Closing our series of exclusive interviews from January’s NRF show in New York City, Kilara Le talks with Sascha André Lanninger, Global Senior Vice President, Lifestyle at Dassault Systèmes. Representing our second interview with Dassault, Sascha focuses on 3D, and in particular, ‘My Retail Theatre’.
Kilara Le: To better understand Dassault Systèmes’ recent progress on the subject of 3D for our readers who may not know, can you tell us a little more about the recently launched Industry Solution Experience, My Retail Theatre for the RFA sector?
Sascha André Lanninger: Today, brands struggle to cope with 3 fundamental challenges:
- Getting leaner and meaner to cope with increasing cost pressures;
- Managing an ever-increasing complexity on product (e.g. personalization) and communication (many new touch points) level;
- Meeting increasing consumer demands
Dassault Systèmes’ My Retail Theatre, powered by the strength of 3D visualization, is easing the strong tension generated by the interplay of these challenges in two ways.
Firstly, it helps to engage consumers in the ultimate personalized product and purchase experience. In today’s world, consumers buy experiences, not products. You might be thinking – so what is an experience? It’s an interaction with your brands or products that truly differentiates itself from the endless stream of stimulations consumers face every day. And this is exactly why 3D is the key in My Retail Theatre. 3D delivers in a more compelling way the story a brand wants to tell its consumers across all touch points. You could also call it interactive content, if you will. 3D allows for creating original content in ways that were never possible using traditional methods. Methods like showing an exploded view of a technical running shoe at an international sporting goods fair to allow consumers to see the intrinsic value. Another example is the ability to offer your consumers millions of combinations of a customizable luxury handbag in your retail stores.
Plus, 3D allows brands to finally create content suitable for use in external media that is both interactive and personal. Two core expectations of Digital Native consumers.
Secondly, 3D is helping brands to create content faster and more efficiently. In fact, 3D allows you to create content for all touch points in semi-automated ways, significantly reducing content creation cost and time. What’s more, your content can be created even before the actual product is built by using its virtual 3D representation, allowing early reads on what consumers will respond to and taking better advantage of social ideation and co-creation.
KL: And as part of the story, can you share with us what is happening in terms of the 3D garment engine that you are using and/or partnering with to support the design and rapid development of virtual prototypes?
SAL: Dassault Systèmes offers a wide range of solutions to help create products in 3D with ease. However, Footwear, Apparel and Accessories are true challenges and highly complex.
From Formal to Casual, or Luxury to Premium to Mass – the requirements for a 3D simulation engine are as unique as the iconic brands who make those products. That’s why we team up with partners globally if necessary – to enable the actual creation of the 3D garments.
We always consider what the best fit for our customers would be based on their business (processes, users) and technical environment. Once the base shape (simulation) of a 3D garment is created, we provide the solutions to achieve photo-realism, which is a critical pre-requisite for taking decisions in the real world. It is about creating “virtual twins” of your materials, respecting each of their facets such as reflection, glossiness, color, and roughness but also the staging in terms of light, environment and shadows. You need to believe what you see is real, especially in fashion, where touching and feeling products, fabrics, and trims is part of the nature of the people working in this industry. So this is a fundamental requirement we meet with the real-time 3D visualization capabilities from Dassault Systèmes’ brand: 3DEXCITE.
KL: What are you doing for the footwear engine, from 2D patterns all the way to 3D virtual designs?
SAL: Dassault Systèmes’ Laboratory of innovation for the fashion industry (our FashionLab) has been partnering with a French couturier for 4 years to deal with topics around fashion and digital. Among the different innovation programs addressed, the Lab and the designer worked on a footwear project last year. The result was the reveal of a footwear capsule collection created entirely in 3D.
This project was revealed in two steps: first was the launch of a Footwear pop-up store using virtual experiences and second was the launch of a footwear collection on the catwalk. The pop-up store revealed two different approaches based on a footwear collection: the discovery of the design studio of the future on one hand, and an exploration of a futuristic store on the other.
In this pop-up store, 10 experiences were showcased to demonstrate what a designer and a store could be in the near future, directly connecting designers/creators/concepts to consumers. We developed a video to show these 10 footwear experiences, targeting designers, retailers and consumers and answering all the challenges of the Footwear industry.
Some of the experiences showcased are not just prototypes from the FashionLab but are real software products ready to use. Within the 10 experiences, 3 of them specifically addressed 3D design of a Footwear collection using My Retail Theatre.
The first [Editor’s note: which can be seen 57 seconds into the video] being Mobile Assortment Experience; a Footwear configurator, allows a consumer to create a personalized shoe by changing colors. The consumer is able to interact with the product in a more engaging way. This experience highlights a different way in which retailers sell a product and consumers live delightful experiences.
Secondly, we have the photo-realistic Studio [Editor’s note: 01:13 into the video]. We use a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet, which usually has no 3D capabilities, to show realistic 3D pictures in a 3D environment. This reveals a photo-realistic production on a mobile device with raytracing rendering.
