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What's New … in Fashion Design?

“Apparel professionals are faced with a unique visualization challenge—the inherently 2D production cycles, with flat patterns and materials, must result in a product that optimally fits the three-dimensional human form.”
(Lectra White Paper: 3D Solutions for the Apparel Market)

Designing clothes has until recently been a lengthy, time-consuming and expensive process. Using traditional methods, pattern cutters would work from hand-drawn sketches to produce prototype garments. These would then be altered and re-made several times before they were ready to go into production. The same design in a different fabric or with different detailing would involve the making of a whole new prototype. In a global workplace, the expense (in time and money) of designing and sending samples halfway across the world to be approved or sent back for further alterations, could represent over half the cost of the finished garment.

It's no surprise then, that the fashion industry, being both highly competitive and visually orientated, has always been an early adopter of graphical design technology. In the recent past, this often meant fairly simple 2D design software such as Adobe Illustrator or various pattern-grading and cutting programmes, but in the last few years a revolution has taken place in the fashion studio, as designers increasingly adopt tools which allow them to visualise their creations directly in three dimensions.

This week, the What's New? team have been learning about the impact of this software on the fashion industry, taking Lectra's Modaris 3D Fit package as a case in point. First introduced at the IMB Show in 2006, after eight years in development, 3D Fit is designed to blend seamlessly with Modaris pattern-making software, and is compatible with all industry-standard CAD packages. This software allows the designer to apply a pattern to a virtual mannequin which can be viewed from every angle. The model can even be animated, allowing the designer to see how her creation will move with the body. An entire range can be created using variations on the same basic pattern shapes. Designs can also be tested against a variety of fabrics and body shapes, all before the first cut of scissors on cloth. Just as importantly, these designs can be rapidly and easily shared with all the parties involved in the production process, simply by emailing the files for approval. This not only cuts costs and saves time, but improves the environmental profile of the finished product.

“We began by creating patterns in Modaris, as before,” said Lotta Silow of KappAhl – a major Scandinavian fashion retailer.“We then simulated the pattern in Modaris 3D Fit, where we could examine the look and hang of the garment and easily modify it—moving a seam, shortening or lengthening the garment, etc. We then showed it to the designer or the buyer for their input before making the first prototype. The ability to make all these adjustments before we had created a prototype made the entire process much faster, and we saw right away that the first prototype was very good, much better than what we were getting before.”

The 3D virtual model can be created in one of three ways: by body-scanning – very useful for those designing for big-name catwalk models, by importing from an external programme such as 3D Studio Max or Maya, or by creating directly in 3D Fit, where a huge array of easy-to-use parametric sliders give the designer fine control over the body shape. Once the pattern pieces have been drawn, they are applied to the virtual mannequin and can be previewed using a library of generic fabric properties. The process works for a huge variety of fabrics, including leather and silk.

The time taken to produce a 3D preview of a garment depends on its complexity as well as the pattern-maker's expertise and the company's use of best practices, but simple garments, such as T-shirts, can be designed and previewed in as little as a few minutes. Designing by using variations of existing garments can also speed up the process considerably. 3D Fit is used every day by apparel designers all over the world, in products ranging from lingerie to children's wear and technical work clothing. As Modaris looks to the future and continues to develop innovative solutions, the only limitations are the vision and skill of the designer.

Ten Quick Facts About … 3D Fashion Design Software

  • shortens lead times and reduces development costs, errors and waste
  • facilitates collaborative working between remote parties
  • brings together 2D patterns, fabric information and 3D virtual models
  • can be used as a presentation tool for early marketing
  • 3D visual prototyping has previously been used in automotive, aeronautical and industrial/mechanical product design‘
  • more than half a garment’s cost depends on decisions made during the design process
  • garments can be designed and previewed in 3D in as little as a few minutes
  • Modaris 3D Fit took eight years to develop and was first introduced in 2006 at the IMB Show
  • 3D Fit mannequins can be made by body-scanning, by importing from third-party design software or by creating directly within the programme
  • Modaris 3D Fit is used by major clothing manufacturers every day, all over the world

About Us …

The What's New? team are dedicated to bringing you the latest news of technological innovations in the creative industries. Whether you are interested in cutting-edge design software or virtual worlds, intelligent building materials, motion capture animation techniques, ecological water recycling systems, or new, physical gaming interfaces, you'll find it on this site, and by tuning in to What's New?, Channel Blah on Wednesdays at 6.30pm.

Download HD quality clips and interviews with industry professionals, or have them streamed to your mobile phone. Read Quick Facts on each topic, or explore our growing collection of in-depth articles, online resources and tutorials for projects you can do at home. Join in the discussions on the Post-It Forums or add your professional or social profile to the What's New? Network. You can also subscribe to our newsletter or RSS feed for the latest news, as soon as we get it.
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