Digital Fabric Sourcing is Responsible Fabric Sourcing


*This blog post is adapted from our presentation of same name at Functional Fabric Fair 2019 in Portland, Oregon.

Responsible fabric sourcing is a concept that evolves as market practices evolve. Today responsible fabric sourcing implicitly means digital fabric sourcing, and the practice of digital fabric sourcing creates vast fabric databases. For modern fabric suppliers and designers to practice responsible fabric sourcing, they must have the necessary tools to collect data, make it accessible, and, most importantly, make digital functions central to sourcing and design.

How much impact can digital sourcing really have? If we take as an example a large garment manufacturer that produces an estimated 20,000 samples per year, the reductions in environmental impact are staggering. By switching to digital sampling, this manufacturer could reduce production by an estimated 63%, saving five tons of waste fabric, which requires 32 tons of CO2 (from shipping, travel, etc.), 19,000,000 gallons of water (production), and eight tons of chemicals (production, dying) to produce. Let’s look at seven ways that digital sourcing manages to make such incredible savings while offering other benefits in the process.

  1. Waste reduction - Fabric, water, and chemical use are all cut back considerably with digital sourcing, and that’s to say nothing of the considerable time savings from reductions in travel and sample production.

  2. Faster to Market - Digital communication is fast, (often) visual, and efficient. Accurate data and digital fabric samples for easier decision making.

  3. Innovation - Digital design is faster and more dynamic than traditional sampling methods. Create more looks and variations to deliver on-trend products to market.

  4. Reduce Complexity - Simulating design and selecting digital fabric samples using a combination of digital tools centralizes concepts for review.

  5. Product Quality - Accurate data ensures tighter tolerance and reduces unknown issues.

  6. Sustainability - In addition to waste reduction, digital resources drive down carbon emissions and save money on shipping, travel, and sampling.

  7. Confidentiality - All new product info stays in-house before going to factory prototyping.

Combining Digital Tools

Adapting digital workflows takes time, but today many resources work well together to streamline processes from concepting to fabric selection to design to prototyping. As a platform for fabric databases, collection creation, sharing, and communication, Frontier is compatible with many other digital textile products, including CLO, Browzwear, and Optitex, offering designers seamless transitions between tools. This compatibility will only increase over time, continuing to refine and define responsible sourcing. 

From Here to Digital

If you already have some form of 3D process in place, digital sourcing could be the last mile where you get all the digital assets which will drive all your creation. If you’ve just started thinking about going digital, building a library is a good place to start. There are solutions on the market that are free and requires no hardware. With Frontier, you can utilize resources already on hand in your workplace (or in your pocket) to digitize fabric, all you need is a scanner (or a smartphone). Once a fabric sample image is loaded into the cloud, the computing process on the server will turn it into recognizable, compatible data. Digitizing individual samples is time-consuming, but you only have to do it once for each sample and making it an ongoing task will reduce outdated fabric selection methods before you know it.