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Beginner's guide: what is 3D Digital Design in fashion and why does it matter?

Updated: Mar 19

Some four years ago, I came across geist.xyz, a fashion project by zeitgeisted of simulated algorithmic synthetic textiles. I had been working with textiles for many years yet to see them move in that ghostly manner was a strangely new experience.


It was the beginning of my interest and research in using technology and a digital approach to textiles & fashion to design smartly and make sustainably.


Fast forward to the present, in my first blog post for NOFORM, I talk about what is 3D digital design in fashion and why it really matters? The post is intended for beginners.


The digitalization of the fashion industry has already taken place from e-learning, cloud-based PLM (product lifecycle management) systems, and e-commerce to the use of digital media for marketing and promotion. The timing to talk about 3D digital design couldn’t be better. The digitalization of processes has already created a foundation ideal to introduce 3D digital design elements in almost every step of the supply chain.


3d model of a white skirt
Image: 3D model of a skirt from Simone Rocha’s SS 2014 collection created in CLO3D

The discipline of 3D visualization/modeling is not new. Industrial designers have been practicing it since the early 90s (link) however, in fashion it is relatively a new concept. In the same way, an automotive designer could put together different components of a car to visualize it in a 3D environment, a fashion professional could do it with pattern pieces now. Since fashion entails 3-dimensional physical products, it only makes sense to conceive it in a 3D environment.


screenshot of computer showing 2d patterns and 3d garment in clo3d software
Image: 2D and 3D window display in CLO3D
3d model of a sweatshirt with hood
Image: A sweatshirt model in a 3D environment

One reason for the late entry of this technology into the fashion industry could be the further development that the technology needed to simulate a plethora of textiles with soft organic properties as opposed to hard materials like metal and wood. Second, the fashion industry adapts technology slower than other industries, as they say. But it will be a discussion for another time.


From the rise and popularity of digital personalities like Miquela, Noonoouri, and Shudu who immerse the audience in their virtual worlds to fashion brands selling virtual clothes in the virtual world of gaming (link), everything indicates a fundamental shift in how we want to create and consume fashion in the 21st century.


3D Digital Design & Education


Fashion is a dynamic discipline. It is built on change and adaptation, yet there are only a handful of institutes with a progressive outlook that train students for future-proof careers. With so much technology and industry solutions at disposal, one may only wonder why?


For fashion design students, who tend to be more visual in their design thinking, a challenging part of the process is translating the ideas from 2D sketch to the 3D mockup or sample. Incorporating 3D digital design components can greatly ease the process. Any changes made in pattern pieces are seen on the body in real-time. This eliminates the guesswork, allowing more room for experimentation and chances of innovation.


These 3D CAD programs can also be used to teach core skills, like draping and patternmaking.


3D Digital Design & Industry


The sampling process is the most expensive part of the business for any brand. With multiple prototypes required for approval at different stages, there is a significant waste of time and physical resources. Implementing a 3D digital design process can help with early visualization, quick changes, and approvals, all from the point of inception to the manufacturing through a connected PLM system. This would clearly be a mammoth task for any established organization, however a step in the right direction to increase productivity and efficiency.


Imagine the possibility for a brand to have a digital inventory of 3D models of every garment it designs and manufactures. These true-to-life models can then be used for e-commerce where customers can make better buying choices. Technically accurate and photorealistic rendering is already replacing traditional product photography. The benefits of 3D digital design go well beyond design and prototyping. Combine these 3D models with AR (Augmented Reality) and body scanning, and there is a new customer shopping experience that many companies are testing (link).


digital model of a brown men's coat on hanger against a wooden wall
Image: A virtual sample created in CLO3D

All things considered, 3D digital design is here to stay for the fashion industry. It is an expression of changing times. Those who embrace and adapt will lead.

Beginner's guide_ what is 3D Digital Design in fashion and why does it matter
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#digitalfashion #3dfashion #digitaldesign #productdevelopment #digitalization #3dtransformation #sustainablefashion #sustainabledesign #futureread

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