TECH PACKS ARE OUT, SEW-BY IS IN

Stitch World - - NEWS -

The fash­ion land­scape has changed dras­ti­cally in the last decade. Man­i­fold devel­op­ments in re­tail and con­sumer be­hav­iour are driv­ing the new di­rec­tions of fash­ion. The mil­len­ni­als of to­day are more in­formed and tech savvy. They are the ones who are driv­ing new pat­terns of buy­ing. Their pref­er­ences are very dif­fer­ent, not driven by brands but by value, for which they are ready to pay a fair price. They are also very im­pa­tient and look for in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Though no one can re­ally pre­dict the fu­ture, Ram Sa­reen, Founder, Tukat­ech, be­lieves that the pe­riod be­tween 2017 and 2020 will for­ever change the ap­parel busi­ness around the world. Be­low are the ex­cerpts from an exclusive in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Ram and Team SW…

SW: The re­tail in­dus­try around the world has been wit­ness­ing a slow­down. What could be the pos­si­ble rea­sons for it? And how do you the see the fu­ture of re­tail in­dus­try?

Ram: For the last five years, many big- box re­tail­ers, chains and brands have ei­ther been los­ing ground or are stag­nant in their growth. 37 out of 39 re­tail­ers lost sales and shared prices for three years in a row. Hun­dreds of stores are clos­ing and thou­sands of jobs are lost weekly. Yet there are two “1,000- pound go­ril­las” in the room who are still grow­ing: Ama­zon and Wal­mart. In fact, Ama­zon plans to hire an­other 100,000 em­ploy­ees in 2017. Both have earned the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing value providers, while Ama­zon is con­stantly push­ing the en­ve­lope by de­liv­er­ing faster and faster. To put it bluntly, those who think they can sur­vive among these gi­ants with­out chang­ing what they’re do­ing, are go­ing to be those who will fade the fastest.

The big­gest chal­lenge for brands to­day is to re­duce the to­tal prod­uct cy­cle time from ini­tial de­sign con­cept to de­liv­ery to the con­sumer. The last re­main­ing op­por­tu­nity they have is to tackle the prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and ap­proval time, as that process counts for at least 65 per cent of the to­tal lead time (and can some­times reach up to as much as 75 per cent). This means that a 120-day lead time typ­i­cally in­volves over 85 days spent in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and ap­provals.

SW: Re­tail­ers like ZARA and H&M are suc­cess­ful be­cause of their speed to mar­ket. How are they dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional re­tail­ers? You say that the tech packs through which de­signs

are com­mu­ni­cated be­tween the de­signer and the man­u­fac­turer are dead. What are the other new ways or op­tions avail­able in place of these packs?

Ram: One part of the world that re­ally un­der­stands how to do fash­ion fast is Cal­i­for­nia. In this “Golden State”, com­pa­nies de­velop be­tween 1,000 and 2,000 new styles ev­ery four weeks. These com­pa­nies set the de­sign trends through­out the fash­ion in­dus­try and also work very dif­fer­ently than the rest of the in­dus­try. Whereas the norm in most “high-tech” prod­uct de­vel­op­ment cy­cles in­cludes big teams of peo­ple with tech packs and cum­ber­some prod­uct management sys­tems, Cal­i­for­nian com­pa­nies sim­plify the process by us­ing the “old­school” meth­ods of face-to-face com­mu­ni­ca­tion and or­ga­nized as­sets. Not only do these cut down on op­er­a­tions costs, but

Typ­i­cally, a fash­ion de­signer de­scribes what he/she wants to a tech­ni­cal de­signer, who cre­ates a flat sketch of the gar­ment, and adds it to a tech pack with all the in­for­ma­tion about that de­sign, so that it can be sent to a ven­dor to make the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pattern. But no one checks to see if the tech­ni­cal de­signer re­ally un­der­stood what the fash­ion de­signer wanted in the first place. – Ram Sa­reen

also help the de­sign­ers avoid mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which saves time. None of these fast fash­ion com­pa­nies could have sur­vived if their prod­uct de­vel­op­ment time and cost was as high as it is for the typ­i­cal im­porter.

