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Designing the ‘Day-and-a-Half Garment’

By Sourcing Journal

A typical car, containing roughly 30,000 components, has a two-year design cycle. A typical garment, with its 50 or so components, has a six-month design cycle. “So, if the fashion industry were to move at the speed of the automotive industry, it should take a day and a half to design and prepare a garment for production,” said Bill Wilcox, founder and president of 3D design software platform Clothing Tech LLC.

A day and a half? Well, he should know.

Wilcox worked in the automotive and electronics industries before building out his software for the apparel world, where he was shocked by the fashion industry’s lack of technical sophistication. While he didn’t necessarily expect the robotic arms assembling cars or iPhones to be used on the fashion shop floor, he did expect to see automation built into fashion’s design systems, where speed to market is more critical than ever.

But without a standardized digital language that lets different sectors of the design process seamlessly “talk to each other,” fashion can never hope to achieve the efficiencies of other industries. So much for that day-and-a-half garment.

Speed to market is crucial to nail down fickle trends, but to also mitigate fashion’s overproduction problem. Long design and manufacturing cycles mean guessing what consumers will want to buy in six months, and missteps send unsold garments into landfills. As brands “[haven’t] adjusted their design calendar in a meaningful way, meaning they’re still starting to design the season at the same dates as before,” they need to rethink the process.

To speed things up, said Wilcox, brands must embrace 3D software where designers are always working on a digitized 3D garment, like Clothing Tech’s Garment Digital Twin™.

“Other 3D design programs are really just 3D visualization of 2D design,” said Wilcox, noting that this actually adds an extra step to convert the manual process to digital. Clothing Tech’s system, however, cuts the need for expert roles, as automated steps pre-programmed into the software make it easy for the less technically skilled to iterate in 3D. In other words, design tweaks—from major experimentation to technical steps like widening a neckline or lengthening a sleeve—become simple when the expert systems are operating in the background.

Changes made to the design program automatically and instantly alter the pattern—reducing time, human error, and the need for a pattern maker. In addition, a true 3D system eliminates the need for a sample maker, since the digital sample is also updated with every design iteration.

Looking ahead, Clothing Tech continues to work on those tools that “actually make a difference” where brands can be nimble and offer their customers only what they want to purchase. “That is the definition of efficiency,” he said.

The discussion above is snippet of a recent Fireside Chat between Clothing Tech and Sourcing Journal. To watch the chat in its entirety, click here.

This is the third Clothing Tech Fireside Chat in a four-part series. Here are the first and second, and you can hear Bill Wilcox speak on a panel on automation at SJ’s Fall Summit on November 2, 2023.

This article and video were was posted on Sourcing Journal September 25, 2023. Clothing Tech is a member of SPESA.

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