At Sourcing Journal’s Fall Summit on Nov. 2, industry leaders discussed how better technological integration helps brands cut costs, boost speed-to-market, better leverage data insights, and reach sustainability goals, in a panel moderated by Sourcing Journal’s features editor, Kate Nishimura.
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For K3, a concept-to-consumer technology company focused on software solutions for the fashion and retail sectors, Kimberly Morgan, chief commercial officer of the fashion portfolio, said she has seen some trends developing. Companies are working to standardize processes, embrace technology and make better use of data.
For one PVH exec, all of this rings true.
“We’ve got data challenges, process challenges and today, with the speakers that we’ve had, you had a very holistic overview of all the challenges that we are facing in the fashion industry—just looking at the end-to-end systems that apparel companies need to create, make, sell product,” Richa Agarwal, senior director, digital go to market at PVH Corp., said. “Getting the right data at the right time to make the right decision is very challenging for any company.”
The Calvin Klein owner uses a “plethora” of systems, but “not all systems talk to each other in the right way,” Agarwal said. Integrated organizational change management is critical, especially given the speed at which technology is changing, she added.
According to William “Bill” Wilcox, who founded Clothing Tech LLC in 2019 and holds the title of president, the Garment Digital Twin 3D CAD tool created specifically for the fashion industry draws on 40 years of learnings from the automotive, aerospace and electronics industries.
“We noticed that a car, which has 30,000 components, takes two years to design; a garment, which has about 50 components, on average, takes six months to design for many brands. And the question is, why?” said Wilcox. Based on this math, designing a garment should take little more than 36 hours, he pointed out.
Wilcox laid out a few reasons for this seeming discrepancy.
“One is that the information is not digital—a tech pack is a digital document, but it’s not digital information,” he continued. “The other thing is, every time you communicate expert-to-expert, they don’t always see eye to eye, so you have to go back and forth, and there’s wasted time in that.”
But Agarwal cautioned drawing parallels between divergent industries.
“Designing clothing is not as complex as designing a car,” she said. “I also think it’s not quite as simple.”
That said, brands are taking on a lot of “duplicate work” with 3D software. Another obstacle retailers face is they often prefer to stick with tradition instead of leaping into new—and to them, unproven and unfamiliar—technology.
“Part of the problem is with, potentially, the tool set. So when you look at, we’ve been adopting digital product creation, I think in the industry for about five years, most companies are in some part of the process. And yet I’ve talked to almost no companies that have changed the calendar, where they’re starting to design later, that there’s been no efficiencies gained from that, even though there’s millions of dollars spent and lots of energy put into that,” Wilcox said. “Why is that? We said that the definition of the product needs to be first digital, and it needs to be comprehensive, which means that… they’re all integrated into one thing, there’s just one garment and it’s all digital.”
The advantage of that, he continued, working without duplicating efforts. Other benefits include allowing designers who don’t have the skill set of pattern-making or sample-making, for example, to do their share of the heavy lifting; they don’t need to know how to create a color but can instead drag and drop it onto the garment.
“This separation of skills allows us to work in parallel, which is really, I think, a fundamental difference and in the end, you get a digital definition which is I think what we all want,” Wilcox said.