Technology's Influence on The Fashion Industry


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker


October 24, 2022


Emily Lane 00:09 

Welcome to Clothing Coulture. I'm Emily Lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:12 

I'm Bret Schnitker. 

Emily Lane 00:13 

We speak with experts where we explore the global dynamics that shape trends in the fashion industry. 

Bret Schnitker 00:19 

Brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global production and design house with over 30 years of industry experience. 

Emily Lane 00:34 

Welcome to another episode of Clothing Coulture. I'm Emily Lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:38 

I'm Bret Schnitker. 

Emily Lane 00:39 

And we are excited to talk to you today about the Evolution of Technology and its Impact to the Fashion Industry. So Bret, I remember coming to Stars Design Group for the first time two years ago and seeing your amazing presentation and learning about the design that you embrace in house 3d, 3d design. Now after being in the industry myself 

Bret Schnitker 01:04 

-And seeing the presentation 1000 times. 

Emily Lane 01:11 

You know, I, I've seen more and more talk of 3d design, I know that it's still, you know, has a smaller imprint in in this industry. But you've been at it for nine years now. 

Bret Schnitker 01:25 

Yes that's right. 

Emily Lane 01:26 

Yeah. So I I'd like to talk a little bit about 3d design and how it's kind of revolutionize this space, but also kind of want to learn a little bit about some of the benefits that you see that it imparts. And then we can kind of evolve from there. 

Bret Schnitker 01:41 

Yeah, as you mentioned, we've been I can't say I cause I personally haven't been doing the 3d design, we have a wonderfully talented staff that dove in and, and started about nine years ago. And I think they're outrageously capable in, in what they do today. Today, we do 3d design faster than we've ever really done 2d design. And it's with a wonderful partner, Sharon Lim out of Singapore, the company is Browzwear, we embarked on a journey with them. And it's been a great ride they, they have a great platform, they've created an open platform. So there's a lot of innovation built into 3d design and 3d design has itself been innovating and evolving rapidly in the scene. And I think, you know, simple benefits certainly are that, you know, the garment looks more real. And I think that helps brands, designers, retailers, see the garment and the collections what they aren't make better decisions. But that's really the very surface of 3d design built into the 3d design program that we work with, you know, we start with a pattern file forward. So we can even be doing virtual fit as part of this whole process that I think it's about, you know, Americans, I always like to say we live in a microwave society when everything fast. And you know, there's no exception. You know, I've been on a number of calls with people that, you know, want the fast turn model, they want things quicker. And, you know, you have to make decisions faster, you have to make decisions faster, you have to visualize what decision you're making better, right. And so I think 3d design certainly helps with the pandemic, and COVID. It serves another purpose, it serves connecting that design vision to remote parties in different ways. And in many cases, today, we're seeing amazing things happening with 3d design, where you've added 3d animation, and you're having these 3d virtual fashion shows, full collections are happening, and it's happening all over the world. There's an amazing gal Anifa of Rumba out of Congo, she's Congolese, she's got a brand called Hanifa. And I urge everyone to go take a look at her YouTube. 

Emily Lane 04:07 

Yeah, It's impressive. 

Bret Schnitker 04:08 

It is amazing. And so, you know, we like to think that we're, you know, this Western world has got technology, and the rest of the world trying to catch up when you see what Hanifa's doing, it's just really mind boggling. And I think a number of brands, couture, and on and on down are really looking to 3d design to change, you know, the way that they go to market, the way that they visualize collections. It's just amazing and really exciting for me. 

Emily Lane 04:39 

I can really see the benefits that 3d design brings. Speeding up the process, giving a more realistic representation of what a garment is going to look like. We all know those, those beautiful sketches don't always translate to the garment that you see in your hands. But you know, as as, as a designer, like from a creative standpoint, I would think it could be really tactel you know. previously in fashion designers to create these amazing mood boards that have fabric and images and and you know, and then their draping and sketching and getting their inspiration from the sunset and just various things. So how do you recommend kind of justifying that tactel need on a creative standpoint, while knowing that the world is evolving and moving to a different model. 

