How Fashion Became A Digital Industry
Textile production is one of the oldest activities of mankind, dating back to around 5,000 B.C. Although most commercial garments are now manufactured through industrial methods, there are still small communities and artisans using traditional practices.
From manual weaving that churns out fewer clothes at more expensive prices, the textile industry has evolved into using mass production techniques with the help of machines to create more products at cheaper and faster rates. But fashion digital transformation calls for more and make manufacturing methods more efficient so as to cope up with the market’s ever-changing trends.
Why Is Digitalization Rising?
Industry 4.0, which is also known as the fourth industrial revolution, is calling for the digital transformation of the production and manufacturing processes by utilizing the innovations in information and communication technologies. Machines are networked and communicate through the Internet of Things (IoT), enabling new modes of production and value creation.
The world is moving towards the Industry 4.0 revolution where smart factories with embedded cyber-physical systems abound. However, before this transformation is realized, lagging industries should first focus on digitalizing traditional processes. Textile manufacturing is one of the biggest trades that need to embrace this shift if businesses want to stay relevant in the years to come.
Digitalization in the fashion industry helps companies attain increased output through agile productions and effective collaborations. Enhanced business processes result in more savings and a boost in profits. As customers are served better, their expectations are met, and consumer satisfaction increases.
Digitalization is often associated with automation, efficiency, adaptability, and swiftness. To enjoy these advantages and succeed in the fashion industry, companies have to first focus on data collection as much as they invest in the creative aspect of the business.
An area where textile businesses can start looking into is social media. Social media plays a major role in defining current trends and forecasting consumer preferences. Using consumer data gathered from sales, lead generation, and ad reception, it’s possible to infer demand for a particular color, style, and fabric.
For textile companies, the battle isn’t fought on storefronts and billboards alone. In this digital age, businesses are now required to utilize social media platforms and similar digital avenues to promote products. How the stimulation of new trends on social media upsets the sales of current trends is proof that digitalization in the fashion industry is the latest norm.
A large population of shoppers are now composed of tech-savvy individuals coming from the Millennial and Gen Z groups. Their purchasing behavior is geared toward online channels, and businesses have no reason not to follow the trend.
Businesses are taking the step toward digitalization by investing in the improvement of existing systems. According to studies, enterprises plan to invest around 5% of their annual turnover into improving their digital infrastructures. In exchange, they expect around 3.6% in savings and a growth rate of 2.9% annually.
Digitalization in the fashion industry continues to manifest its benefits in the form of fast-paced on demand production of apparel. It’s revamping the whole process so that it will take only hours to manufacture a finished product instead of taking days or weeks to design, prototype, and produce apparel.
3D fashion has also helped emerging textile businesses by making smaller batch production profitable. It has enabled SMEs to compete with larger producers through flexibility in design options and swift product turnover.
Consumer expectations, technological advancements, and outdated practices are forcing industries to embrace the digital revolution. Even in the early stages, the shift to digitalization is already showing how big of a game-changer it can be in the near future.
How Digital Innovation in Fashion is Changing the Game
Fashion digital transformation is promoting individualization, automation, and networking to improve the areas of production, communication, and logistics. Evolving customer expectations require new business models centered on digitalization and technological innovation.
Adidas, for instance, is showing the world the advantages of digital innovation in fashion. They’ve invested in localized, automated manufacturing that can churn out personalized products from digital designs.
In 2015, Adidas launched a facility called Speedfactory which incorporates 3D printing, computerized knitting, robotic manipulation, and minimal human workforce for overseeing the operation. Digital design allows customers to apply infinite product customization before the draft is converted to a finished product. Installing Speedfactory facilities closer to the target market also allows faster deliveries, drastically reducing shipping costs and delays.
Fashion digital transformation has made it possible for clients to customize apparel design and have it delivered in a matter of days. As systems become fully automated, the kind of manufacturing process that Adidas uses will be the norm.
Digitalization is becoming more evident not only in developed and industrialized countries but also in emerging economies. The goals of businesses in each industry and each country vary from improving operational efficiency to expanding product and service offers.
Regardless of the expected benefits of digitalization, they all center around using algorithm to auto-pilot processes. But this doesn’t mean the human workforce will be totally replaced in factories. Manpower is still needed even in extensively automated and intelligent facilities, although it’ll be deployed in other tasks than the traditional assembly line.
The Challenges of Digitizing Textile
When it comes to digitizing materials, hard and solid goods are more convenient to convert because they have a consistent surface that’s easier to render. They have a more definite structure that’s more resilient to distortions. Hard goods refer to products like furniture, tools, electronics, appliances, jewelry, and similar items that are rigid in texture.
Soft goods, on the other hand, are trickier to digitize since they have a more flowy characteristic that’s susceptible to irregularities. Examples of these products are apparel and beddings.
The differences in handling soft and hard goods can be seen even at the start of the inception process. To make up for the gap, existing apparel companies use a method that converts 2D models to 3D products through manual means.
The cut-and-sew method is the widely adopted process by textile businesses. It relies on producing 2D prototypes which are then used as patterns for cutting out raw materials. The cutouts are usually assembled by hand using a sewing machine.
The cut-and-sew methodology enables different sewing methods, fabric types, and pattern geometries to come together. However, the difficulty to convert soft goods into a workable component for 3D prototyping leaves many businesses stuck with using this crude sampling process.
Digital knitting utilizes 3D printing technology to replace manual labor for manufacturing soft goods. This can be matched with 3D prototyping software to expedite the creative process and quickly convert ideas into finished products.
Frontier’s library of 3D-ready digital swatches can be used in tandem with 3D rendering software to make it easier to visualize design ideas. Fashion designers don’t have to worry about digitizing textiles because the Frontier platform already has online samples ready for integration.
The Role of Frontier
Frontier is a cloud-based, digital platform that connects textile suppliers and fashion design companies worldwide. The fabric image exchange aims to build a community of digital native brands.
Fabric mills can digitize their entire warehouse and upload them to Frontier’s digital fabric library. This minimizes the need for fabric sampling. Since the inventory can be viewed online, manufacturing can be made on-demand, eliminate inventory caused by ill-fitting or unsold sizes.
Fashion designers can also benefit from Frontier’s wide range of fabric swatches. They can easily browse through thousands of available fabric styles, greatly reducing shipping and production costs. The digital samples can also be readily used with 3D rendering software for faster prototyping and quicker product launches.