When it comes to digital transformation, fashion has been notoriously slow. But Avihay Feld, co-founder and CEO of 3D design solution Browzwear, said the market is “finally ready” to embrace digital design technology— not only to improve workflow effciencies and boost sustainability with digital samples, but to enhance design as well.
“It’s all about taking that leap of faith to digital transformation,” he said, advising more traditional fashion companies to take a page from the digital native “tech first, fashion second” playbook (a la Shein or Amazon), then apply their own DNA for fashion authority. “Many digital natives speak the language of tech then learn the fashion later. But fashion brands have an advantage. They already speak fashion— they just need to learn the tech.”
3D design technology also enables smaller runs and faster speed to market, so fashion companies can react quicker and significantly boost the percentage of trend product they can deliver. “You can’t work 50 weeks ahead,” he said. “There’s just too much guesswork, and no one has a crystal ball.”
When it comes to denim, Browzwear’s 3D capabilities include everything from digital design and fit to deconstruction, the latter which is connected right into the laser machines for execution. Fabrics are also tested for behavior—stiffness, drape, shine, material blend percentages, etc.—so input data creates the most accurate digital twin.
“Can the market ultimately go to zero physical samples? Yes, but you must have trust.”
Knowing what’s really in your denim supply chain—from where inputs originate and their impact to how workers are treated—is no longer just a nice to have. Companies are on the hook for product confiscated at the border via UFLPA regulations over Xinjiang cotton, while conscious customers can cancel a brand over sustainability violations with the click of a finger.
SupplyShift, a technology platform for responsible sourcing, taps into the growing need for visibility and traceability to assess risk, particularly relevant as the denim industry seeks to clean up its act.
“Cotton is a huge issue regarding sustainability, but there are a lot of denim companies that are really concerned about cotton from a human rights perspective as well,” said Jamie Barsimantov, SupplyShift’s chief strategy officer.
SupplyShift lets users track and manage certifications across all suppliers, measure and reduce risk exposure down to the source by tracing raw materials, especially important as companies need visibility beyond Scope 1. “If you have multiple facilities producing the same thing, like denim, it makes it easier to understand and compare greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Is it because of electricity? Fuel sources? Production efficiency? The platform gets that granular so you can see all the different angles.”
Jeans can be notoriously hard to fit, and consumer frustration, disappointment and self-loathing can pile up higher than discarded styles on the dressing room floor.
Digital twin tech platform FIT:MATCH aims to solve this problem, using its award-winning, patented body scanning solution to match up apparel’s varied cuts and styles with the wide variety of body types. The company currently partners with Fabletics, Macy’s and Savage x Fenty and is turning its sights on denim as the next fit frontier, according to Hillary Littleton, FIT:MATCH head of marketing.
FIT:MATCH targets both the in-store and online shopper, utilizing “light and depth” sensors built into fitting room walls to provide an accurate 360-degree consumer scan. For at-home scans, the system works with the iPhone’s LiDAR scanner (stores that don’t build out the full system in dressing rooms can utilize an iPhone dock).
Addressing privacy concerns, FIT:MATCH creates a “non-identifiable” customer avatar, with no information stored in the cloud.
As the name attests, FIT:MATCH matches bodies with denim and other apparel for the best fit, getting smarter as the database of matches grows. “When a brand comes on board with us, we target their core fit blocks so even as styles change over the seasons, we can scale the system if they’re using the same fit blocks,” Littleton said.
The global resale market is projected to be valued at $218 billion in just three years, so why let third-party resellers get the business? Brands can better control the resale process, gain new customers via lower entry price points and refunnel resale profits back into the brand by partnering directly with resale platforms. Resale solution Treet (an eco-conscious wordplay on tree and treat) currently partners with 75 fashion brands including Shein, with its peer-to-peer selling model.
“We see denim as one of the biggest categories for resale opportunity,” said Jake Disraeli, CEO and founder of Treet, which recently partnered with sustainable denim label Boyish to create the Boyish Consignment Shop. “Not only do jeans get better with age and maintain their value, but consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact to create new pairs.”
Treet sellers ship directly to buyers, but Treet reviews image content and product tags before listings can go live. For premium brands where fraud could be an issue, items over $400 may be sent to an authentication center before the buyer receives them.
Treet recently closed a $3.5 million seed round led by First Round Capital. With funding now at $6.4 million, the company is planning enhancements such as a trade-in model for brands with algorithms to determine resale prices, international expansion to Australia and Canada, and investments in team growth.
Spinnova, the Finnish sustainable and circular textiles fiber producer that mechanically makes textile fiber out of wood or waste (i.e., tannery, textile or agricultural waste) without harmful chemistry, quadrupled investments in 2022. The company opened its first Woodspin factory for zero-waste fiber production this February and has set its sights on the denim industry among other woven applications.
Spinnova mechanically refines raw materials pulp and transforms that into microfibrillated cellulose (MFC), a spinning-ready fiber suspension, without harmful chemistry. It can be blended with cotton for a lower-impact denim option without changing the aesthetics/hand feel.
“The main difference for Spinnova from other materials in cotton [blends] is that the drape and look are just like cotton, and it maintains the toughness with the conventional jeans hand,” said Shahriare Mahmood, Ph.D, Spinnova’s chief sustainability officer. “My background in denim helped me explore the greater potential Spinnova has in this particular application,” he said. “Now that we have proof of concept of our Spinnova-cotton blend, we are aiming for producing it commercially.”