Virtual catwalks, 3D design: how covid-19 is redefining the fashion world4 min read . Updated: 15 Jun 2020, 12:44 AM IST
Bigthinx held the world’s first digital 3D virtual fashion show
NEW DELHI : Ever since Chandralika Hazarika and Shivang Desai wrapped up one of the world’s first fully digital 3D virtual fashion show earlier this month, their phones haven’t stopped ringing. “We used to run after people to explain our work, now it’s the other way round," laughs Hazarika, who founded Bigthinx, a Bengaluru-based tech startup, with Desai in October.
The co-founders, both in their 30s, have created a software that offers creates 3D avatars of models and garments, which are then rendered and animated, based on actual product designs and measurements. The success of the fashion show, which was organized by Fashinnovation, a New York-based conference on innovation in the fashion industry and had lifelike models walking on the virtual runway, has given them more confidence in their product. “Before this, not many people were aware of this technology, especially designers in India. But covid-19 has changed things," says Desai, a serial entrepreneur.
The virus crisis is pushing brands, big and small, across the world to engage and experiment with immersive technologies. The fashion industry, which is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than international flights and maritime shipping combined, is finally beginning to accept the virtual concepts of clothing, catwalks and trial rooms to stay relevant in a world where consumers, especially millennials and post-millennials, are conscious about sustainability.
Even fashion students are using 3D designing in their work.
Priyankur Sengupta is these days busy giving final touches to his graduation project. A final year student at the National Institute of Fashion and Technology (NIFT) in Delhi, Sengupta has designed a collection of women’s clothes with motifs and embellishments inspired from Victorian jewellery—all on 3D. The use of technology has helped him in drawing efficiency and accuracy, and be more sustainable, his lifestyle mantra. "For a 2D design, you need about six samples (from prototype to fit) of one garment. With 3D, I just need one, to show the final product. That’s a lot of waste save," he says.
“Many designers in India thought they wouldn’t touch technology for the next 10 years but now everybody is realizing that online is the way to go if you want to stay relevant. Customers are going to think twice before walking into a trial room. And young consumers, especially Gen Zers, have become more mindful about where their clothes are coming from," says Hazarika.
Post-millennials will be among the first to adapt to newer technologies, says Smita Som, assistant professor (knitwear design) at NIFT. “They are digital natives and think much more about sustainable fashion, so they will be quick to learn." Against the backdrop of covid-19, fashion in the future will be about upcycling. “There will be a lot of DIY, repair-and-wear trends. Virtual trial rooms will be very real soon and the use of artificial intelligence for design will increase," she says. “And yes, tactility might just become a premium experience."
Delhi-based Samshék took note of this trend early on. It combines technology and fashion to solve two major problems of the garment industry—sizing and sustainability. Started by siblings Samiksha and Abhishek Bajaj, Samshék creates customized outfits using a 3D body scanner. “We have only digital inventory," says Samiksha, 34, an alumnus of London College of Fashion. They get 300-400 orders a month from India and the US. During the lockdown “there was a significant drop in orders but queries increased", says Samiksha. Customers select clothes from Samshék’s website, put in their measurements and customize whatever they want, from colour to sleeve length. They also have an offline store in Pune, where a 3D scanner takes 110 measurements in five seconds. “You can make changes to the fabric. It’s all about what you want," says Samiksha. The company is working on an app with an inbuilt body scanner.
Bigthinx’s business model also plugs into ecommerce sites of retailers so shoppers can explore a range of garment sizes on their avatar before purchasing, all from the comfort of their home. As for the scanning, a customer has to wear body-hugging clothes and stand in front of their phone camera. The app will automatically click two pictures and give some 100-odd measurements by the time you walk back towards your phone. “There’s no privacy invasion here. It’s just body measurements the app takes," insists Desai, adding that they are currently working on a “virtual touch and feel" feature. The company has over 30 clients in the pipeline from across the world.
Hazarika agrees that the acceptance has increased among the people in fashion industry but the complete “online switch" will take time. “We are talking about unlearning decades of practices, so it will take some years to see designers embrace technology at such a large scale. Especially for legacy, high-end brands, for whom pivoting is not so easy. But yes, covid has helped start the conversation."