey, our business solutions team will be able to articulate the process with you. Starting with assessing your current organizational structure and readiness for 3D adoption, as well as exploring the mechanisms needed to provide you with a holistic solution that best fits your needs.