Transforming the Fashion Industry: Insights from PI Apparel NYC on AI and 3D technology

Picture 1 - Joost, Josh, and Gary

The fashion industry is witnessing a significant shift with the widespread adoption of 3D technology and artificial intelligence (AI). In this article, we explore the insights of Gary Plunkett, Josh Hansen, and Joost Alferdinck, three industry experts, part of the PixelPool team, who shed light on the common themes observed at the PI Apparel NYC event.

These insights provide a glimpse into the potential of AI, the evolution of brands’ 3D maturity levels, the importance of integration of systems and tools, and the need to revolutionize customer interactions within the fashion landscape. 

The Potential of AI 

A relevant topic this year at PI Apparel NYC was Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how brands and vendors are harnessing its capabilities for design, visualization, concepting, advertising and other purposes.
As mentioned by Josh Hansen: “When AI generated art burst on the scene in 2022, it ignited our imaginations about what humans can create using tools such as Dall-e, Mid Journey and Stable Diffusion and how we can integrate AI into fashion. The progress that has been made in the last year has been nothing short of amazing. These tools, when learned, can help apparel brands to visualize concepts, products and environments faster and easier than before. 

Maison Meta had a great presentation demonstrating how they have created visually stunning advertising imagery for fashion brands, without photoshoots or models or traveling to locations. Browzwear also demonstrated how they are using stable diffusion to generate imagery of products on people, which is very impressive.  

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Josh Hansen, Managing Director of PixelPool N. America.
“We are very excited to see how AI evolves and becomes faster, easier and more integrated into the fashion industry and at PixelPool, we are learning how we can use it to help solve our clients’ problems.”

The combination of AI potential and the utilization of university talent was also a recurring theme throughout the fair, demonstrating how universities are embracing digital technologies and pushing boundaries. Rather than questioning the merits of AI for the greater good of society, they are actively applying it to help solve challenges and bridge gaps within the fashion industry.  Michael Ferraro’s presentation on using AI to envision haute couture apparel and styling exemplified a refreshing departure from the traditional approach.  The whole mission of the FIT DTech Lab to collaborate with smart, talented students to solve industry problems with fresh ideas and new perspectives will be a huge help to brands trying to scale.  FIT as well as a myriad of other universities with like-minded ambitions are looking to de-risk innovation for brands and retailers.   

The Evolution of 3D Maturity 

During discussions with apparel and footwear brands at PI Apparel NYC, one of the key topics of interest revolved around their level of 3D maturity. This level is measured based on how extensively a brand has adopted virtual samples, graded on a scale from 0 to 3. As 3D technology has become prevalent in the apparel industry over the years, brands have not only acknowledged its legitimacy but have also actively embraced the necessary tools, knowledge, and expertise to incorporate 3D throughout their entire operations. In PixelPool’s booth at the event, apparel brands were invited to visually showcase their position on the 3D maturity scale, with many considering themselves to be in the top quadrants as “Believers” and “Frontrunners.”  

Since PixelPool first started mapping the 3D maturity level of brands two years ago, there has been a natural and expected evolution in brands’ 3D maturity levels. More and more Believers and Frontrunners are engaging with Dtail to further advance their 3D journey. However, it is crucial to recognize that not only Believers and Frontrunners can take advantage of advanced 3D technology.  

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Gary Plunckett, CCO of PixelPool
“As we demonstrated in our presentation, scaling from zero to Believerin 3D is possible in as short a period as 2 years as SAE-A has proven leveraging both the Dtail platform as well as the talent coming out of universities.”

While brands are making strides in advancing their 3D maturity levels, scaling remains a significant challenge: the transition from using 3D technology for specific applications to achieving comprehensive digitalization of entire collections within a shorter timeframe poses a formidable obstacle.

At last year’s PI, we outlined the challenges with scaling in 3D.
The first of those challenges was
coverage, which corresponds to producing enough 3D products to truly leverage the digital technology in the market. Notably, even Believers and Frontrunners face this coverage challenge, as revealed by their reactions when we explained how Dtail’s Print Designer and Garment Library were used by both H&M and SAE-A to address it.
Specifically, the issue was solved by
leveraging vast libraries of core garment silhouettes, coupled with customizable color and print options. By utilizing such features, brands can design and simulate their creations in a matter of minutes and
have fold and hanging simulations ready for use in our virtual store environment.  

To see a video of how the print designer works click here

Disclaimer: This is a demonstration that was submitted to the LVMH Innovation Award. It is not an endorsement from LVMH.

Integration of tools 

In the face of a challenging business landscape, where the fashion industry is grappling with the repercussions of the global pandemic, there has been a notable slowdown reported by vendors operating in the same space: budget cuts and a cautious approach have prompted brands to prioritize cost reduction over ambitious, innovation-driven projects.

However, amidst these circumstances, it becomes even more crucial to emphasize the importance of exploring new solutions and preparing for the future. Integration of systems and tools has emerged as a key focus in recent PI shows, with discussions centered around building pipelines and facilitating seamless flow of 3D data across various platforms.
This integration, spanning creation apps, PLMs, DAMs, cloud-based catalogs, and virtual showrooms, is instrumental in unlocking the true potential of digital assets.

At PixelPool, our Dtail platform offers API integration capabilities, empowering brands to establish pipelines that enable collaboration among different teams involved in the planning and go-to-market process. By leveraging up-to-date catalogs, lines, and assortments, brands can save time and streamline their operations.
Despite the prevailing challenges, it is crucial to convince brands that investing in new solutions and being future-ready are essential steps toward long-term success in the dynamic fashion industry. 

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Joost Alferdinck, CPO of PixelPool
“A lot of vendors that operate in the same space as us are reporting that business is slower - the fashion industry is dealing with the fallout of the corona crisis, budgets are being cut left and right and brands are generally more careful with more ambitious, innovation-driven projects and instead focusing on reducing costs primarily. However, in challenging times like these, it's important to look at new solutions and be prepared for the future.”

Revolutionizing Customer Interaction 

The event also included Joshua Young’s thought-provoking presentation on how brands can and should evolve their customer interaction methods, particularly in the online realm. Many brands still rely on outdated tiled product views on e-commerce platforms, underutilising new technologies.
A comparison of Amazon’s website layout from almost three decades ago to the present highlights the lack of significant changes. However, it is crucial to note that Amazon’s success is not solely attributed to the tiled view but rather to a comprehensive customer experience. With technology, factors such as virtual try-on capabilities, product customization options, visually engaging digital photography and videos, and detailed product information contribute to an enriched customer experience. 

Brands utilizing the Dtail platform exemplify the advantages of embracing these elements. By selling in lifelike virtual environments and showcasing 3D products paired with metadata, brands can offer immersive and informative experiences to their customers.
While Amazon’s success in the tiled method is influenced by its focus on non-fashion items, the fashion industry can take inspiration from the emphasis on customer experience, equipping consumers with the necessary tools to make informed decisions.

In conclusion, the PI Apparel NYC event emphasized the transformative power of AI and 3D technology in shaping the future of the fashion industry. AI has great potential in enabling faster concept visualization and stunning advertising imagery without the need for traditional photoshoots.
The adoption of 3D technology has driven the evolution of brands’ maturity levels, with increasing engagement from Believers and Frontrunners. The integration of systems and tools is vital for unlocking the potential of digital assets and fostering seamless collaboration.

Amidst current challenges, brands must embrace new solutions and reimagine customer interactions, harnessing technologies such as virtual try-on and product customization. This dynamic combination of 3D technology, AI, and customer-centric approaches holds immense promise for the fashion industry’s future.