By Sourcing Journal
Amid a global pandemic, fashion brands and their product development teams have had to rely on technology to fill in the gaps created by an inability to meet, and work, in person.
These solutions, which help facilitate digital design, ensure fit, and track a garment through its supply chain life cycle, have been adopted with growing frequency in recent seasons as the sector moves toward a more digitized future. But amid the Covid crisis, virtual tools that limit the need for sampling, reduce production waste and provide end-to-end tracking for orders have become essential tools for survival.
According to Chris Walia, chief operating officer of 3D pattern and design software platform Tukatech, “Any fashion brand today is a fashion tech company.”
“There is an element of technology that will always be there” from this point forward, he said at Sourcing at Magic’s virtual panel last week, and brands should be utilizing these state-of-the-art tools to their businesses’ advantage. “It’s not just for speed to market, but to better your employees, help them become more productive, and allow them to do other things where technology can take their place.”
Tukatech cuts out the need for costly physical samples, Walia said. The Tuka3D program allows designers to host fit sessions on virtual avatars, which are digitally sculpted from data captured from live fit models, he added. They can be animated to simulate the motions of real wearers, helping brands analyze not just how garments look, but how they move. The platform also allows pattern makers to make simple and quick adjustments digitally using simulation software that demonstrates how garments drape on body. A virtual sample room serves as a meeting place for designers to collaborate on and communicate about the pieces in their line.
What’s more, the company’s manufacturing equipment allows for direct-to-fabric printing of patterns and motifs only within the parameters of a garment, as opposed to a whole ream of fabric, cutting down on ink and energy usage. A Tukatech laser cutting machine uses an optical lens to read a pattern’s outline and create precise cuts, determining the most efficient paths for fabric use. Single samples or small runs can be printed, cut and sewn one by one.
Tukatech has also been developing an automatic pattern-making solution, Walia said, to address the growing shortage of those skills within the sector. “We have fewer and fewer pattern makers coming into the industry and more and more retiring out and leaving,” he said. The company currently allows designers to input a visual of a style they’re working on, as well as other data and measurements, “and it spits out a quick spec that we can do costing on.”
According to Charles Benoualid, vice president of emerging technologies at Computer Generated Solutions (CGS), technology that underscores the importance of “sustainability, traceability, and 3D visualization” has “accelerated in the last year.” Benoualid discussed the challenges associated with shoppers’ “constant demand for more innovative products, with greater frequency” that exists alongside the need to curb waste and cut costs.
CGS’ Bluecherry enterprise resource planning, or ERP, software helps fashion companies streamline processes, gain greater visibility into their supply chains, bump up productivity and operational efficiency, and optimize costs to increase their competitive edge, he said. The software provides brands with concise, aggregated views of performance metrics so that they can analyze supplier performance, manage orders, allocate product and plan for future seasons using data.
“Costing is also a key component of any business,” he added, and brands also need to have a handle on “all the different legalities, from taxes to duties,” along with unforeseen expenses. Only then will they feel empowered to make “quick adjustments” to their supply chains using “real time information.”
“You may favor a certain supplier, and they may be great on initial cost but you realize you have to fly the goods in 90 percent of the time,” he said by way of example, a scenario that adds to a product’s landed cost. “I think margins are really tight, and mistakes are very costly. So it’s about having the tools to help you identify the cost variances so that you don’t repeat mistakes over and over.”
“These are all things that we could very quickly identify and highlight for the users to break the patterns,” he said.