The team have not long returned from a highly successful brand new addition to the PI Apparel conference world series. Back in 2013, we launched PI Apparel Europe in response to the ever-increasing number of brands attending our cross-industry event, who wanted to examine the crucial role that technology plays – especially in the fast-moving world of fashion, apparel and footwear. While over the last four years we have seen the event grow to the point it regularly sells out in New York, that didn't take away from the nerves launching an event in Asia from a small office in London. I am pleased to say however, we are back at the PI Apparel HQ with smiles all round.
4 months is a long time in fashion. It’s the time it takes for a whole season to change, and seemingly when it comes to digital transformation at Mustang, 4 months is how long it takes for a PLM implementation.
For those of you who don’t know, Mustang GmbH are the oldest denim manufacturer in Europe. With 80 years of denim experience covering most of Europe for both retail and wholesale, their span is vast. While they managed to achieve this formerly using the likes of Excel, local lists, and BOMs made in Adobe AI, they knew that a heritage business shouldn't mean heritage it IT architecture.
We were working with a lot of local lists, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of time consumed looking for the most recent list. We wanted to make a big step into the future, not just for the present, but to be ready for the future.
Their challenge was to step into the future and gain more control over their product lifecycle, which in turn would reduce supply-chain inefficiencies and shorten time to market. They selected their PLM system, and in no less than four months it was rolled out.
In this video from PI Apparel in Berlin, Julia Dubowy, Director of Operations at Mustang shares how they achieved this rapid IT systems transformation and how it reshaped the way they do business.
We have shorter meetings as the data is accessible and 40% fewer questions during the product development process. We can easily assess our suppliers and are always up to date. Overall our process is 30% faster
The apparel, fashion and footwear industry is a fast paced enviroment, where those hungry for innovation thrive. New product lines boast new trends, new technology, new standards. Yet in this everchanging landscape, one thing has remained a consistent cause for concern in recent years – fit.
The new year has passed, and social media is awash with post-mortems of last year, as well as ubiquitous forecasts on what will happen or what we should be doing in the coming 12 months.
Coco Chanel believed that “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”. It’s a view firmly echoed by Jonathan Chippindale (Holition CEO), as he considers innovation in fashion and retail and discusses the ground-breaking projects he and his colleagues have been working on. Fashion and technology have always worked hand-in-hand but there is renewed energy as fashion brands and designers collaborate with technologists to explore how the Internet of Things, 3D, AR, VR, smart materials and wearable technologies can be harnessed to create desirable new products and open new markets.
"Technology has to be beautiful to work" he stresses "it’s not just about creating beautiful and realistic apps - it’s about ensuring the end user fully engages with the product. We are driven by the human to technology experience or 'digital anthropology', to craft beautiful digital retail experiences which seamlessly integrate design with emerging technology".
It is often said that luxury brands should adopt digital technology to create new aesthetics where the smart tech enhances the form rather than just offering functionality. Smartwatches and fitness trackers have led the consumer take up of wearables to date but demand has been mixed. Combining aesthetics with technology was one of the reasons why the Apple Watch launch was delayed and, even though it has generated a billion dollars in revenue, sales have not perhaps been as high as was hoped. New, high end
products are coming to market now such as smart rings which allow users to change the colour of the stone to match their outfit or smart materials which change colour to match the wearer’s mood.
Chippindale feels that the wearables trend may have swung too far towards the selfie generation, with applications simply telling us ever more about ourselves, how we are feeling and how we are performing rather than communicating something more interesting or useful. He is keen to elevate thinking about the
potential of wearables away from fitness, wellbeing and ‘being all about me me me…’ and warns that ‘there is a danger that wearables in fashion will start to die out, particularly if brands just continue to pursue gimmicky neon-signs and LED dresses. Wearables must be more than an adjunct or enhancement to an existing product.’
Technology has to be beautiful to work, it’s not just about creating beautiful and realistic apps - it’s about ensuring the end user fully engages with the product.
Cosmetics is a good example where innovative technology can enhance the trying on makeup experience. Holition developed and created ‘FACE by Holition’ in 2015, an immersive virtual cosmetic experience which enables people to try out different looks and styles using their smartphones or tablets. This gives cosmetics retailers a great opportunity to directly engage with their customers by offering ‘a try before
you buy’ option. Chippindale says ‘we’re fortunate to have a a team of female developers who, particularly in this case, understand makeup, such as skin tone, face shapes, eyes and lip contours. Most important was to create a beautiful seamless app which people could trust and engage with’.
Chippindale adds ‘we were very excited to be invited to create virtual looks for “Warpaint”, an exhibition which coincided with the V&A’s much acclaimed exhibition: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. At the V+A visitors were able to ‘try on’ a virtual feathered look straight from one of McQueen’s infamous catwalk shows’.
