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If you can’t work with 3D technology, then play with it!


In the first post for 2020, resident Expert Evridiki Papahristou draws on the parallels between the Gaming and Fashion industries with regards to utilising 3D.

Five years ago, if you had told the 20 million unique users of Polyvore that they would be asked to pay to add products into a shared product index, and use them to create image collages called “Sets” (virtual mood boards), they would have laughed. If you had also told a 3D fashion designer that his/her digital creations would remain in the virtual world and wait to gain virtual popularity in a game app, in order to become a physical product, they would have laughed as well.

For several decades, fashion designers, pattern makers, garment technologists, CAD systems users and managers in every level of a garment company, have been familiar with thinking, designing/sketching, decision-making, marker-making and cutting in two dimensions. Suddenly, 3D is making a break-through in our industry, following years of adaptation, maturity and evolution in technology. Many companies have been investing in adopting 3D design into their processes for different reasons. The majority of those involved in the industry, however, are still thinking in 2D, not following the successful paradigm of other creative industries like interiors and architecture. 3D garment simulation is tremendously important for productivity and efficiency.

The paradox? Instead of watching 3D technology expanding and growing in our industry, we watch another industry taking advantage of it. Pattern makers are starting to work for animation studios and animators are starting to work for fashion companies. The convergence of these two polarizing industries is beginning and no one is laughing.

New year, new decade, new beginnings, new mindsets, new directions.

Before we get to digital design, we must first research on the reasons that the gaming industry is entering, or say it properly, re-entering the fashion world by involving fashion creation from the game user/player.

Gaming is primed to be the next mainstream culture phenomenon. Recently, gaming culture has become less niche, with popular gamers becoming celebrity-esque. Gaming videos have become so popular that they now dominate the YouTube space with varied videos gaining millions of views, according to a Gartner L2 report. When it comes to new-wave entertainment, brands have an intriguing opportunity in the gaming world. Fortnite, a free multi-platform video game which, by the end of 2018, had become the highest grossing video game on consoles, is making money when the player buys dubbed “costumes” and “skins”, enhancing the user experience and the prospect of unlocking more content for their avatar appears to be what gives the user enjoyment, and they are willing to continue paying for this.

Below are some facts that will help understand the relationship between gaming and fashion brands:

Fact 1

Consumers and more specifically millennials who are digital savvy users of social media, are hard to predict regarding their shopping behaviour. At the same time, this generation is more-and-more interested in exploring virtual environments while doing everyday things in the physical world. In other words, they enjoy the experience by having one foot in the real and one foot in the virtual world. They can put their hands on Gucci’s handbags and accessories with no cost. VR headsets are even cheaper, controller-free finger tracking is just a step away. Augmented & Virtual reality – as well as Gaming – were two out of twenty categories for TIME’s best inventions of 2019.

Fact 2

There are now more than 3.24 billion gamers across the world. Consumer spend on games will grow to $196.0 billion by 2022, a CAGR of +9.0% between 2018 and 2022.

Fact 3

Micropayments and online pay could hold the key to opening up fashion (at the moment high-end) to markets that the big brands have hitherto struggled to reach; the participants of Fact 1

Fact 4

Many brands seeing the trend of virtual reality accelerating are starting to collaborate with the gaming industry, seeking to attract new customers who game and love fashion at the same time (see below for examples).

Fact 5

Computer-generated influencers have been quietly appearing everywhere over the past few years resulting to the foundation of the first digital model agency, unleashing the potential of 3D technology in the fashion industry.

Fact 6

Apple proposed VR glove that lets you feel objects displayed by virtual reality or augmented reality.

Give me more virtual fashion gaming please!

This pro-mentioned consumer appetite for virtual fashion is being tested by brands by putting digital versions of their (until now) luxury clothing in apps and video games. The most recent gaming app is Drest[1], whose creators are betting that the app’s users will be convinced to buy virtual clothing and accessories in order to play this new fashion styling game and expand their Fashion Farmville.

Αfter downloading the app, and dedicating half an hour of my time to explore Drest, I have completed a simple challenge, been called a Fashion Styling ‘Intern’ and rewarded with 15K Drest dollars and 60 Photoshooting hours. Every time you complete a challenge you gain more in-game dollars if your finished look is appreciated (by likes) from other players. Now is the tricky part; if your virtual currency is not enough to unlock a selected and wanted virtual item, you have the option to pay with real money to unlock it! What you once did with Polyvore for free, you are now doing it in Drest on a virtual avatar, partially for free. According to the game creator, anyone can become an amazing stylist, and later finds a renewed sense of confidence when purchasing fashion items.

If you want to combine virtual dressing and lifestyle of your own avatar, then ADA app gives you the chance not only to customise Dior, Balmain, Miu Miu, Christopher Kane and Mary Katrantzou on your 3D-digital self, but also to live in a luxury apartment decorated by designer interiors. Now, if you are a fan of luxury brands and combat games, you can access a Louis Vuitton character skin from a designed in-game capsule collection for League of Legends, or play B Bounce (only in your mobile), bouncing an animated deer – dressed in Burberry’s new jacket collection – to the moon.

The most recent example of designer and gaming collabs, was Italian fashion house Moschino’s partnership with Electronic Arts. Sims’ players can reflect their pop culture mood, develop stories and deepen their world by changing in Moschino clothes. Although in 2007, The Sims2 again collaborated with a less high and more fast-fashion brand, H&M, last year’s partnership brought the game further into the spotlight. But while a Sim – or virtual human – can don the luxury pullover free of charge as they run errands or stop by the office, recent research suggests that the brands might struggle to reap real-life rewards from their digital effort.

Gaming Fever as Jidoka for 3D

What do all the above have in common? All the above mentioned luxury brands give their users the opportunity to interact with their products not in the physical world but in the 3D world, experimenting with digital trends and learning from virtual risks and rewards.

The concept of 3D is leveraged by data and the aim is mirroring the real world. If the process and acquaintance period with thinking and working in a 3D environment can be passed through playing these new games or creating new virtual worlds, then games can become 3D’s Jidoka[2]. Using the word, metaphorically the developers of 3D clothing simulation software as well as all the start-ups that accompany the expansion of 3D technology can study the use and adaptation of 3D designs in the virtual world of gaming, detect what works and what doesn’t, and make the necessary adjustments to the system itself or the marketing strategy to improve the process and the tool itself.

Courtesy of Erevos Aether https://www.erevosaether.com/

In Toyota’s Production System, where Jidoka originated, it was not just the workers’ right to “pull the cord” but their responsibility. In the case of 3D virtual garment technology, it is the vendors’ responsibility to “install” Jidoka Andons[3] in the gaming industry in order to minimise the downtime of the technology expansion in our industry, increase the efficiency, ease the resource management, decrease the cost and improve the quality.

As Adobe’s CEO put very well in his opening keynote speech at ADOBE Max 2019, “creativity today is a fundamental skill and at the core, creativity is all about making emotional connections. Creativity today is entertainment”. Calling all creators to be inspired from this new face of digital fashion even if it involves only playing. GAME is on!

[1]Drest: The obsolete past and past participle tense of the verb ‘dress’

[2] The concept of Jidoka is an important phenomenon inside Lean Manufacturing. Jidoka’s origins date back to the early twentieth century, when Sakichi Toyoda (prior to founding the Toyota Motor Company) used a textile loom that, when a thread broke, spun itself out wasting copious amounts of material.  He invented a machine that detected the broken thread and automatically stopped the machine, preventing the waste.

[3] Andon, japanese for “lamp,” refers to a notification to workers or management that an abnormality is occurring in the production process

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.