3D Technology: Revolutionizing Apparel & Fashion Industry

By Nina Nikolic, Founder & President, TAAS

The apparel industry is continuously morphing in its attempts to resolve issues stubbornly persistent for a long time.

A fragmented and opaque supply chain, excess inventory, high returns, rising raw material and labor costs, and spotty sales channel management need more than just a touch-up; perhaps overhauling might be the right direction to consider.

The success of apparel retail will depend on its ability to adapt, respond, and maneuver through the increasingly unsettled global markets. In addition, the technologically savvy younger consumer will dictate how fashion is made, consumed, and discarded.

Demand for a more sustainable clothing-making process and fashion digitization is gaining traction, although overall technology implementation tends to be haphazard and unevenly distributed.

Consumers, especially the Gen Z, are open to expressing their concerns and opinions about sustainability and the environmental perils caused by fashion production practices.

Their voices are quite loud, clear, and viral. As a result, this generation is shaping novel consumer behavior that is much different from what retailers are used to serving.

Given this backdrop, we believe the following trending themes will resume dominating the ever-changing fashion landscape in 2023.

3D Technology Investments: 3D technology for apparel is becoming a competitive advantage on many levels within the supply chain. The increase in technology adoption will trigger changes in critical areas within the industry, such as product design, development, merchandising, raw materials sourcing, supply chain, marketing, and sales channels, especially e-commerce.

On the bright side, 3D technological developments are happening fast. Soon, we might see customized and personalized sizes being delivered by retailers. This time for real!

Data Analytics: Retailers are widely adopting data analytics as a critical component to get an insight into customers' purchasing habits and interests. With data-driven analysis of their consumer base, retailers could significantly improve the efficiency of their product-to-market strategies.

3D technological advances aim to solve many "unsolvable" problems of the apparel and fashion industry. With the new 3D digital fashion technology, apparel brands can plan their design and production faster, with less waste and better fit.

Returns: One of the main reasons for high apparel returns is fit and sizing. As a result, many online retailers are adopting digital avatars to help customers choose their actual size to minimize returns due to the sizing misfit.

Online stores (some in stores as well) are incorporating digital avatars and more advanced size recommendation apps to make size purchasing easier and smoother. However, the sizing is still limited to linear (not so much inclusive) sizing.

The sizing engineering starts at the beginning of the process (design and manufacturing); therefore, if not created and manufactured correctly, it will continue its age-old contribution to returns due to faulty fit and incorrect sizing.

With recent 3D technological developments, we might soon see customized and personalized sizes being delivered by retailers. This time for real!

Time to Market: The demand for faster time to market—from design to delivery—will continue to accelerate. However, this might put a great deal of strain on the supply chain and its ability to handle the demand and deliver to retail stores on time or without delays.

With this, secondary clothing marketplaces for selling used clothes and clothing rentals are rising. Economic challenges and less purchasing power for all seasons drive consumers to use clothing and rental markets.

Near-Sourcing: Apparel brands and retailers are taking into consideration reshoring and near-sourcing as alternatives to the current manufacturing management practices.

We might witness apparel supply chain strategies shift sooner than later as freight costs, labor shortages, transportation delays, and geopolitical conflicts become prominently woven into our everyday existence.

Despite the strong tide of 3D technological advances aiming to solve many "unsolvable" problems, it still needs to be fully utilized to improve the current process of how clothing is made and sold.

Many other, mostly legacy-related, factors are involved in leveraging its advantages. Perhaps bridging the legacy with the current technological advancement would be more viable than crushing the "old" and building the new and hoping "they will come" and jump into adoption.

3D Digital product creation (DPC) and virtual try-on (VTO) are the most prominent trends that are making a significant imprint in defining a solution to transform the apparel industry's operations.

Larger fashion and apparel companies have been early movers in embracing various 3D technologies and further tweaked it to their needs to solidify fragmented supply chain systems and shorten product-to-market cycles. It’s now the time for smaller brands to catch up, which might impact their survival in the oversaturated apparel market.

Can the Apparel System Change?

FEB 2023

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