VNTANA booth

VNTANA booth


Priorities in 3-D and Sustainability at PI Apparel Los Angeles


PixelPool booth

In the region where the United States film industry reigns, MarketKey hosted its Los Angeles edition of PI Apparel Feb. 19–20 at the L.A. Grand Hotel Downtown. This edition was an opportunity for professionals from the film industry to illustrate how their work could translate into creating greater efficiency within apparel manufacturing.

On the first day, at a PI keynote covering “How Fashion & Film Are Building Experiential Future Retail,” Tim Alexander, who is the visual-effects supervisor at ILMxLAB, joined Matthew Drinkwater, head of the fashion-innovation agency at the London College of Fashion, to discuss how technology used in other industries can benefit fashion.

“We thought we were unlikely partners,” said Alexander. “It was kind of strange that entertainment companies involved with ‘Star Wars’ and [virtual reality] could cross over and be interested in fashion.”

Using virtual reality to produce a more interactive experience in the industry, Drinkwater explored how to expand upon storytelling in fashion, which could help designers and retailers sell a tale regarding clothing.

“We are focused on how we can use emerging technologies to interpret the course of the fashion industry,” he said—“specifically on how to use technology to change the world of design as brands make their production based on smart materials, smart processes and change the ways they make their collections and show their collections during fashion weeks and ultimately how they use that technology to change the way they sell their collections.”

Promoting his company’s technology, which yields cloud rendering for product design in digital development, Darcy Reno, chief executive officer of FNX Technologies, oversees a team that comprises many former film professionals who apply their skills from their previous jobs to apparel.

“A lot of people in the [apparel] industry think that 3-D is a silver bullet to productivity, but it’s actually a new center,” he said. “Scaling their output is the challenge of what we’re solving today.”

At the booth for Van Nuys, Calif.–based VNTANA, a 3-D and interactive-technology firm that creates virtual-reality shopping and fitting-room software solutions, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ashley Crowder discussed how the evolution within technology is aiding the apparel segment as business looks toward other industries.

“Using a 3-D version of your product on the web has proven to double conversion rates. Using augmented reality for virtual try-on and virtual placement has seen even higher rates,” she said. “We saw the transition from film to digital with assets and visuals, and now we are moving from digital to CGI in the 3-D world.”

PixelPool’s managing director, Josh Hansen, explained that the company’s technology creates high-quality 3-D retail renderings of a bricks-and-mortar space by incorporating video-game engineering. While implementing technology from other industries into apparel production played a large role in this edition of PI Apparel, all roads led back to the discussion on greater sustainability within the industry.

“This show is a great place to go if your company is interested in digital transformation and 3-D, but sustainability is important. It is the common theme here from a lot of these vendors,” he said. “[Sustainability] used to be us saying to everyone, ‘This is important’; now everyone is telling us that it’s important—it’s become more of a mandate.”

During a panel discussion moderated by Steven Frumkin, dean of the Fashion Institute of Technology and covering “The Economic & Strategic Benefits of Executing Circular Business Models,” panelists discussed the challenges of closing the loop in apparel.

“We need to change a complete system,” explained Nathalie De Marco, marketing and communication director at Aquafil S.p.A., “We are a fiber producer, so we are at the beginning of the chain, but we have this problem downward, and we have a different problem upstream. What we recycle up is fishnet and carpeting. These products don’t come pure. You don’t have pure nylon-6 fishnets—they are composed of different materials that we need to separate.”

Attending the event from Fashion Revolution USA, Nicholas Brown, was pleased that sustainability was a large part of the discussion, as it becomes the standard in the apparel industry.

“Garments and footwear are not truly innovative unless they are taking into account their social and environmental impacts so it is refreshing to see this being discussed alongside the digital tools that can make this a reality,” he said. “Stefano Aldighieri [president of Another Design Studio 2.0] made an excellent point in his session when he said companies need to shift their focus away from increasing volume and sales but instead focus on increasing efficiencies and reducing waste and costs.”

The Los Angeles–based Tukatech was celebrating its 25th anniversary during the show. Chief Operating Officer Chris Walia emphasized the importance of supporting local manufacturing and micro-factories.

“If I can create, within 1,400 square feet or less, my own micro-factory, the cost savings will show,” he said. “Part of what we are doing with nearshoring and building micro-factories is allowing for production to happen here, giving jobs back to the U.S. and building our economy.”

For Safir Bellali, senior director for VF Corp.’s advanced digital creation, the PI Apparel conferences around the world afford opportunities for the apparel industry to come together in the spirit of collaboration.

“Because I am in digital innovation, I have to look at adjacent spaces, and I need to have a peripheral point of view of what is happening in other spaces to see how we can implement some of the tools, processes and best practices in our industry,” he said.

Bellali explained that he was fascinated most by the technological solutions that allow users to focus on the task at hand rather than the tools in use.