BEGINNER’S GUIDE: WHAT IS 3D DIGITAL DESIGN IN FASHION AND WHY IT MATTERS?
Updated: Feb 13
Some four years ago, I came across geist.xyz, a fashion project by zeitgeisted.com of simulated algorithmic synthetic textiles. I had been working with textiles for many years yet to see them move in that ghostly manner was a strangely new experience.
It was the beginning of my interest and research in using technology and a digital approach to textiles & fashion to design and make smartly and sustainably.
Fast forward to the present, in my first blog post for NOFORM, I talk about what is 3D digital design in fashion and why it really matters? The post is intended for beginners.
The digitalization of the fashion industry has already taken place from e-learning, cloud-based PLM (product lifecycle management) systems, and e-commerce to the use of social media for marketing and promotion. The timing to talk about 3D digital design couldn’t be better. The digitalization of processes has created a foundation ideal to introduce 3D digital design in almost every step of the supply chain.
The discipline of 3D visualization/modeling is not new. Industrial designers have been practicing it since the early 90s (link) however, in fashion it is still relatively a new concept. In the same way, an automotive designer could put together different components of a car to visualize it in a 3D environment, a fashion professional could now do with pattern pieces. Since fashion entails 3-dimensional physical products, it only makes sense to conceive it in a 3D environment.
One reason for the late entry of the technology in the fashion industry could be the further development that the technology needed to simulate a plethora of textiles with soft organic properties as opposed to hard materials like metal and wood. Second, the fashion industry adapts technology slower than other industries, so they say. But it will be a discussion for another time.
From the rise and popularity of digital characters like Miquela, Noonoouri, and Shudu who immerse the audience in their virtual worlds to fashion brands selling virtual clothes in the virtual world of gaming (link), everything indicates a fundamental shift in how we want to create and consume fashion in the 21st century.
3D Digital Design & Education
Fashion is a dynamic discipline. It is built on change and adaptation, yet there are only a handful of fashion colleges with a progressive outlook that train students for future-proof careers. With so much technology and industry solutions at disposal, one may only wonder why?
For fashion design students, who tend to be more visual in their design thinking, a challenging part of the process is translating the ideas from 2D sketch to the 3D mockup or sample. Incorporating technology and the 3D virtual design component in the process can greatly ease it. Any changes made in pattern pieces are seen on the body in real-time. This eliminates the guesswork, allowing more room for experimentation and chances of innovation.
These 3D CAD programs can be used to teach core skills too, like draping and patternmaking.
3D Digital Design & Industry
The sampling process is the most expensive part of the business for any brand. With multiple prototypes required for approval at different stages, there is a significant waste of resources. Implementing a 3D digital design process can help with early visualization, quick changes, and approvals, all from the point of inception to the manufacturing through a connected PLM system. This would clearly be a mammoth task for any established organization, however a step in the right direction to increase productivity.
Imagine the possibility for a brand to have a digital inventory of 3D models of every garment it designs and manufactures. The models can then be used for e-commerce where customers can make better buying choices. Technically accurate and photorealistic rendering is already replacing traditional product photography. The benefits of the 3D digital design go well beyond the design and prototyping. Combine these 3D models with AR (Augmented Reality) and body scanning and there is a new customer shopping experience that many retailers are testing (link).
All things considered, the 3D digital design is here to stay for the fashion industry. It is an expression of changing times. Those who embrace and adapt will lead.