3D Fashion and virtual models have improved the design workflow, setting a new standard for fashion design creation, a way faster and more practical approach for the fashion system of tomorrow. 

Digital fashion design and 2D-3D creation tools are growing rapidly through fashion companies and designers who are willing to reduce their environmental impact, and to make fashion design a more straightforward process.  

Creating digital fashion designs in virtual software platforms is, indeed, the first step of what we call the fashion digitization, and not only creating digital content for fashion presentations in social media with real garments. 

The aim of 3D digital clothing development in fashion is to eliminate unnecessary physical sampling and waste generated by pattern cutting or fittings. Shortening production and lead times are some of the benefits of virtual garments, also correcting design inaccuracies on the go. 

Moreover, there is a deep changing perspective in how we conceive fashion, and how the fashion industry can serve itself from technology for  cleaner business practices. Doing things, the same way every time, cannot lead to different outcomes. 

Innovative Techniques and Designers Who Anticipated the Future

The hybrid approach in fashion started more than a decade ago with using rare and innovative techniques such as 3D printing and digital prints, at the time there were also full research in engineering teams for developing intelligent textiles;using technology as a tool for creating unexpected results, testing and analysing all construction possibilities.  

The Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen, is well-known for articulating craftsmanship with the latest technology. She was pioneering the field when she founded her namesake brand in 2007 using 3D printing and laser cut technology as the definitive tools for her work. Now she is experimenting with heat bonding and 4D printers as they code movement into material, transforming it. “There’s usually a presumption that the clothes will be difficult to wear, because they don’t always look like the clothes we are familiar with, but that is perception rather than reality”, Van Herpen stated in a New York Times feature. 

Van Herpen’s work has been selected by museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London for her contribution to fashion, as well as for the technical significance of merging the valuable hand treatment of couture with digital experimentation

Peter Pilotto’s duo, Christopher de Vos and Peter Pilotto, and the Greek designer, resident in London, Mary Katrantzou, started a fever around digitally manipulated print in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Both brands established a new way of fabric treatment and printing, promoting the endless possibilities of Photoshop and Computer Aided Design, and breaking fashion’s traditionalistic construction rules for high-fashion.   

Fourteen years later, technological materials with cutting-edge creation software are combined and the result is a game changer for the fashion industry. A new perspective is found for virtual garment production and distribution before creating physical samples, even an entire digital collection just for virtual runway communication purposes.

The Rise of 3D Software: From Digital Clothes and Fabrics to Virtual Models

A new generation of designers is growing worldwide, learning new digital skills, and reinventing the traditional ready-to-wear model, making it  faster, eco-friendly, completely accurate and visually stunning, and delivering a real change for the fashion supply chain.

There is a specialized software variety on 3D creation including programs such as CLO3D, Optitex, Marvelous Designer, to name a few. Others are covering digital pattern-making like Gerber Technology or Lectra as a transversal industry design tool for fashion, automotive and furniture.

Currently you can create, modify, alter and edit a fashion garment in 60% less time than with traditional methodology delivering virtual samples in hours, and working collaboratively and remotely. It is also possible to design garments using virtual fabrics, which allows you to adjust lengths and finishes, and doing fittings for virtual avatars, which has led to us to question the whole design process

Luxury fashion has been experimenting with different digital tools. For example, Louis Vuitton and Final Fantasy collaborated to create digital garments; Balmain has launched a fully virtual showroom last year; Prada now makes a Limited-Edition monthly drop “Time Capsule” featuring a 3D designed pieces to be sold for 24 hours only; Carlings, a Scandinavian brand, has created a virtual collection applied to the shopper’s photographs; and finally, The Fabricant, a Dutch startup creates digital-only clothing, products with very high demand in Second Life and other virtual gaming platforms. 

Models and influencers have also been part of this rising 3D movement too. Lil Miquela and Shundu Gram, are CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) models, that is, they do not exist in real life and have been featured in beauty campaigns for brands such as Fenty Beauty and Pat McGrath. 

The fashion designer of the future will be dealing with high level hybridizations between the physical world and the digital world, uncovering and developing new ways of transforming the design process. Innovating,  to put forward cleaner, and more environmentally-friendly fashion designs.