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Could 3D Become “Money Heist” in Fashion Technology Series?

Image: Courtesy of Erevos Aether – Gynoid-S Collection

In a very topical final exclusive for 2018, resident Expert Dr Evridiki Papahristou explores 3D in relation to the popular Money Heist Netflix series. Evridiki is a devoted fashion engineer with a research focus in the effective integration of 3D virtual prototype in the apparel industry, and sits on our Expert panel in implementing and adopting 3D.

During the summer my son and I discovered a Spanish series on the next most important screen in our lives – Netflix – before the hype that followed it. From the first episode, we were captivated by the suspenseful story. Every single episode was so thrilling and unpredictable that you had no idea how it would end. It even kept us awake for several nights! It wasn’t until recently that I read that Money Heist is the most watched non-English-speaking series ever on Netflix as of Q1 2018. How did Netflix do it? The answer is seamless technology, strategically branded titles and addressing changes in consumer behaviour.

You probably wonder how this relates to our industry; the garment industry that everyone admits goes through a digital transformation. Our industry faces the increasing complexity of its activities such as the globalization of the market, the proliferation of information, the reduced time to market, the increasing distance between industrial partners and pressures related to costs. Intense pressure and rapid change can cause stress and the response to stress is usually ‘fight or flight’. Since this industry was, and still is, one of the most competitive and skilled-labour dependent in the world, this transformation involves not only processes, but real people. Digital prototype in the textile and clothing industry enables technologies in the creative and development processes where various operators are involved in the different stages, with various skills and competencies, and different necessities of formalizing and defining in a deterministic way the result of their activities. Most of them are going through the ‘fight or flight’ experience. However, as I explored in my first article with WhichPLM on fashion battles with technology, one of the battles is certainly culture. In Greece, every Netflix viewer or series fanatic is talking about Money Heist (La Casa de Papel). While I was doing some digging on the series I found out that, although very popular in Spanish speaking countries, it wasn’t so popular in the U.S and U.K.; at least in the beginning. It had to overcome the challenge of the foreign language culture and the correct title.

Back to fashion again. 3D technology has not only gained attention, but it has changed the whole decision making process in many companies that make garments – and, to a larger extent, the product development process., It was recently a key focus in PI Apparel Milan, last month. The fashion industry’s struggles with ethics, growth, mass production, speed and waste lead to critical and innovative design thinking. The challenges are many, therefore collaboration is necessary. If you pull up the doormat on fashion’s slow adoption of technology, you will definitely find culture underneath. To fight the fear of change and to help establish a better communication and collaboration across multi-disciplinary fields, a group of retailers and brands have even formed the 3D Retail Coalition to advance 3D technology for the apparel, accessories, and footwear designers, retailers, manufacturers and supply chains.

3D Implementation Series

Apart from the technology itself, the new buzzword that surrounds 3D is implementation. Although the implementation of 3D technology has quickly moved forward in the garment industry, it still has a long way to go.

To many manufacturers, the budget for implementing 3D technology into their processes is from low to zero. SMEs cannot afford to pay many monthly subscriptions to have access to 3D design and prototyping anytime their retail clients want them to. The cost of training and retaining service is huge. 3D is definitely expanding fast, but the needed skills cannot follow in the same pace. In recent research I conducted on the educational and professional background of 3D experienced users in the fashion industry, I found out that there is a diverse profile for many of the participants in the survey. Most of them have been involved with clothing design since the very beginning but some of them had nothing to do with apparel until recently. Big corporations like Nike and Adidas, who have leapfrogged the proof-of-concept stage already and moved to 3D prototyping to accelerate the pace or the creative productivity of their design and development, have created teams with diverse design disciplines. From pattern makers, fashion designers, product designers, even 3D visual artists with experience in the film industry. Why? One of the reasons is because there are no experts in the market with the right skills. Another reason is that the film industry has been investing millions of dollars into visualisation and authentic realistic cloth simulation for several years now. The Digital Creation Leader of a sportswear company mentioned, in a personal interview, shared the need for skilled staff in their offices and factories in Asia. Although their support partner in 3D implementation has undertaken much of that effort, still the needs and demands are high. This is one of the reasons that they are not yet expanding the implementation of 3D prototyping in all product categories. The team is growing but they don’t have enough people yet.

Image: Courtesy of Erevos Aether – M45 Pleiades Collection

I believe that the adoption rate of the use of 3D in developed countries is even lower than in Asia. The reason is the lack of resources and the cost of implementation. What fashion can learn from the entrainment industry and, more specifically, what 3D can learn from The Heist is: adapt-to-new-environment.

When the series first launched in the U.S, the original title in Season 1 was La Casa de Papel. The title was changed to the English, Money Heist, by Season 2. Audiences in the U.S and U.K may have ignored a foreign language title. Why? It is hard to drive adoption when the user cannot read the title. Currently Netflix tests personalized artwork to improve viewership. That is called smart branding. Netflix is maximising the potential interest for their content offering. Instead of reading subtitles the viewer can watch the entire series in fully dubbed English. As a Greek native, I grew up watching foreign movies and series’ in their native language while reading Greek subtitles. Greek culture is incompatible with dubbed films unless it is restricted to under 10 year olds. Other Mediterranean countries, however, like Italy or Spain still have a thriving dubbing industry.

Now, what is the connection between the change of a series title, language dubbing and the 3D technology in the fashion industry?

It seems that the entertainment industry makes adjustments and adopts different cultures in order to drive online viewing. Fashion and technology have been airing their dirty laundry, but 3D should not play the role of the washing machine.

The fashion market does not need expensive, almost unbearable for many, 3D prototyping solutions that stall the expansion of this technology to the product development process. The entrainment industry has already realised it. New business concepts like the one of Quarterflix[1] enable subscribers to go from “monthly” to “hourly” paying only for the time spent consuming content from multiple video streaming services. The customer loads hourly credits into his/hers Quarterflix media wallet and enjoys any content from any video streaming service. Although not a service yet, but still a start-up concept, I cannot help but think our industry could use something similar to overcome implementation obstacles and expand the technology in every manufacturer (big or small), every retailer (online or offline) and every designer (in-house or freelance). Maybe then, when our industry is liberated from the culture of the past and the occupation of the traditional silo mentality, we could all sing bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao!

[1] Quarterflix is a video streaming service aggregator offering time­ based bundled access to multiple streaming services for a price of 25 cents per hour.

Evridiki Papahristou Dr. Evridiki Papahristou is a devoted fashion engineer and an assistant professor in the scientific field of clothing 3D virtual prototyping. She began her studies at the University of Kent in European Fashion/Product development but after working as a fashion designer in a design studio in Milan she continued her studies with a Master’s degree researching new technologies in apparel. With many years of professional practise/expertise in CAD systems and more than 20 years in academia, she has trained many of today’s executives in digital fashion product development trying to bridge the gap between academia and industry. Her Ph.D uniquely blended fashion and engineering, trying to explore new ways of implementing and adopting new technologies like 3D and PLM. She loves research and her current focus is in applying AI technology tools in the product development process of apparel.