In today’s guest post, Sharon Lim, CEO of Browzwear, educates us on the benefits of true-to-life digital twins – including a significant decrease in production time, allowing apparel designers to get back to doing what they love. Sharon is a corporate visionary with nearly 20 years experience in the apparel industry, from sourcing to retail. She is responsible for directing Browzwear’s vision and business operations in the rapidly-evolving 3D apparel market.
While always on the forefront of fashion, the apparel design industry has not necessarily had the opportunity or need to be on the forefront of technology. By the time a designer receives a sample, the information to create the garment has passed through so many hands and so many iterations that it is skewed from the original, making it nearly impossible to be what the designer actually imagined. At this point, they are forced to make compromises to their original plans in order to keep production on schedule.
Until now, production of a typical fashion collection could take almost a year from start to finish, often resulting in a disconnect between the designers and the market.
Dead Inventory Losses Weigh on Apparel Brands
With off-price buyers accounting for approximately 75% of apparel purchases across all retail channels, and more than 50% of stock not sold at all, brands are feeling the pressure. The waste is given away or, even worse, destroyed and burned. This dead inventory ties up working capital, costing US retailers more than $50 billion per year. Every dollar wasted on producing inventory that is not sold, could have been spent in other ways including more talented designers and staff, new technologies or better designs and inventory.
The bottom line? A broken workflow leading to wasted resources just isn’t sustainable.
Virtual Garments: The First Step in the Digital Transformation
In order to survive, industry players must move towards a digital workflow. Hiring more people to work harder and longer hours to speed up the workflow is not scalable or sustainable. The disruption will only come when the workflow is actually changed — with automation. The first step in the digital transformation is to replace physical samples with virtual garments or digital twins – an accurate digital version of the garment that designers can manipulate exactly as they would a physical version. An essential first step in the digital workflow, these digital garment twins can be produced in a fast and scalable way, removing the need to wait for a physical garment to make design decisions. From design to fitting and adjustments, all the way through to sales in an online shop, using a digital garment reduces the time to market from almost a year to merely days.
The Advent of the Smart Factory
In the next few years, we will see traditional mass production factories become smart factories that can produce garments in smaller numbers, in a more cost efficient manner. With the ability to manufacture in smaller quantities at competitive prices, brands can better fit their styles to local tastes in order to be physically and culturally closer to their market. Today, there are sales tools that can facilitate the small quantity approach, and together with smart factories and digital process, we will see a revolution!
As brands move towards the use of virtual garments, the role of the smart factory will grow. By leveraging digital garments now, brands will be poised to turn each order into its own digital workflow for precise customization and production.
Of course, in today’s production setup, it is too costly to change a mass production line into one that can accomodate a single garment. The move to a digital workflow will streamline the way garments are ultimately produced, reducing inventory, materials, storage and eventually waste. A customer will see the garment online, purchase it, and only then would it be produced.
True-to-Life Digital Garments Streamline Production
So, for now, even before factories become smart factories, by taking that first step and replacing physical samples with true-to-life digital twins that designers and brands can trust, we see a significant decrease in production time — from nearly one year per collection, to less than a week with digital samples.
The streamlined process is more efficient at every step, even down to the process of fitting and adjusting garments — decisions can be made solely by working with digital silhouettes, without holding the actual garment in their hands. And best of all, apparel designers can get back to what they love about their work, focusing on the art, rather than preparing tech packs and calculations.