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Texprocess presents IT innovations for fast fashion sector
Jan '11
You see a cool style in a video clip one day and, in six weeks, it is available in the shops. No, not a magic trick! Thanks to tireless fashion scouts and a high-speed procurement and delivery system, this phenomenon is now a reality. Compared with the rhythms in the sector before the IT age, the speed at which things happen today is like travelling at the warp speeds in the science-fiction series 'Star Trek' compared with journeying by mail coach.

IT innovations in the fashion and apparel industry will be on show at Texprocess, the leading international trade fair for the processing of textile and flexible materials, from 24 to 27 May 2011 in Frankfurt am Main.

Fashion, like advertising, music and art is always in step with customers' desires and, ideally, anticipates them. Designers, therefore, need an extremely well-developed sense of what influences the relevant consumer segment. Thanks to the internet and to highly efficient, fee-charging trend portals on the internet, it is possible to assess international trends from one's own desk.

When designers implement the results of this preliminary work and research at trade fairs or in discussions with representatives of the textile trade, they become, in effect, product developers. Technical sketches with indications of processing requirements, the choice of fabric and other materials needed, perhaps also tables of measurements for various sizes – these are all product details that the design team sets out in what are called product data management (PDM) programmes.

Development partners, in house or at the manufacturer's, call up the data via the internet, using password-protected front-end applications and work on them in accordance with their RWD (read-write-delete) authorisation level.

The booster: virtual work aids
Digitally created mood boards for the sales team show the colours, the designs and the mood of the different models. Animated 3D visualisations, sometimes called "virtual catwalks" in the trade, are today within the grasp of even medium-sized firms. So that sales teams no longer need real sample collections. Theoretically, production could start immediately; and this is indeed what happens in the case of simple products and standard articles.

Prototypes are required for new developments, in order to bring together the design, the fit, the price and the quality and to ensure that they are all appropriate for the intended target consumers. Using IT support, cutters work out the new patterns, taking into consideration the elasticity and the drape of the material. High-tech versions of the widespread cutting and grading systems offer two different ways: the first starts with the two-dimensional pattern and "dresses" the virtual model, taking account of the parameters that have been entered for the particular fabric.

Rather like a thermal image, the programme shows where the fabric stretches. Any manual corrections tothe 3D model are then calculated by the software to effect the required changes at the 2D level. The second way picks up on traditional modelling techniques: the designer draws where the lines go on the 3D model and the software calculates the 2D pattern from that. However, this method only works for close-fitting clothes.

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