“Within crisis, are the seeds of opportunity”, as a wise woman aka Marylin Monroe once said. When the lock down hit first the UK and subsequently India, the development and production of our 2020 summer styles came to an abrupt halt. And then an opportunity magically presented itself, allowing us to carry on with the product development despite the factory being closed and everyone staying at home; 3D fitting on an avatar.
Traditionally, fashion brands fit their products somewhere between two and five times on a live model before giving the go ahead to start production. This includes sewing the physical samples and couriering them from the factory to the brand. In many cases, a lot of changes are made during the fit process; length, width, pocket placement, print size etc.
Neither making the samples nor fitting them on a live model were possible during lock down. After two weeks of being at an almost complete standstill, I had an early Sunday morning Zoom call with the owner of Anish India Exports, the Indian factory we are working with. At that time everything seemed a bit hopeless – especially when one, like Anish, had to support the 250 people on his payroll financially while being unable to produce anything. Being a true entrepreneur, his spirits were high though as he sees opportunities in everything. During this call, he was sharing exciting news about a software called Browzwear that he had invested in.
What Anish was offering us, was to do all of the initial fittings on an avatar and submit only one final sample for approval prior to starting production. The 3D fitting would allow us to fit the clothes on an avatar with our VILDNIS standard body measurements and check details such as general fit, fabric drape, stitching and print scale. This way, the factory's pattern makers could continue developing the patterns from their own homes and we could continue fitting the samples without breaking 'curfew' to meet with a live model.
Sophia, our VILDNIS avatar, wearing the soon-to-come Bromo Jumpsuit. (We have subsequently shortened her arms a bit...)
I immediately jumped at the opportunity. We were unsure how long the lock down would last, and whether there would be any need for summer product at all by the time we could restart production, but at least we could move as far forward as possible with all the new developments and be ready for the reopening of the factory.
We have now trialled the 3D fitting for 2.5 months and it is honestly one of the most exciting innovations for the fashion industry that I have seen, sustainable fabrics and processes aside. Suddenly problems, such as varying sizing due to the live fit models gaining or losing weight, and difficulties in deciding the scale of the fabric prints, have become issues of the past.
And not only has this opportunity provided us with the short-term benefit of being able to progress during lock down, it also comes with many long-term benefits in terms of sustainability, which is why the factory invested in the software in the first place.
By cutting down the number of actual samples, we are minimising our usage of fabric and thereby minimising waste (trust me; few people want to wear the initial proto samples when developed in the traditional way and, more often than not, they end up in landfill)
Additionally, we are also reducing our carbon footprint, both in terms of sewing the actual samples (energy usage) and sending them by courier from the factory to our office. For me, those are the most important points as they will lower VILDNIS’ environmental footprint and enable us to become even more sustainable – without having to compromise on the quality and fit of the garments.
There are, however, also big savings in terms of time and money, and the latter will ultimately impact you, our customer, positively as well. By cutting down on the sampling, we can save ‘man hours’ on the sewing machines and cut down the costs of fit models; and while it may be a small saving, it is included in the calculations of the retail prices. Overall a success story!
And the story doesn’t end here. Sometime during May, Anish called me again to present another opportunity to me; a virtual photo shoot. Or Eco Shot as the software is called.
Eco shot is a collaboration between Browzwear and Metail, another fashion innovator, making it possible to replace the 3D avatar with a real photo model who have been 3D scanned. This means, that we can use the 3D images of a real model wearing our products on the website at a time when we are unable to organise a big photoshoot due to lock down restrictions.
Bea, the 3D photo model, also wearing the soon-to-come Bromo Jumpsuit. Bea’s measurements are close to our standard size 10 measurements.
Eco Shot is still in the very early stages and it may never replace real life photoshoots entirely, but it is solving a problem for us here and now, and long term, as the software evolves and more models are scanned, it could have a positive impact on the overall carbon footprint of the clothing industry.
Suddenly we would be able to use a model from LA without having to fly her across the world (currently we only use UK-based models, but flying models from abroad in for shoots is common practise in the industry)
Necessity truly is the mother of invention and while the Covid-19 crisis has been a true tragedy on so many levels, some good things have also come out of it. The 3D fitting is one of my favourites as it has the potential to lower the carbon footprint of the fashion industry considerably when it becomes the norm.
Main caption: Sophia taking a virtual walk on Camber Sands Beach, wearing the soon-to-come Baikal jeans.