Bret Schnitker 05:28 

I think each serves a specific purpose. I remember a meeting where I had a bunch of designers relatively new sitting around a table, and I was asking each one about, you know, their experience and what their history was, and what particular, you know, type of garments they designed, and how they went about that process. And, and then I kind of dropped on them, you know, how do you think technology plays, you know, in your design role today, and it was almost unanimous, oh, soulless. Like, we're artists, and this has no place and, and so I kind of, you know, didn't say anything, and then they started asking you about the Stars, and what we did. And when I went through the presentation, I showed them, our 3d design, their mouths dropped, they couldn't believe how realistic this 3d design looked. And they were, they started commenting about, Oh, my God, we can show so many more garments to our customers, they can see it virtually. And it will save us so much time and allow us to have so much more of a breadth of line they lit up because of the economics of technology that helped them you know, they're not spending hours creating these, these dresses, or garments, or whatever they were creating, to show to the customers, they could do it digitally, get feedback from the customers then move down the path on design. You know, designers are every bit artists, like, you know painters are, they just don't use brushes, they use fabric. And so, you know, that's never going to change. Does virtual 3d design and technology simply helps support all of the other stages that will ultimately go through it, we're going to ultimately make decisions about fabrics, we're ultimately going to be doing fitting and styling sessions and all of that. But what what I think 3d design brings today, because it's moved so far from, you know, this cartoon animation to really virtually real looks is that it, it helps distill thought processes, it helps distill some of that vision, so that they can make those next steps in a in a more comfortable and easier way. 

Emily Lane 07:38 

That's a really good point, you don't have to wait until the end of the process to realize that this idea didn't actually work. 

Bret Schnitker 07:45 

Yeah. And even when it comes to fit, I mean, like I mentioned, even in 3d programs, where we're making fit decisions in a virtual landscape. So as you're creating these garments from the pattern files forward in a digital landscape, you can also utilize technology, again, from the from the avatar forward, that avatar has a basis in scientific fit. And you can create these designs and your patterns are virtual space, and work through some of the challenges that you've gotten in design in a virtual space, as opposed to utilizing the resources of the fabric. And frankly, the resource of time. 

Emily Lane 08:23 

Even the avatar itself is is a innovation in itself. I know that at Stars, its Alvanon. Speak to that a little bit because that is an incredible evolution in you going from the dressform to 

Bret Schnitker 08:43 

Yeah, so I think, you know, when we're looking at fit, and we're looking at form, you know, there have been a lot about, you know, evolutions in that you mentioned, the dress form and how all of that started. And that had kind of a basis in technical fit, as the world saw it at that point. And I think there are a number of choices, but we've chosen to partner with a company called Alvanon. I think they bring science to fit, they scan 1000s of bodies all over the world, they segment them they run algorithms and programs to determine what they think this ultimate body type should look like. They create these, you know, mannequins with a number of points of fit. And, and there's a very interesting science behind both those mannequins and how they grade up and down based upon what they really see within these body scans about how bad body types change. In our world, you know, when you think about moving from 3d design into a virtual environment, you know, that avatar can be really in a virtual environment, any shape or size, it can literally be like avatar, the movie, you know, seven foot tall, blue with a tail. And so if you're really going to do designs in a virtual space, You have to make sure that there's this basis for technical fit in a space and Alvanon partnered with Browzwear to import that all of their, you know, intellectual property in terms of fit into this virtual space to allow these fit decisions to happen. 

Emily Lane 10:17 

What I found fascinating when I started learning about Alvanon, was thinking about clothes, you know, size small and medium to large to extra large, you know, it's like, you kind of think, okay, so that small, going to medium is just a little bit bigger everywhere around then medium going to largest, just a little bit bigger everywhere around. But, you know, when Alvanon went through their process of skinning all these body types, the discovery was very clear that people don't grow, you know, if 

Bret Schnitker 10:46 

Proportionately throughout your body. 

