Industry 4.0 and the Garment Industry

 

The technological foundation for mass garment customization has been laid and soon fashion will empower.

What will this look like…

 

 

Body scanned measurements applied to ANY garment purchase regardless of gender.  Any design shaped for any body, customized for fit preference and virtually fit on a personalized virtual avatar.  No more gaping armholes, pulled buttons,  ill-fitting waistbands, disproportionate hem lengths, or unsatisfactory ease.  Your clothes, your choice, because fashion should empower.  Sadly this is still only a vision on the horizon because

 

While Industry 4.0 is ready to receive the garment industry, the garment industry is only partially ready to enter Industry 4.0. 

 

 

 

I first became enthralled with incorporating technology and fashion in the mid 90’s when the term mass customization was adopted from the writings of B.Joseph Pine.  Since then I have held visions of automation allowing me to offer superb fit to a larger audience.  Recently I attended the Texprocess show to check up on the garment industry’s progress towards Industry 4.0.  There I witnessed automated made-to-measure CAD platforms, 3D technologies providing virtual fittings on custom avatars, and PLM systems handling value chain issues and I was left pondering why the mass garment customization horizon is not closer.  Let me be clear, there are many companies offering customized products and there have been for years.   Some have better systems than others but few manage to make automated made-to-measure a viable business model.  Most importantly, fewer yet can fit outlier body types.

In the 90’s there was a Levis store in Edmonton, Alberta offering hand measuring for customized jeans.  It is interesting to note that thirty years later Levis continues to offer made-to-measure jeans but not yet at an Industry 4.0 level.  

 

Technology is not inhibiting the garment industry from entering Industry 4.0.  The platforms for automated garment design exist.  It is our approach to design which needs to be modernized.  

 

Mass garment customization will not be a reality until we stop treating garments like 3D objects and accept a garment for the cleverly folded and seamed 2D fabric that it is.  A garment is only half of itself without the wearer for which it was intended.  A garment goes from being a folded and seamed 2D piece of fabric to a 3D garment only when it interacts with a wearer.  How a fabric is folded and seamed is as unique as the wearer as this is the key.  The gender specific heuristic shaping methods of the garment industry have not made MTM a viable business model because the methods do not work on all body types.  The polygon mesh shaping methods of the 3D  industry have not made MTM a viable business model because the methods do not account for fabric grain.  To reach the mass garment customization horizon, we need updated methodologies for folding and shaping 2D fabric to a 3D form.  These new shaping methodologies must account for fit preference, be gender neutral and account for fabric grain.  

 

For the garment industry to fully enter Industry 4.0 shaping 2D fabric to fit a 3D body must follow a hierarchical order conducive to computer programming.  

 

In 1999 I finished writing an executable script file that would automatically construct custom block patterns in a program called TurboCad.  I linked an executable script file to excel database measurements to run a basic block script in TurboCad.   The resulting basic block pattern could be exported as a dxf file to a CAD apparel program called Symmetry, where I would manually manipulate the block into the desired custom design.  By my standards, the program was a hack job but it saved me time and allowed me to expand my business.  In 2004 I began exporting MTM garments to the US and looked to the industry for technology that could replicate the shaping of my script file.  In 2011 I took a sabbatical from garment design to perfect the program I came to realize was not a hack job.  I really hope mass customization gets sorted out soon because I am anxious to get back to garment design.

Contact me to discuss modernized shaping methodologies. 

 

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