On October 11-12 the Product Innovation Apparel conference took place at the nhow hotel in Milan. The sold out event brought together numerous brands, individuals and tech companies to present and exchange experiences, projects and innovation around digitalization and innovation in the apparel industry. 3D, PLM, AI and AR/VR were the main discussion topics. It was great to catchup and network with lots of familiar as well as some new faces and get original insights and inspiration around state-of-the-art technology in the apparel industry.
It was impressive and exciting to see how far several apparel companies have come on their digital journey using 3D, AR/VR and AI, especially compared to the last PI events. Be it Hugo Boss, PVH or zLabels – they are on it! My personal impression is that things are/have finally taken off at a speed that is much higher than we are used to regarding technology embracing in this industry. Awesomesauce! Compared to previous events, where companies were often speaking about 3D pilots they are working on, 3D workflows and processes that are part of the running business were presented.
I was quite impressed by Hugo Boss’ achievements over the past couple of years. Previously I had the impression that they had started not that long ago, however with about 30-40% of their collections being developed in 3D and the presented quality Hugo Boss seems to have become one of the forefront players with regards to 3D integration. Having one team that works on product creation (pattern, design) and one team focusing on visualisation (3D artists) Hugo Boss classifies the needed quality according to creation milestones (e.g. product creation vs. sell-in). Bravo!
I was thrilled to see the innovations van de Velde is developing: not only are they working on virtual fittings (and their main products is bras, which is one of the most complicated ones to do, not even talking about fitting, in 3D) but have also integrated magic mirrors in some of their stores and developed an app, which visualises fitted underwear on avatars in AR. I got so excited playing around with their app that I had trouble following up with all the innovation they presented – like ‘there is more, really?’
VitalMechanics, a Canadian research company focusing on simulation, soft tissue biomechanics and high-performance computing, spontaneously presented some of their findings in bra simulations – that’s something I love about these fairs, various expertise randomly mixing for fruitful future collaborations.
My very much favored Swedish brand atacac was present in several presentations and panel discussions – not to my surprise, as they really have a unique and foreward thinking business model, ideas and processes. I adored the presentation of their integration to the VR game sansar, where players can buy digital atacac garments to wear in the game. When I asked them whether any gamers had purchased the actual physical garments through sansar, they said no. When I asked them whether they could imagine sansar to work as a sort of advertisement platform for them they said yes 🙂 This is a connection which I personally, not playing any games on neither my computer nor my phone, had not thought about before. But with the gaming industry booming I actually love this approach – and can very well imagine this being fruitful at some point in the future.
There were a few things going on around AI as well – Adam Peacock talked about the relation between genetics & AI and zLabels presented how they use their massive amounts of data to design and produce the right/desired products at low MOQs which will not end as leftover stock. Most exciting for me around this topic was my long discussion with the fabricant – a small start-up from Amsterdam who call themselves the first digital fashion house. I have been following them for a few months now and they do a-mazing stuff!! (go check them out if you haven’t yet) Especially their collection ‘DEEP’ which designs were inspired by a smart AI algorithm generating pictures from Paris Fashion week created crazy noise on social media – for a reason, because this has never been done before. Kerry and Amber are full of ideas and ready to disrupt the industry – I cant wait to see what they come up with next.
My former university, the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, was strongly represented at the fair – for a reason. They are changing their program to focus more on digitalization, for example by creating more 3D courses and an AR/VR lab. As the industry is in great need of future talents who have the right skills, this is the absolute right direction to go to!
Last but not least, Vizoo and Browzwear partnered up to come up with a new, OPEN-SOURCE material file format that is supposed to standardize material properties AMONGST ALL SOFTWARE VENDORS (which are wanting to use it). Some critical voices were pointing out that there are already a few open source material formats such as COLLADA or STL which should rather be integrated than coming up with a new format. However I feel that a specific open-source file format for apparel and its software might reduce the huge issue of interoperability amongst software and push some of the vendors to open up to not lose competitive advantages. So at least for the apparel creation part (before you go into 3D modeling software for high quality visualisation) the U3M invention might a big step in the right direction.
To sum things up: from brands that have made tremendous progress, actual use cases from AI and VR/AR technologies, as well as education and interoperability finally moving forward, the conference was a fantastic event to get inspired and pushed (or even pressed, if you still haven’t started ^^) to move as broad and as fast as possible on your digital journey.