Fashion Design And Changes In Technology (Guide)

Today, computer-aided design (CAD) is being used more and more in the fashion design sector. Although most designers initially sketch designs by hand, a growing number take these hand sketches and put them on the computer. CAD allows designers to look at designs of clothing on virtual models, in many colours and shapes, therefore saving time by needing fewer adjustments later.

Fashion designers attempt to design clothes which are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. They consider who is likely to wear a garment and the situations in which it will be worn, they also have a wide range and combinations of materials to work with and a wide range of colors, patterns and styles to choose from.

Designers conduct research on fashion trends and interpret them for their audience. Their specific designs are used by manufacturers. This is the essence of a designer’s role; however, there is variation within this that is determined by the buying and merchandising approach, and product quality; for example, budget retailers will use inexpensive fabrics to interpret trends, but high-end retailers will ensure that the best available fabrics are used.

The Rise Of 3d Printing

In the recent years, the use of 3D printing in the fashion industry has been increasing: during the creative process, for prototyping or even for production. Since the beginning of the 2010’s, the 3D printing technology has been more and more accessible and now allows new creative experimentations, pops up on numbers of runway shows, and gives consumers a new mass-customization solution.

What can we 3D print in fashion today?
  • Garments
  • Integral pieces

For the time being, additive manufacturing is more easily applied to rigid creations and geometric shapes, rather than flexible garments. Thus, the first pieces printed in 3D were “integral” pieces, as the one presented by the Dutch designer Iris van Herpen during the ready-to-wear fashion show “Crystallisation” (2011).

Produced in collaboration with London architect Daniel Widrig, the parts were printed using SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) 3D printers. 3D printing can significantly expand creative possibilities for fashion design. Indeed, it makes it possible to create shapes without molds, and thus manages to produce elements of an extreme intricacy that one could not reach otherwise.

To overcome the rigidity constraint, today, most 3D printed garments are built using mesh systems. When it comes to the fashion industry, 3D printing could also be used to make ornaments for traditional textile, approaching the idea of a “jewel” for garments, much like the 3D printed clothes developed by the young Anastasia Ruiz in collaboration with Sculpteo; the elements of a garment (buttons, rings …) or even leather goods, like the Exocet Paris bags.

During the Spring Summer 2018 fashion show of designer Iris van Herpen at the Paris Fashion Week, the ornaments of one of the dresses presented were 3D printed using the PolyJet technique, which allows to create pieces of high-quality resin, with a smooth surface. It works like a 2D inkjet printer: the printer projects small drops of a photopolymer liquid that is instantly treated with UV light.

In addition to the use of costume jewelry, additive manufacturing is used in two different ways in jewelry:

Prototyping: To produce molds for complex and technical parts. Houses like Cartier or Goossens (part of Métiers d’Arts Chanel) use 3D printing to save time and reduce costs, thanks to the use of casting.

Direct production: Gemmyo has been using 3D printing to produce its simplest parts quickly and reduce storage costs since 2011. At the beginning, all the jewels sold on their website were computer-generated images of 3D modeled jewelry, upon which the customers could make their choice. Then, upon order, the jewels were 3D printed. 

Today the firm mainly sells already produced jewelry, in its physical stores and on its website. In the watch industry, 3D printing can also be used for prototyping but also for manufacturing, as seen in the latest Panerai Lo Scienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Titanio which case is 3D printed, through the Direct Metal Laser Sintering technique (DMLS).

As for footwear, 3D printing is widely used by sneaker brands: Nike, Adidas, New Balance, or Reebok to name a few, major brands have tried it out with varying degrees of success. One of the major interests for the technology lies in the possibilities of customization: take Adidas Futurecraft.

Unlike traditional techniques, 3D printing would allow Adidas to address the specific needs of each customer by printing each sole according to the foot of its customers. In addition, printing a 3D outsole allows you to configure its structure to maximize the performance of the final shoe: accentuate more pressurized areas and make points with low pressure more flexible. 

A project that has not yet reached the mass adoption stage, but prefigures a real revolution: the soles created by this method incorporate a multilayer structure that could not be developed with traditional molding techniques.

3D printing has been described as nothing short of a new industrial revolution that holds potential for major innovation in terms of business models and consumption patterns. This technological development is part of the 4th industrial revolution that is characterized by a range of new technologies fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all industries including luxury fashion.

We are seeing an evolution from traditional textile production methods, such as pattern-cutting and sewing textiles together, towards a textile being totally 3-dimensionally grown.

