While innovative e-commerce has transformed the way merchants appeal to consumers, how fashion brands sell to retailers is still mired in physical samples, flat images or the complicated affair of transmitting massive 3D image files. But Los Angeles-based tech firm Vntana wants to change all of that.
On Tuesday, the company revealed the launch of a new 3D digital showroom that aims to streamline the wholesale sales process. The solution amounts to a no-fuss virtual line sheet that takes brands’ existing 3D assets and quickly turns them into an interactive selling tool that’s secure and shareable.
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“Pre-COVID-19, it was physical samples, which are expensive and oftentimes can be late. It was often difficult to do. Then COVID-19 happened, which held up supply chains and prevented physical samples from going anywhere, and 2D just wasn’t cutting it,” Ashley Crowder, cofounder and chief executive officer of Vntana, explained to WWD. “But having a 3D version of a product really gives retailers the same experience.”
But 3D imagery offers benefits to the fashion industry even beyond pandemic-era b-to-b. As experts in mixed-reality technology with experience working with brands like Hugo Boss and Adidas, the firm created a platform that takes the pain out of embedding 360-degree visuals on their e-commerce sites.
The same technology underlies the new digital showrooms, allowing fashion brands to sell before samples have even been produced. Ultimately, that means they can save time and cost, while providing an intriguing experience for retail customers.
Apparel designer, distributor, manufacturer and marketer Mamiye Brothers has been using the platform for its business-to-business sales. Chuck Mamiye, CEO, explained that “our 3D design files were too big to share, which ended up taking minutes to load. Vntana’s digital showroom allows us to instantly share a 3D showroom on the web, so our clients can see every detail in 3D, just as if they were at a physical showroom.”
The system features patented algorithms that can automatically process 3D models quickly without sacrificing quality, then outputs a password-protected link and QR code to make sharing easy. The technology is compatible with some of the most commonly used 3D design software, including Browzwear, Clo, Modo, Keyshot and Rhino, among others.
“[Three-D design files are] almost 500 megabytes. If you tried to put that on a website, it would crash,” Crowder continued. “So our software can ingest all of those different files, no matter what design program you use — from Browzwear to Clo to Modo and more — and smart algorithms reduce the size by up to 95 percent.”
According to the company, the whole process takes just minutes instead of weeks. And because each outputted 3D file retains its metadata, product information such as fabric and style number stays connected to the image.
The other benefit, Crowder added, is that the process not only prepares the 3D assets for the web and mobile, but also for augmented reality. In other words, once retailers adopt the platform, they will have assets they can deploy for consumer campaigns that allow shoppers to see and experience the products from all angles.
The nine-year-old tech firm has long been an evangelist for augmented and virtual reality, so the use case is not all that surprising. But its 3D development isn’t bound by any one particular niche. For instance, the company has been exploring the NFT craze in fashion, whose blockchain-based non-fungible tokens often relate to 3D images of real or imagined products. The digital goods’ built-in, verifiable authenticity and ownership make them primed for exclusive or rare offerings.
It’s also been pushing forward on new integrations involving gaming technology, looking for new ways to simplify complicated initiatives.
“We actually have partnerships with Unity and Unreal, the two main game engines,” Crowder said. “If you saw Balenciaga’s virtual fashion show, they built it in Unreal. But it took tons of manual work of 3D artists, and customization. We just launched our Unreal plugin last week to automate all of that.”