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Fashion 3D Visualisation: Need Versus Reality


In his first instalment of a new series for WhichPLM Amnon Shalev, CEO & Founder of Virtuality.Fashion, introduces why our industry needs to get serious about adopting 3D. Virtuality.Fashion, powered by C-Design, believe in making virtual fashion prototyping effortless, affordable, and accessible to everyone.

There is a “buzz” in the fashion industry around the adoption of 3D use for everything from product development, to sampling, and even website usage. Most other industry verticals – Automotive, Industrial Design, Architecture – have been using 3D for many years. After all, one cannot create a new building every time a change is requested.

The Fashion industry has, unfortunately, always been slow to adopt new technology …of any kind. The advances in technology for fashion companies have mainly involved the adoption of new, faster and smarter machinery at the factory level. Very little has changed in the context of design, product development, and the sampling process. Companies still design using tools like Illustrator, tech packs are still created and emailed to vendors globally, and then the sampling process begins. This process will usually involve multiple sample corrections to achieve the “approved sample,” costing time and money. One can certainly see the benefits of 3D here, but why get serious now?

There are two major reasons why apparel manufacturers, brand, and retailers are investigating 3D for their workflows. The first is that the 3D images produced today are realistic enough, allowing design teams to comment and correct ahead of physical samples. The second is what I call ‘the ZARA model’ or what most call ‘fast fashion’. By using 3D, a company can make design decisions more quickly, allowing for faster approvals, faster production times, and quicker time to market. All of this makes perfect sense, but if you speak to companies that have implemented 3D, all has not been as easy as expected. In some cases, their workflows were not improved in the way they envisioned.

3D implementation can be hard. The credible 3D solutions in the market require a pattern to get to a final 3D image. In the US, for example, the vast majority of companies no longer have pattern makers in house. Their current process will involve a technical designer creating a tech pack, sending it off to factory A, B, or C, who then create the pattern and proto sample from the information in the tech pack. [In my next article

Adoption Trends

In Kalypso’s Evolution of Digital In Retail & Footwear report[1], 80% of respondents rated 3D DPC (Digital Product Creation) as ‘important’ or ‘very important.’ In terms of Business Value, the respondents – retail executives – ranked Design (e.g. hyper-realistic 3D modeling) and Prototyping & Sampling (e.g. 3D visualization) to be of the highest value, even in comparison to manufacturing.

The research also shows that at least 45% thought 3DPC is important as a design tool and visualization platform, but 45%-63% considered it unsuccessful.

That said, about half is using 3D and visualization now, or will be within the next 12 months.

Interestingly, current industry barriers to success are not necessarily related to technology but more to reasons such as talent and experience (53%), and change management capabilities to drive (47%).

The report concludes that high levels of interest have not yet generally translated into success to date; some companies have postponed or even put on hold 3D initiatives, and in parallel most see the opportunity and are committed to pursuing it.

3D Implementation Options

For those companies who wish to make the first step towards implementing 3DPC there are a couple of options available:

  • 2D CAD based visualization software
  • Smartsourcing (3DaaS, or 3D as a Service)

The earlier options rely on 2D patterns virtually draped on mannequins. As mentioned earlier, this means that a pattern master would ultimately generate the 3D virtualization. While 2D pattern makers are great with converting sketches and technical packages into 2D CAD files, there is no guarantee they will excel in 3D visualization, which is essentially an artistic process. In addition, current simulation algorithms don’t handle very well the entire range of styles, fabrics, and multiple layers and can’t simulate accessories and some trim items (especially hard surfaces).

These systems are great 2D pattern proofing tools and can be used for some product presentation purposes. Once these 3D files are enhanced by creative software solutions, such as Adobe Photoshop, the final result could also be used for marketing purposes.

Smartsourcing is really about outsourcing the right 3D visualization jobs, such as styles in early concept stages, without detailed technical packages where the client has only pictures, sketches or fabric scans. Another reason for outsourcing would be the requirement to have authentic rendering results with the intention to use the final results for online sales or high-end presentations including complex trims and accessories. Another obvious argument for Smartsourcing is agility: outsourcing with the intention of meeting production seasonal demand levels. Obviously, 3DaaS should meet certain criteria, which will be discussed in my next article.


As Chris Hillyer, Director of Innovation at Deckers Brands, recommends in his article: “I encourage you to start with one small step. There are external resources like WhiteClouds, or Virtuality.Fashion who are able to create 3D models as a service by simply submitting drawings. Begin by creating your most popular style and experiment with variations of color and materials to determine your next collection. “

[1] Source: Kalypso, The Indiana University Kelley School of Business Center for Education & Research in Retail, Product Innovation Apparel; 2017 Adoption of Leading Product Development Practices in a Digital World.
Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for eight years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like our PLM Project Pack, or our Annual Publications, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.