Holition has since customised its FACE app for a number of beauty clients including Cover Girl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. The clever thing about Cover Girl’s BeautyU is its ability to identify and read the user’s facial features and characteristics, including skin tone, at a highspeed rate, and offer recommendations - a bit like having your own beauty consultant; The recently launched Rimmel GetTheLook app is the first-ever real-time 3D make-up simulation application that enables consumers to try out other people’s make-up styles making it possible to point a phone or tablet at a friend’s made-up face then virtually try on the same look using colour-matched cosmetics by Rimmel.
Holition adapted its FACE technology to develop ‘Nails by Holition’ resulting in the world’s first ever virtual nail colour for Sally Hansen’s ManiMatch™ with realistic visualisation of nails integrating real-time light reflection. Just hold a smart phone over the hand and voilà, the selected nail colour appears on the fingernails.
HOLITION'S FASHION TECH PRODUCTS
Holition is evolving all the time – it began as a company creating 3D virtual reality applications allowing customers to ‘try on’ luxury goods such as diamonds, jewellery and watches and then, by exploring the
boundaries of the technology, they were able to extend this to clothing, shoes and makeup. Holition is a company always looking to see where to go with their ideas and creativity. Although their client base is luxury fashion and beauty focused, they also like looking at future innovation ideas outside of that niche
and its endless possibilities.
Chippindale says ‘our collaboration with alchemist, Lauren Bowker and her exploration house, T H E U N S E E N was really interesting as it provoked thinking around colour changing apparel sensitive to the human mind - this is still ongoing as the potential to extend this to other accessories is enormous’.
Holition is currently working with artist and designer, Professor Helen Storey MBE RDI on a unique installation that brings statistics and fashion together to explore one of the world’s
most pressing issues - human displacement. For Holition it’s about finding new ways to look at data which allows people to get a sense of their surroundings as well as highlighting complex issues from around the world. The dress has just been on exhibition at London’s Science Museum’.
Let's face it; as Designers and Product Developers, social collaboration is at the heart of what we do; we take our inspiration from the world around us and share it amongst our teams to refine and drive product concepts and moods. And then, when we're ready, we release these to our development partners to gather their input before we start to create products and raw materials.
A recurring theme at PI Apparel Berlin earlier this month, was how those of you working in luxury and legacy brands, which have for decades if not centuries, prided themselves in being heritage labels steeped in tradition, can appeal to a newer, younger and wider audience without alienating traditional customers.
Over the two days we were lucky enough to hear from some of fashion's forward thinkers – including Cathy McGabe, CIO at Jaeger, who is currently spearheading the digital business transformation. The sixties helped establish Jaeger as an iconic luxury brand, but to stay relevant they have to ensure they engage with their customers in the fast moving digital marketplace. Having lead IT-enabled change at Burberry, another iconic British designer brand, Cathy was the ideal person to lead the change, and she joined us at PI Apparel Berlinto share the journey of their digital transformation.
Here are some of our key takeaways from Cathy’s session:
3D technology has made huge strides within the fashion/apparel space over the last few years with most brands either having already made a solid investment in the area, or at least recognising the need to invest in the near future. While the siloed benefits of digital product creation are already being realised, the true disruptive potential of these tools is only possible if an end-to-end digital ecosystem is created.
When Joshua Young, Former 3D Studio Director with Nike, spoke at PI Apparel New York this summer, he used the metaphor of building a car (3D ecosystem) with one hand tied behind your back (lack of PLM). After all, the benefits of 3D are easily measurable - it has the ability to reduce waste and lead development timelines through digital prototyping, which also has the sustainability factor. But – how can this be done accurately without the holistic view of your garment and its supply chain that PLM provides?
Josh Young, Speaking at PI Apparel New York
Yet, in terms of culture, 3D is often seen more of a creative tool, and PLM an IT tool. Really, the cultural ideal is having designers recognise that should these two platforms work together, the preproduction phase of the value chain will be more efficient for everyone in the long run. Simon Kim, Chief Strategy Officer of CLO Virtual Fashion who are currently taking the apparel world by storm, stresses that if you intend to use 3D to its full potential, it needs to be at the centre of your process innovation.
3D is not merely a tool that fits into the current process to make it a little more efficient."
- Simon Kim, Chief Strategy Officer, CLO Virtual Fashion
The future has arrived and its automated, yet many manufacturers are still living in the spreadsheet stone age.
The same was true of Sport Obermeyer. An overcustomised IT system that no one knew how to use, meant people were relying on spreadsheets. What’s wrong with spreadsheets the Luddites ask?
Obermeyer's cost margins were out by as much as 10%, and a high maintenance system that was near impossible to extract data from was starting to affect the bottom line, and ultimately see the company out of business.
Enter Greg Bannister, COO, who within a year, completely transformed the IT Infrastructure with “the most aggressive strategy anyone has ever heard of". With a new ERP system fully implemented in a 3 month turnaround, warehouse management in 4, PLM in 5, and supply chain before the year was out, Obermeyer now have a far more efficient supply chain with a single database across all platforms.
The end result? A much more successful company. In this PI Apparel interview, Greg shares how he managed this momentous system overhaul, and why a 'sink or swim' implementation really is the only way to go.