PI Apparel Berlin 2017

On October 26-27, numerous brands and individuals from various industry gathered in the Maritim Pro Arte hotel in Berlin to discover and talk about current and new technologies for the apparel industry. PLM, 3D prototyping, AR/VR/MR and general digital transformation topics were presented and intensively discussed throughout these exciting 2 days. The various networking opportunities enabled me to meet loads of pioneers in the area of 3D as well as much broader areas regarding digital transformation.

36.jpgAsking questions regarding designers acceptance of 3D technology at G-Star’s presentation (Source: PI Apparel)

Chairman Craig Crawford did an amazing job in his talk about ‘what does it really mean to ‘Go Digital?”, showcasing all areas that need to and will be affected in a digital journey, including e.g. the impact of generation Z, social media, artificial intelligence. Plus, this guy is simply hilarious and an incredible speaker (although you do not have time to look at your phone while he speaks – this dude is on fire I’m telling you).

9.jpgCraig Crawford (Source: PI Apparel)

Whereas the Swedish brand atacac was my favourite pioneer in experimenting with new technologies (like 3D prototypes in their e-commerce, files being downloadable) and business approaches (such as their dynamic price model) in the present time, Keith Hoover from Blackswan textiles amazed me with his vision of a ‘digital twin’: because of the way a digital twin is connecting dots for the future on the one hand, and because of this approach looking at the entire product chain from sourcing, creation, manufacturing and retail on the other – as opposed to so many other players out there.

Atacac’s design approach (Source: http://www.atacac.com)

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Keith’s vision of a future setup for apparel industries

It was also great to see how many brands have started their digital/3D journey, especially in comparison to last year’s event in Berlin where most companies were still in the pre-phase of gathering information. Columbia Sportswear and Van de Velde are my picks for companies who have done a fantastic job in implementing 3D technology as well as their choice of next steps.

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Columbia jacket – 3D rendering vs. photo

The numerous problems with 3D implementation described by the different brands confirmed many of the experiences I have made myself during my time at adidas (more posts to follow on general 3D issues soon). In addition, two major complications were talked through in an open panel discussion: the uniformity of material measurements and the missing interoperability amongst different system providers. Both topic addressed all software vendors and Browzwear, CLO3D, Gerber, Human Solutions, Assyst, Lectra, Optitex, Tukatech were all on stage. While I personally felt that they were more open to discussion than last year, there were 2 core points I took away:

First, Asaf Landau’s (Optitex) great suggestion of having a third party/company build a sort of plattform enabling the much needed interoperability, fed by standards coming from the industry (e.g. through the 3D.RC). As I do agree with the vendors who explained that they are still competitors and not willing to invest themselves in interoperability with their opponents I am very much fond of the reasonable approach of a third/neutral company working on a solution enabling interconnectivity.

Second, Bill Brewster’s (Gerber) statement of none of them [software solutions] having the ideal technology to offer – yet. Bill’s comment shook me up by realizing that some of the vendors do seem to think that they actually can come up with the ideal solution. Seriously guys, by the time you will get ‘there’, the competition of solution parts (i.e. CAD only, 3D only, animation only, etc.) will (still) be miles ahead of your capabilities in that specific area! While I understand that each vendor wants to gain as broad and much market share as possible, I personally very much favor with the approach Avihay (Browzwear) mentioned in a conversation we had: understanding that you cannot do it all, focusing on your core business and partnering up with other pioneers.

The combination of these key takeaways led me to the one question that kept spinning in my mind afterwards: Based on Asaf’s suggestion of having a third party working on a solution for interoperability, would the software guys commit to making interoperability a priority for their business? As much as I wish for this to happen so we can reach the ideal scenario of the various solutions being analysed and chosen based on their core capabilities (i.e. functions, features, UIX, …), I seriously doubt it. Because they are (mostly) still trying to do it all, thinking that’d actually be possible.

pi panel discussion.jpgClosing panel discussion (Source: PI Apparel)

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