To re­duce the amount of time and re­sources that a glob­al­ized prod­uct de­vel­op­ment process uses, many in­ter­na­tional brands, re­tail­ers and vendors have al­ready adopted 3D sam­ple mak­ing. Although send­ing a dig­i­tal sam­ple over the in­ter­net is faster than send­ing a phys­i­cal sam­ple by FedEx, some­times de­sign­ers still need to see mul­ti­ple sam­ple it­er­a­tions of a style be­fore they sign off with an ap­proval. A back-and­forth process, ir­re­spec­tive of whether it hap­pens in 80 days or 8 days, is still an in­ef­fi­cient process. But not many peo­ple are look­ing at the real prob­lem here, i.e., ‘tech pack’.

Typ­i­cally, a fash­ion de­signer de­scribes what he/she wants to a tech­ni­cal de­signer, who cre­ates a flat sketch of the gar­ment, and adds it to a tech pack with all the in­for­ma­tion about that de­sign, so that it can be sent to a ven­dor to make the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pattern. But no one checks to see if the tech­ni­cal de­signer re­ally un­der­stood what the fash­ion de­signer wanted in the first place. When the ven­dor re­ceives this book, or tech pack, it’s not just the pattern-maker who re­views and in­ter­prets the de­sign, but rather the whole team of man­agers and mer­chan­dis­ers must come to a con­sen­sus that the first sam­ple sent to the fash­ion de­signer is a true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the il­lus­tra­tion in the tech pack. Some­times this process re­quires two or three in­ter­nal it­er­a­tions in it­self be­fore a sam­ple is con­sid­ered good enough to be sent for ap­proval.

Tech­nol­ogy will play a ma­jor role in de­ter­min­ing who will stay and who will not. No one knows ex­actly what the new fash­ion in­dus­try will look like, but it’s cer­tainly ev­i­dent that those who re­sist adopt­ing tech­nol­ogy will not sur­vive quite long

– Ram Sa­reen

Even most of the time, when the first sam­ple ar­rives, the first six words from the fash­ion de­signer’s mouth are (ac­cord­ing to 97 per cent of 317 de­sign­ers in­ter­viewed over a pe­riod of 18 months): “This is not what I wanted!” The real de­sign process ac­tu­ally starts at this point, be­cause the de­signer now has a ref­er­ence gar­ment to which he/she can re­quest changes. But 12-14 work­ing days are wasted to reach this stage.

SW: What can be done to make sure that the first sam­ple that a de­signer sees is ac­tu­ally the gar­ment he/ she en­vi­sioned? How can the mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the de­sign and tech­ni­cal team be re­moved?

Ram: A sew-by is the most di­rect way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with any of the sup­pli­ers. It is a kind of sam­ple gar­ment that a de­signer sends as a ref­er­ence (per­haps with com­ments at­tached) to a ven­dor, rather than a flat sketch and pages of tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion.

Since the dawn of the tech pack, the sew-by has be­come a less pop­u­lar tool, largely in part be­cause the fash­ion de­sign­ers of to­day don’t have the pat­tern­mak­ing skills re­quired to make such a thing. The de­sign­ers of to­day are mostly fo­cused on the “look” of a gar­ment ver­sus the con­struc­tion. Op­tions to ex­press their vi­sion may end at sketch­ing, or work­ing with a tech­ni­cal de­signer to com­mu­ni­cate their vi­sion, which as has been ear­lier demon­strated, usu­ally doesn’t work.

In New York City, the salary for a tech­ni­cal de­signer av­er­ages around US $ 60,000 a year and that of a fash­ion de­signer av­er­ages nearly US $ 10,000 more than that. Brands, buy­ers and re­tail­ers are will­ing to pay for tal­ent, but none of them ac­tu­ally re­al­ize how much of that tal­ent goes waste be­cause of mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the

ven­dor who will pro­duce the fi­nal­ized de­sign. Hence, in­stead of blam­ing the de­signer, we should give them bet­ter tools to work with.

SW: So what seems to work best to com­mu­ni­cate a de­sign idea are ref­er­ence gar­ments (whether they are ini­tial sew-by, or the first sam­ple it­er­a­tions from a tech pack), or­ga­ni­za­tion’s as­sets and their face-to-face col­lab­o­ra­tion. This seems to work well in Cal­i­for­nia, where com­pa­nies are ver­ti­cally in­te­grated and is­sues can be ad­dressed on the same day. But what about the rest of the in­dus­try? How does a de­signer in New York who has no pattern-mak­ing skills send a ref­er­ence gar­ment? How can he/she com­mu­ni­cate to a pattern-maker who lives in a time-zone 12 hours ahead of him/her?