Emily Lane 10:48 

If I was going to suddenly gain 15 pounds, 20 pounds, everywhere on me wouldn't grow in the same place 

Bret Schnitker 10:54 

It could it'd be unusual, 

Emily Lane 10:56 

Right. Right. And so, you know, that scaling that you talk about, is really making those those accommodations where they need to as somebody grows. 

Bret Schnitker 11:07 

And I think exploring this detail behind fit is critically important. Because we mentioned this whole evolution to online space, when you're in brick and mortar, and you've got customer being able to walk into the store, try the garment on, "hey, it doesn't fit, I put it back on the rack", that's an easy, like consumer exchange. If they don't like it, they bring it home, they can walk back into the store, in exchange. In an online world, you're virtually sending this package very a courier back to a warehouse that has to restock it, it's a very expensive process. And so limiting returns, exchanges, etc, are critically important to profitability of a lot of companies. So really thinking about fit. And I think illustrating, and being transparent about what your fit is to the online consumer becomes really, really clear. 

Emily Lane 11:59 

Tremendously important, you know, you talked about the experience of going into a fitting room. And you know, there's there's some some things that companies are doing in response to COVID. And of course, embracing technology, of, you know, going to a fitting room, but not actually physically trying to clothes on, standing in front of a mirror that shows you what you would look like, with that garment on. 

Bret Schnitker 12:25 


Emily Lane 12:26 

That has presented, what is that technology, by the way? 

Bret Schnitker 12:29 

Well, there's a number of technologies that are out there. But you know, I think the industry talks about is like smart mirror technology. You know, one of the I think one of the larger ones, or the ones that I've heard about more about than, than most is called FX mirror today, okay. And so I think, as this technology grows, there'll be a lot of people in that space. 

Emily Lane 12:49 

It what is what is surprising to me about that. The awareness that's come with implementing that technology, though, is the difference of trying a garment on physically, versus seeing a representation of it, they've, 

Bret Schnitker 13:06 

From a guy's perspective, boy, that's a lot easier. 

Emily Lane 13:09 

From a woman's perspective, you know, we can touch a garment, love it, we can go into a fitting room and go, there's other bus lighting in here, maybe I need to take it home, and see how it looks in front of my own mirror. If we love how it feels enough. Yeah. But if you're looking at a representation, that's, that's like, here's how you're going to look in this garment might be less forgiving. Right, then, what my mind is. And so I think that that's what's interesting about companies embracing this technology is that there's been this kind of unforeseen challenge, where they're facing that, you know, what you're seeing 

Bret Schnitker 13:46 

Is reality, and people don't really want to see as much reality. So I think, you know, that's the, that's the tightrope you have to walk is as technology comes, technologies in many cases, it's very black and white, right? zeros and ones it is, it is showing and representing, hopefully, if the technology works, right, exactly what you're going to expect. And so, when you think about it, from a logic, logical perspective, you want to know whether the garments gonna fit well. But I think what technology needs to learn in this virtual space that you get into these kind of mirror deals or online that are happening, Amazon's investing a lot of dollars into this now is how do you nuance it? 

Emily Lane 14:25 


Bret Schnitker 14:26 

How do you, 

Emily Lane 14:26 

How do you add the fuzzy filter. 

Bret Schnitker 14:28 

I'm sorry, but the world is marketing. And so how do you say yes, it fits you and the lighting is going to be so much that you're also going to feel like you look good and that and I think challenging. You know that paradigm is going to be an interesting one over the next few years. 

Emily Lane 14:44 

Making the avatar do a little fun twirl. 