An inspiring example of this can be seen in Iris Van Herpen’s latest haute couture collection “Ludi Nature”. The foliage dress incorporates traditional textiles with 3D printed plastic elements utilizing PolyJet technology. Three variations of the 3D printed material were altered on a droplet level, achieving the unique color and transparency on the dress which allows it to seamlessly fuse with the fabric material.

Another benefit of integrating 3D printing and textiles together, is that it enhances the practicality and comfort of the garment for the wearer. The interface that touches the skin of the wearer can be the soft fabric, while the complex 3D printed design elements can be enjoyed on the outer part of the garment – enhancing the comfort for the wearer.

The design process from design concept to final production takes many months. However, researching current fashion trends and making predictions of future trends is the first step in creating the design. Some fashion designers do their own research while others depend on trend reports published by fashion industry trade groups.

Trend reports let you know what styles, colours and fabrics will be popular for a certain season in the near future. While, textile manufacturers use these trend reports to design fabrics and patterns, fashion designers begin to sketch designs.

Large design houses on the other hand, hire their own pattern-makers, tailors, and sewers who create the master patterns and sew the prototypes. Designers working in small design firms, or those new to the business, usually do most of the technical pattern-making and sewing tasks, in addition to designing the clothing.

Product Development In Fashion Design

When it comes to methods for generating ideas for a new product or an improved product, this may vary from company to company and may be informal or formal but in generality, these methods will include:

Coming up with ideas, brainstorming sessions, focus group discussions, and market research analysis dissection sessions.

For instance - Company A which produces predominantly cotton based fabrics of very high quality and design aesthetics that are internationally sought after has been inundated with consumer requests to also produce silk based fabrics, which will allow them (the consumers) to be more creative with their styles and afford them the same quality and aesthetics they are used to. 

Company A has finally seen the need to humour their loyal consumers and so they start generating ideas for this new product. Ideas generated in the process step mentioned above go through a procedure involving thorough screening and scaling based on the following criteria: feasibility of idea, design and development time, estimated cost of production, expected return-on-investment, benefit to consumer, competitors’ market share, time to market and manpower and technological requirements.

The first stage which is product idea, is a very crucial step in the product development process and great care is taken here because product ideas which scale through this stage successfully have a potential to make it to the production line and onwards into the market and to the consumers. At this point, the idea has now gradually evolved into a concept.

Company A from stage one above has generated twenty ideas for the new silk-based product and they have screened them using the stated criteria and have scaled the ideas down to two or three which have new/improved product potential. At this point, thus testing the concept, it is imperative to find out consumers’ response to the product(s). 

This step tests consumers’ understanding of the product and creates an avenue for further improvement on the product. This step also samples consumer opinion on how the product will fare in comparison to alternative products in the market. Concept testing is also valuable in finding out the particular market a company’s product will appeal to (if it didn’t already know that) as well as provide ideas on possible pricing options. 

In this step, attention is also given to design details, patent registrations, design registrations and other intellectual property and legal technicalities. Tests developed here also investigate how the consumer perceives that the features of this product will translate to benefits.

Company A has come up with concepts for three silk products: one product will serve the needs of the female garment industry, the second seeks to address a gap in accessories for men’s wear, and a third wants to bring variety into the interior décor industry. 

Tests will be developed to find out if these products are really needed, how and where they are needed, areas of improvement and possible usage options. If Company A were a fashion and design business, this will probably be the point for fashion shows, private showing to buyers and stockists and to the Press.

Business And Marketing Analytics: This stage is possibly the most critical step in the product development process. At this point, key departments in the textile and clothing industry are involved, including; design, marketing, manufacturing and finance. The design department is tasked with developing designs in keeping with the brand identity of the company’s products and its aesthetics or may be charged with developing a unique identity for the new product(s).

The marketing department is the connection between the company and its consumers and is tasked with market research to discover consumer needs and perceptions of the product(s), plan consumer test panels, plan possible pricing, launch-to-market and promotion of the product(s).

Marketing is also tasked with monitoring the success of the new product after distribution. The manufacturing department is charged with the actual physical production of the new product. They determine what is needed for production, how and where to source raw materials needed to produce the said product(s), availability of machinery needed as well as man-power resource needs of the production. 

Sometimes, there may be a need to outsource the manufacturing of the new product especially if the manufacturing department does not have the capacity to produce or the cost of producing in-house is higher than the cost of outsourcing. The finance department plays a key role in the coordination of the cost implications of all the activities that are involved in the product development process. 