Ram: For decades, TUKA­cad sys­tems for pattern-mak­ing, grad­ing and marker-mak­ing have given man­u­fac­tur­ers im­mense power in process engi­neer­ing and ef­fi­ciency. In a path break­ing move, Tukat­ech now of­fers pre­mium tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tion sub­scrip­tions start­ing as low as US

$ 29 a month. A breadth of de­sign and de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions in­te­grate into a “New De­sign Room”, where all play­ers (fash­ion de­sign­ers, print de­sign­ers, pattern-mak­ers and sam­ple-mak­ers) have spe­cial dig­i­tal tools de­signed with their unique re­quire­ments in mind.

More re­cently, the TUKA3D ap­pli­ca­tion for vir­tual sam­ple-mak­ing has helped re­duce the amount of time and num­ber of it­er­a­tions re­quired to ap­prove a sam­ple for pro­duc­tion. The “new kid on the block”, TUKA­cloud, has given vendors and de­sign­ers more mo­bil­ity in the sam­ple ap­proval process with vis­ual data-host­ing, sim­ple com­mu­ni­ca­tion and flex­i­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion on the web. Fi­nally, the de­sign and de­vel­op­ment cir­cle is com­pleted with TUKA3D De­signer Edi­tion (patent pend­ing), an up-and-com­ing vi­su­al­iza­tion ap­pli­ca­tion that gives de­sign­ers the in­de­pen­dence to show their con­cepts vir­tu­ally, with­out the need to ever touch a pattern.

SW: Is this de­sign tool also help­ful in the pre­pro­duc­tion stage, espe­cially for pattern mak­ers to un­der­stand the lan­guage in which the de­signer has com­mu­ni­cated the de­sign to them?

Ram: The process re­ally gets in­ter­est­ing when the pattern-mak­ers on the other side re­ceive this dig­i­tal sew-by. Be­cause the orig­i­nal 3D sam­ple was draped from an ac­tual pattern, the cor­re­spond­ing pattern pieces re­main in the back­ground. So, a de­signer work­ing with the 3D styles doesn’t need to see the pattern, but since the data is still at­tached, it’s avail­able for the pat­tern­mak­ers to use when they re­ceive the dig­i­tal sew-by. At this point, all they need to do is au­dit the pattern and pre­pare it for pro­duc­tion pro­cesses.

SW: How do you think this dis­rup­tion would af­fect the re­tail in­dus­try in com­ing years?

Ram: I be­lieve that “2017 and 2018 will de­fine who will sur­vive in the ap­parel busi­ness”. With the re­tail sec­tor shift­ing to a con­sumer-driven mar­ket, agility is the name of the game for brands and vendors to keep up with the “shift in the think­ing process across the en­tire sup­ply chain”. Tech­nol­ogy will play a ma­jor role in de­ter­min­ing who will stay and who will not. No one knows ex­actly what the new fash­ion in­dus­try will look like, but it’s cer­tainly ev­i­dent that those who re­sist adopt­ing tech­nol­ogy will not sur­vive quite long.

If there is any­thing to be learned from the fash­ion in­dus­try, it’s that his­tory al­ways re­peats it­self. How­ever, in this case, we are not talk­ing about jean cuts and skirt lengths. What TUKA3D DE does is to al­low de­sign­ers to work the same way they did 30 years ago (with a sew-by) but in a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment. Some­times the big­gest par­a­digm shifts are not too for­ward in terms of think­ing: they uti­lize the wis­dom of the past and adapt it for the fu­ture.

Ram Sa­reen, Founder, Tukat­ech

In TUKA3D De­signer Edi­tion (DE), ex­ist­ing vir­tual sam­ples are brought into the Gar­ment Builder Mod­ule, where al­ready-sim­u­lated style com­po­nents can be swapped, added, or deleted to ‘snap’ to­gether a new sil­hou­ette. This be­comes a dig­i­tal sew-by, with­out the de­signer even look­ing at a pattern

The print de­sign­ers can use the dig­i­tal sew-by as a blank can­vas in the Print Visu­al­izer Mod­ule, in which they can pre­view their own devel­op­ments. A process that is typ­i­cally done on flat il­lus­tra­tions be­comes more pow­er­ful (and more ac­cu­rate) on a to-scale 3D ob­ject

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