Bret Schnitker 14:46 


Emily Lane 14:47 

Right, I'm enjoying this garment, might be an option. So 3d we talked about that a little bit. His is making plays and other areas of the industry as well. Knitting for example, 

Bret Schnitker 15:00 


Emily Lane 15:01 

Which I think has a real play with regards to the sustainability conversation. 

Bret Schnitker 15:06 

I think a number of conversations, you know, America for a long time has wanted to recapture some manufacturing sectors that they've lost or offshored. And so there's a whole conversation about nearshoring. That's kind of the term, I think, to nearshore. Some of these technologies where we've outsourced them to countries with labor costs that are substantially less than ours. We have to embrace technology to be able to do that. And you know, one of those type of technologies that are happening is whole garment knitting or 3d netting. There are two major companies that have been doing this for years and perfecting it for years. And that STOLL in Shima Seiki. And I think that, that as that technology continues to progress, the ability for those machines to knit faster and more efficiently, it we're going- 

Emily Lane 16:02 

-More complexities right? 

Bret Schnitker 16:03 

There, they can knit very complex today, it's mind boggling what some of these machines can do, you can actually program these machines to do some things that you can't really physically do in traditional knitting. You know, you can transfer from a normal yarn to a wicking yarn to an antimicrobial yarn invisibly on a garment, you can shape it to a specific body type, you know, as we talk about, you know, different changes in the industry, there's a whole conversation about custom sizing, right? You know, as we deal with all these returns in online environment, if you can upload your body type, and a computer aided knitting program can knit the garment to fit your body type exactly. There goes the return issue, right. And hopefully, the aesthetic issue is improved. And so that's a really exciting technology that's occurring. 

Emily Lane 16:56 

It kinda sounds like a design dream, really. If you can do all of these really complex ideas. 

Bret Schnitker 17:03 


Emily Lane 17:03 

You know. 

Bret Schnitker 17:04 

I think it is a design dream. Again, it requires technical ability. You know, to program these machines require someone that really understands the detail behind programming. I think both companies are really trying to create programs that are simpler for a designer to use. Today, designer can't really step in easily, and walk down and create a STOLL knitting programmers, especially Shima Seiki knitting program, and just turn it on and and watch it go. However, both companies really would like that to happen. They want it to be very plug and play, very easy to do. And so that's kind of that growth of technology. 

Emily Lane 17:42 

I want to talk a little bit more about this conversation of sustainability, is going to be a common thread because it is one that is it's so important to the industry and consumers. Everybody is is- 

Bret Schnitker 17:56 

-Especially Gen Z, I think. 

Emily Lane 17:57 

Absolutely. And we saw something incredibly interesting, pretty recently that recycles material. 

Bret Schnitker 18:06 


Emily Lane 18:08 

And I would love for you to share a little bit more about this technology that? 

Bret Schnitker 18:14 

Well, you know, with all of these challenges that come up, and sustainability being a big topic of conversation. Look, there is no question that, you know, we have big issues in our oceans with plastic, I've traveled the world. And I have seen in a lot of these countries that it pour down rain, and the soil stays completely wet, because it's so clogged with plastic bottles, that none of the water can absorb into the soil. And it is all over the world. I'm on my seventieth country, this is an issue. And so, you know, the way that we manage consumerism responsibly for the future is something that we all have to undertake. And today, you know, this is where technology again plays this, this role in understanding how we evolve materials and substrates that we're used to running all the time. Polyester, frankly, it's plastic, 

Emily Lane 19:12 


Bret Schnitker 19:12 

That is really the basic, you know, material behind polyester garments. And everyone loves we've embraced polyester as a society, you know, performance, fabric, anti wrinkle, etc. Well, those don't biodegrade quite, you know very well. And so, when we think about plastics in our ocean, we don't really get as far as to think about these polyester garments. So there are a lot of technologies today that are trying to create one new biodegradable polyesters and two, trying to figure out, "hey, how do we recycle or upcycle upcycle current garments that are in the stream of our consumerism" 