This department collates budgeting/financing needs of each department and comes up with financial projections showing the cost of production, cost of marketing and launch, return on investment as well as the profitability of the new product(s) venture. They are also charged with monitoring the budget for the development of the new product in order to ensure that activities stay within budget. All the activities of the departments mentioned above, almost always go on simultaneously.

At this stage, everything that has been analyzed in the previous step is now put into action. Funds are made available to all departments involved and manufacturing kicks off. At this point, there is little or no room for modifications so it is important that all the previous steps before the actual production process is carried out with little or no margins for error. 

Marketing of the new product(s) also kicks off at this stage to create awareness and to have people anticipate and even pre-order these products, if possible.

Commercialization: Launching of the new product(s) and post launching/monitoring activities happen in this step. Products are being delivered to the market and consumers are purchasing. It is important at this stage that the supply chain for the company and new product(s) is maintained in its most efficient form.

Advertisements and awareness campaigns should also be very strong at this time. Monitoring of success of the product in the market, as well as reactions to pricing, will also help the company to make adjustments for proper pricing as well as collate data for future ventures.

The success of a product in any industry and especially in the textile/apparel industry is determined by the interaction and integration of value, time, cost and quality. Creativity, willingness to overcome errors and contingency planning are core requirements for product development. All departments working in product development must work in tandem and with clear set goals to maximize productivity.

The goals consist of the purpose like who is the design for? What is the use of the design etc. The constraints on the other hand are the materials and the platforms to be used. Some of these may be:

Identify The Target Market - The market that a product is catering to is segregated on the basis of gender, age, social and economic segment. Here the market is a group of people or the consumers. Each market segment is going to have different requirements and expectations from a design and all of these have to be satisfied by the designer, in order to make it a success.

Maintaining an Identity for the brand - Every product has a specific benefit and caters to a particular clientele. The price ranges are also fixed since generally they cater to a specific target market. All this has to remain more or less constant so that the product has a proper brand identity.

Research & Analysis

Proper research and planning is very important. The question that might arise here is that how much time should be devoted to this particular stage and the answer to that would be, in a proportional manner. This proportion has to be maintained keeping in mind the various segments that we come across during designing. 

For example, an apparel research could comprise of an adequate study of the current fashion trends and forecast. Fashion forecast may be customized according to the clients requirement or could be even accessed through existing ones in the market. At the mass end of the market, designers and merchandisers spend time scanning trend forecasting databases for predictions on what colours, silhouettes and fabrications will be popular in the coming seasons.

Mass retailers also monitor what’s selling at luxury department stores and buy pieces they can use for pattern inspiration. The sustenance and growth of the clothing industry depends greatly on the process of product development. As this is essentially its life-blood, for reasons, the least of which is the dynamic and ever-changing demands and trends which are characteristic of the industry - consumer demands are in a constant state of flux.

Therefore, without the implementation of this all-important process by any company in the industry, in two words: competitive sustenance, it runs the risk of its activities quickly grinding to a halt and possibly dying off. Product development strategies and processes for textile companies for example vary as much as the number of companies in this field.

These Reasons Include:
  • Perception of a need/gap in the market by a company
  • Demand by consumers for new or improved products
  • Product innovation drive
  • New products introduced into the market by the competition
  • Changes in technology
  • Trends and seasonal requirements and changes.
The nature of the fashion business requires consistent communication with suppliers, manufacturers, and customers all over the world.

Furthermore, large designer brands which have a 'name' as their brand such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Justice, or Juicy are likely to be designed by a team of individual designers under the direction of a design director.

A fashion designer is someone who loves to study fashion trends, sketch designs, select materials, and have a part in all the production aspects of their designs. Fashion designers create women's, men's and children's apparel. This might include sportswear, maternity wear, outerwear, underwear, formalwear, eyewear and footwear. There are also accessory designers who design belts, scarves, hats, handbags and hosiery.

Though most clothing worn for everyday wear falls within a narrow range of conventional styles, unusual garments are usually sought for special occasions such as evening wear or party dresses. This is influenced by cultural and social attitudes, and has varied over time and place. Fashion designers also work in a number of ways not only in designing clothing but also accessories such as bracelets and necklaces.

A small number of high-fashion (haute couture) designers are self-employed. They create custom designs for individual clients, usually at very high prices. Other high-fashion designers sell their designs in their own stores or cater to specialty stores or high-end fashion department stores. These designers create a mixture of original garments and also established fashion trends.

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