A Virtual World-Based PLM for the Fashion Industry

Now this is interesting. From the SLNN site (Link):

The Fashion Research Institute (FRI) in conjunction with IBM is developing a product lifecycle management solution for the fashion industry that specifically addresses the industry’s unique needs, cutting time to market. Designers will be able to access 3-D tools from within SL or Open Sim to create their fashion product. The 3-D models of the design can be shown in a virtual showroom. Everyone who has a share in the product will be available to review the design: product managers, designers, design directors, merchandizers, costers, executives, sales staff and show room managers. After the creative vision has been finalized, factory specifications are created that will enable the item to be manufactured in real life.

As it turns out, I knew a fashion designer working in NYC, and at one point did some research on the software tools used in that industry. What I learned is what the piece claims is still true: 2D artwork – especially work done in Adobe Illustrator – rules. Not a big surprise to me since I’ve done some “soft goods” design, but still a disappointment. What is a surprise to me is what’s said near the end of this piece:

Dr. Mike Pitman (Rez Tone in SL) is IBM’s Principle Investigator on the research collaboration between FRI and IBM. “We began with a research collaboration to study ways of applying virtual worlds to the product design process in her industry. As it turns out, virtual worlds, when applied correctly, can yield huge cuts in costs and design cycle time for big business.”
“The 3D models allow factory specs to be generated automatically, minimizing errors.

I’m interested in how IBM is going to do this. Perhaps I can get Dr. Pitman to explain what they’re doing.

{Update: Via Raph Koster’s blog I read a nice complementary article over on C|Net, “CAD software is the new black” (Link). Some of the company/software names sound familiar, and I suspect these are the same fashion software providers I found during my own research a few years ago.

I’d hoped they’d moved more quickly into 3D, but from a quick check I don’t believe they have. Apparently they’re still mostly just 2D pattern printing applications and logistical PLM solutions without any real 3D component linked back to the actual design.

FashionCAD and PatternMaker are still 2D pattern applications. SnapFashun isn’t the name I recall, but the way it works using a 2D mix-n-match catalog similar to many 2D virtual world/videogame avatar-building interfaces is very familiar. Probably just a new name for what I’d previously found.

I had hopes that Lectra’s Kaledo 3D Trend application would be, y’know, fully three-dimensional. Instead, it seems pretty basic and, from what I can tell on their website, doesn’t use 3D avatars but rather 2D images placed in a 3D scene. That was disappointing. Furthermore, their other offerings don’t appear to incorporate a 3D avatar/design either. If something they offer does, someone please tell me. I’m just doing cursory reviews of these websites.

Finally, my memory is failing me here but I want to say that there were only two applications using 3D models when I did my research. One was using Maya’s relatively new cloth option and selling a plug-in. That might have been DressingSim from Digital Fashion,ltd. but I don’t recall it being Japanese.

I’m pretty sure the other was V-Stitcher or an early incarnation of it since I recall the AccuMark name. That makes sense to me considering it’s by far the most impressive application available. You can see it in action on the Browzwear website promo (Link). Definitely worth your time since the link to a virtual world seems to be the only thing missing in their solution.

Now go read the previous portion of this post again and see how this fits together.}

{Update 2: Just saw that C|Net has an accompanying gallery of images with some additional info (Link). Apparently Lectra does offer a nearly full 3D solution, from what’s shown.}

{Update 3: Via comment here and an associated comment on the C|Net article, I’ve become aware of Optitex (Link). That’s one I completely missed. And while I intend to post another blog entry related to these things, be sure to check out Elaine Polvinen’s comment below for some interesting links to more information.}

7 thoughts on “A Virtual World-Based PLM for the Fashion Industry

  1. If you would like to learn more about Shenlei Winkler and the Fashion Research Institute (FRI) product life cycle management solution go to the FIT @ SL blog

    Meet Shenlei Winkler aka: Shenlei Flasheart in Sl – Link

    Shenlei Winkler: Virtual Product Development – Link

    If you would like to see her presentation watch 2/3 of the way through the video. It’s MOV and takes a bit to download but it’s very interesting. – Link

    My response to the CNET article Cad software is the new black is here: Fashion + Virtual + Technology (Link)

  2. Thank you so much for the links, Elaine. I wasn’t aware of Optitex. Amazing stuff.

    Just watched the video. Excellent. As I said on the blog entry, if only the ID community were at the same point of understanding what virtual worlds mean to product development.

  3. What do you mean by: “If the ID world…”
    What is the ID world?
    Isn’t optitex already doing it with My Label?

  4. ID = Industrial Design. My primary occupation and the main focus of this blog.

    And it’s “community”, not “world”.

  5. The Novoking world might be a good virtual world to investigate use of in conjunction with standard 3D applications such a CAD programs or things like Maya, since it accepts imports from Maya and 3D Studio Max.

    At some point we’ll have a virtual world that shows our living quarters, which were designed in 3D architecture programs, and the stuff in them, which where designed using 3D software, with the representation used in the virtual world being a standard, to be expected part of the design software. One might keep their realistic avatar private, and distinct from the avatars one would use in shared virtual worlds, but it would be pretty nice to be able to shop for clothes with a realistic avatar and all the fashions from the stores one frequents available to select from.

  6. Pingback: Clothes before cars in Second Life

  7. @Suezanne – I keep trying to find the time to load Novoking and finally cleaned up the PC this morning so I could defrag and load. But what I suspect is that it’s polygon-based (which might explain the large download). Max and Maya aren’t considered CAD tools; they’re powerful 3D modelers (though Maya’s NURBs make it a capable tool for creating CAD-friendly .iges files).

    Poly’s aren’t the best for manufacturing. Second Life’s prims are actually closer to CAD and, if Linden Lab or the OpenSim people wished, they could extend that functionality. I suspect that’s part of what IBM is doing. Procedural/parametric models are probably the better approach (though for other reasons I’d like to see a hybrid system evolve).

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