Emily Lane 19:48 


Bret Schnitker 19:48 

And not getting to the landfill? And so one of those technologies we saw recently was very interesting where, you know, you would sort garments by color, they'd shred them, and everything In a 40 foot container, you can run it through can be completely mobile, you shred the garments that actually, you know, moves them into all the components that require these fabrics to go back into fiber and then yarn stage. And I don't know, it's an amazing process. It is an expensive process today. But as technology always shows a way, what's expensive one day becomes really affordable the next day. And you know, to move, if you throw in a 3d whole garment knitting machine, at the end of that, you basically start at one and you shred the garments, you break them down into fiber, you then re spin them, you throw them in a 3d hold garment knitting, you have a brand new garment going out the other end, so yeah, really, really fun stuff happening in that scene. 

Emily Lane 20:48 

So fascinating. I think one of the challenges is really helping to educate that consumer, that these technologies are, you know, they are expensive, and, you know, fast fashion and the role that it played with creating different price points for for apparel. And and, you know, really understanding what's a realistic price point for something that's sustainable, for something that has this incredible technology behind it, it seems to me like that might be one of the core challenges in the industry right now. 

Bret Schnitker 21:24 

It is a core challenge. I think that the education of price point and this responsibility, while people on the surface want to believe that they're going to make a difference. Very few want to spend more to do that. 

Emily Lane 21:37 

Well, as as you talked about earlier, the industry has not really changed its price points, 

Bret Schnitker 21:44 


Emily Lane 21:44 

In what? 30 years? 

Bret Schnitker 21:46 

Yes. And so and we're finding remember, the west is now not the primary consumer, industry or consumer market anymore. And then you have China's a massive consumer market. And so price point becomes affordable, you're onboarding these, these, these countries that have large populations, now disposable income that want to spend that, and they're going to walk in wanting affordability and garments, too. So the, the fix, if you will, has to start occurring at the yarn stage, the technology stage, the approach that we're looking at and then I think that there has to be this investment on a global scale to say, how do we change polyesters that are non, you know, degradable to biodegradable? How do we talk about dry dying technologies? How do we amp up, you know, water reclamation units, there's a lot of things we're going to have to do to understand on a mass scale, these changes that can occur, how do we create those changes, and then pass it along economically to the consumer, one of the big things that are helpful in that world, you know, not super helpful to those that have that, you know, wholesale kind of structure or brick and mortar structure. But this direct to consumer model online, is that technically, in a lot of cases, overheads are less expensive than these multiple hands shifting through there. So when you have a direct to consumer model, you might be able to pay a little bit more for some of these technologies than you would normally as a buyer of those garments, and then pass that save, you know, reduce the expense of the consumer at that level. So- 

Emily Lane 23:26 

Oh my gosh, so much to think about here. Are there other shout outs to things that you're seeing on the horizon or anything that you see coming into play that can be a game changer for the industry? 

Bret Schnitker 23:40 

I think there are a lot of finishes and fabrications that we'll probably talk about in future episodes. You know, the, the the economy is or our, our business, our industry is constantly changing, and how we address all those important points are something that we as an industry have to embrace and, and then you know, the exciting part of the fun part of the industry is seeing the evolution of fibers and textiles and looking at you know how natural materials can perform like synthetic materials, you know, mycelium, fungi if you will, the approach to fungi there's there's an amazing things that are going on with mycelium and other substrates. So I'm looking forward to talking about that. In future episodes. 

Emily Lane 24:23 

Hh my gosh, so many wonderful things happening with these textiles. So absolutely looking forward to that conversation and so many more. And if you have topics that you'd like for us to explore if you even want to be a guest on our show, you just reach out we can't wait to hear from you. Thank you for joining us for this episode of Clothing Coulture. 

Bret Schnitker 24:43 

Thank you. 

Watch the episode:

Click below to watch the entire episode.

Technology's Influence on The Fashion Industry