Welcome to the 3D Century

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If you’re looking for a quick way to become an overnight expert on 3D and emerging technologies in the fashion retail industry, check out the 3D Tech Fest video presentations, the vision and brainchild of Alvanon’s CEO, Janice Wang.

In the pursuit of short-term profits, many experts with institutional tech knowledge are being let go, and when there are wholesale cuts in technical areas, you cannot buy that knowledge back. Many companies have not archived their tech efforts before they close operations. She adds this is a fundamental problem not as a tech issue but as a business use case. 

Hope for the Future

Wang is an optimist, stating there is hope for the fashion retail industry in contrast to “all the terrible things that are happening out there.” She says she is starting to see slow changes happening in the supply chain to make fashion apparel more sustainable, but it still faces the challenge of the traditional ways of sourcing. Even though the supply chain ecosystem is more complicated than ever, she says that many companies are guilty of “short-termism,” pressured to make quarterly numbers. What is happening, she adds, is that in the pursuit of short-term profits, many experts with institutional tech knowledge are being let go, and she worries that “when there are wholesale cuts in technical areas, you cannot buy that knowledge back.” She observes that many companies have not archived their tech efforts before they close operations. She adds this is a fundamental problem not as a tech issue but as a business use case. Also, the lack of vision and standards in leadership results in not realizing or forgetting how different departments are connected to each other and are therefore interdependent. “Everything is connected and if all operations work from the same reference point, there is a built-in safeguard for institutional knowledge,” adds Wang.  The opposite, she explains, is a system of independently operating silos that do not have a systemic knowledge base and therefore can have unintended consequences in terms of how they operate. “What you end up with,” she adds, “is building stuff that you can’t sell by being held back by a linear analog model that ultimately resorts to price wars, not superior product differentiation. It’s going to take a radical rethinking of all the processes from creation to going to market.” She asks, “What kind of fashion industry do you want to see? Take an active role in envisioning the future then reverse engineer the systematic processes to achieve it.” She says the role of transformation is the reverse of traditional shifts; it is coming from the bottom up, not forced from the top down. She adds, there is a great future for the innovators and tech entrepreneurs who envision a different future and will have a bigger voice in the process.

Imagination, Art, and Science

When you sample the 3D presentations, it’s like stepping into Tomorrowland. A choice of 32 videos unlocks the unlimited imagination of tech entrepreneurs who are changing the face of fashion retail. If you are not already deeply embedded in the emerging tech frontier, this is a great way to get up to speed.

Staged as a public service for the industry, 3D Tech Fest’s headliners up the tech IQ of an industry that is fundamentally dedicated to digital transformation. Spend some time with the presentations yourself to be educated — and here are just a few that caught our attention.

3D Design

To get a succinct perspective on 3D design technology, Browzwear has engineered a dashboard that provides a highly realistic 3D rendering of materials that can be changed on the fly with speedy, real-time input. Dorelle McPherson, Product Marketing Manager at Browzwear demos the system with an avatar modeling fabric that flows realistically on the body and can be lit with a range of options to change the mood and create ambiance.  ll this is just with the click of a prompt.

Replicas

Direct Dimensions is a 3D scanning technology adapted from the aerospace industry to the fashion retail arena.  President Michel Raphael has almost magical scanning tools to scan in the field or the lab. The technology has applications for the preservation of historic architecture, monuments, and artifacts. Imagine the Lincoln Memorial, a Rodin masterpiece or The Winged Victory of Samopthrace in the Louvre fully scanned and safely stored in the 3D archives, ready to be reproduced with 3D printing to help in any potential restoration. The medical profession can use the tech for medical prosthetics  — scanned from a human ear, for example. The scanners can not only replicate the outside of a shoe but the interior as well. Avatars wearing fashion designs can live in archives and the photogrammetry tool leads the way to the metaverse.

Moats, Bridges and Boats

Bridging science and art is the focus of Robin Lewis’s conversation with David Katz, CMO of  Randa Apparel and Accessories (RAA). In a wide-ranging strategic discussion, Katz’s background in neuroscience positions him well to navigate the ever-changing developments of emerging technologies balanced with the human factor. As he says, “It’s important not to get dazzled by the latest shiny new object that can blind the distinction between brain science and neuroscience.  Taking the long view, he cites that the history of shopping has always aligned with the latest technologies of the time. He adds that it’s no different now. RAA uses a suite of technology solutions to ultimately speed up the process of convenience for the customer. He states that the consumer is always changing, technology is accelerating, and we cannot navigate the world with old maps and old tools.  His focus is on tech to make better products faster and less expensive, reduce friction, and deliver better value for customers.

When technology works the right way, all stakeholders can align transparently in seeing one version of the entire process. With an extensive global manufacturing and distribution business, RAA uses 3D tech to increase the speed to wholesale and consumer markets, keep pace with fashion trends, reduce the costs of physically creating thousands of samples along with the airfare to ship them, and make the process more sustainable for the planet by not moving hundreds and thousands of samples around the world.  He adds that nothing can beat the efficiency of showing 3D-rendered samples in real-time with the ability to make real-time decisions. That said, he adds that technology isn’t a panacea; brand partners still need to touch and feel samples. Katz says that RAA is an early investor in Knot Standard using 3D tech to create bespoke suits and Stantt to create custom-made dress shirts. Katz summarizes the new frontier of tech with a metaphor: Moats are an investment strategy to protect the core and create competitive barriers; bridges create adjacencies with products, brands, and consumer segments; and boats are the transformational models of the future that will totally change his company.  As he says, “Today’s moats and bridges are tomorrow’s boats for us.” Ultimately, Katz sees all varieties of tech solutions to take us back to the future when customers walk into a store, everyone will know their names, and serve them in an honest, empathetic way. Tech will be the unlock repositioning retail commerce into a relationship.

Hyper-Personalization

Sarah McVittie, Co-founder of Dressipi, presents the case for personalization. Presenting with Matthew Horn, Customer and Digital GM at Country Road, she advocates rethinking personalization as the hinge point for transforming retail in the 21st century. She says it’s not an option not to personalize, but it has to be real, authentic and meaningful. Understanding the intent of the customer can help decode the complex, fragmented approach to personalization. With a clear perspective on behaviors and emotions at the personal level, brands and retailers can deliver the best possible experience for the customer with the best possible version of themselves. Personalization drives loyalty and establishes the standards and benchmarks required to excel in an asymmetrical, competitive market. GenAI, she says, is distracting everyone from the larger conversation of how technology is going to move the industry forward by transforming business operations.  She echoes Jeff Bezos’s mantra, “Embrace change or get left behind.” Doing it right with the right technology eliminates self-limiting silos and can produce “magic” by connecting with customers in a way that matters. She recommends that retailers and brands create a visionary roadmap identifying the right personalization tools and processes, then reverse engineer it to create the optimum experience. Be realistic, she says, it’s a long-haul journey and it all starts with data.  And that data should look at products through the lens of customers to reveal their preferences. This approach improves everything from product development to sales predictions. It also has a play in sustainability.  She explains that if a customer just bought a coat, showing them another choice of coats is to miss the point.  Rather, with purchase history and customer preference data, one can hone in on customers as individuals with suggestions on how to enhance the look for the current season or update the look for the next season. It’s simply, “re-love and re-wear,” McVittie adds. She says recommending fashion is so intrinsically personal; it’s not like recommending a film or a book.

For more inspiring tech talks, visit 3D Tech Fest to spend some time in Tomorrowland which is already business as usual today. Note: Alvanon is a Robin Report Collaborative Partner

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