And the third experience is that of augmented reality, which comes back to the notion of ‘”virtual twins” I mentioned earlier. With augmented reality, we can present a physical, 3D-printed shoe with it’s “virtual twin” on a tablet device, allowing people to see both the digital world (through the tablet’s screen) and the real world, and compare both views.
KL: Fascinating. Do you have any commercially available products that have come from the FashionLab for RFA in recent times?
SAL: FashionLab is Dassault Systèmes’ technology incubator dedicated to Fashion. As an innovation laboratory, we do not sell any software but we work on the next generation of software and solutions for this industry.
Our philosophy is to understand our customer’s needs and then work with them on enjoyable and efficient tools to make their projects come to life. Therefore, we do not make any final software but only prototypes and pilot software.
Our research programs aim at giving rise to a fashion 3DEXPERIENCE that integrates design, simulation and collaboration tools needed to create an entire virtual collection.
For instance, in 2013, we collaborated with the Comité FrancEclat, a French Jewelry association, in a project called “REFLETS”. This project took place in Paris’ Palais de Tokyo. The main goal was to present 3D experiences to the public, using auto-stereoscopy technology (a screen displaying rich 3D without the need of 3D glasses).
To build this experience, we worked with Alioscopy, a start-up specialized in glasses-free 3D displays (auto-stereoscopic 3D screens) in order to show three-dimensional images instantly without wearing any specific equipment. With this project, we wanted to show to a large portion of the public that we are able to promote consumer goods through bursting 3D displays; in this case we were showcasing jewels.
Our team of engineers worked with CATIA, Dassault Systèmes’ emblematic 3D design software, to create the 3D content that appeared on the auto-stereoscopic screen. True to the mission of the FashionLab, we worked on the development of new functionalities on the software to be able to create auto stereoscopic content including animations. Following this project, Dassault Systèmes included these new features in the next CATIA release, R2015X.
Now, our customers are able to use CATIA to build auto-stereoscopic content, thanks to this FashionLab innovation program!
KL: I was lucky enough to see the ‘Suit Configurator’ on the show floor at NRF this year. For our readers who have not seen this, can you tell us a bit more about it’s design origins and the compelling reason to develop the solution?
SAL: No matter what we intend to buy today, we typically get a preview of what we’re about to spend money on. Think of your house, car, kitchen, furniture or your watch and your sneakers. You want to see what you buy before making the decision. So, why not do the same for a luxury tailor-made suit that can cost you several thousand Euros? That was when the idea was born.
Many brands – especially in the luxury segment – are reluctant to use cutting-edge technology. They strongly believe that craftsmanship is part of the core DNA of those brands and can never be replaced with the new horizons that technology opens, especially when facing consumers in a store. And this is true. The secret is to use technology wisely where it brings extra value for consumers and hence for the business, and not just because it’s accessible or being talked about in the media. Especially for tailoring, such an added value resides in the presentation of the final product customers are about to buy and the way they interact with said product.
You can pick up the fabric swatch you like and by placing it on the tailors’ desk, the 3D asset of your suit reflects the selected fabric. This subtle experience enables consumers to explore endless product configurations whilst seamlessly integrating with traditional tailoring processes. It fills a gap consumers previously experienced in the process, bringing true value by connecting the physical with the virtual world without being obtrusive.
KL: Last year, we saw significant uptake on enterprise 3D adoption. Can you tell us about the needs for 3D technology that you’ve seen in both product development and consumer facing activities?
SAL: Even though we are still in an era of ‘digital youth’, digital adoption is evolving quickly in the fashion industry and we are working passionately to deliver this evolution with leading brands.
In the end, it can be reduced to two fundamental needs: efficiency and innovation.
The first addresses reduction of lead-times by introducing virtual prototyping rounds before the actual physical sewing to save time and iterations with suppliers. It’s about having a better decision base at an earlier point in time. Leverage virtual twins of your product instead of rough sketches only a designer can understand. It’s about bringing all parties involved in the process – from concept to shelf – closer together.
The latter is about the WOW-effect, the ‘difference’, the ‘special’ and ‘never-seen-before’. Have you been to see a movie recently? It’s hard to find a movie without CGI (computer-generated imagery) and special effects. It allows us to move beyond the limitations of our material-based world and open up new horizons to envision new products. And 3D is allowing brands to do just that.
KL: We’ve covered a lot of ground today. Is there anything else you’ve been working on (or in the pipeline) that you haven’t already mentioned that our readers might be interested to learn? Any last thoughts?
SAL: The future is about connecting all the dots out there to a seamless experience for brands. Today, it’s still a fragmented landscape, especially in the Consumer Goods and Retail segment. We are putting a lot of energy in bringing all those bits and pieces into the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform from Dassault Systèmes – a single platform that consolidates all aspects from idea to consumer. A key driver in making this happen is also the involvement of the actual brands and industry stakeholders. We have to team up and define the future we are living in rather than following what someone else is presenting us. This is an invitation or call to action to all the brands out there if you will. You have to become active and involve yourself in the definition of this future.
This is not about buying products. It is about committing to a vision and jointly pushing it forward, step by step.