Fashion industry uses digital technology to make eco-friendly clothes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Students check clothes they designed with 3D computer graphics in Yodogawa Ward, Osaka.

Three-dimensional computer graphics are boosting sustainability in the clothing design industry, as on-screen images just as good as a physical creation eliminate the need for prototypes and help predict trends, thereby reducing overproduction.

Next spring, a major apparel company intends to release clothes that students of the Osaka Institute of Fashion in Osaka designed using 3DCG.

“You can wear this shirt even if your body shape changes,” a student said as they and others rotated and enlarged images of dresses and shirts to show employees of Osaka-based Urban Research Co.

Four designs were chosen for commercialization at the meeting, which was held at the school at the end of September.

The images clearly illustrate the shading and tension of the fabric, and look like photographs of the real thing. However, they’re actually 3DCG created by the students.

This spring, the Osaka Institute of Fashion became the first clothing design school in Japan to offer a “3D modelist” course.

Students are learning how to turn a flat paper pattern made through computer-aided design into a 3D image by using multiple software programs.

They can reproduce the elasticity and texture of different fabrics, such as wool or linen, as well as the shape and wrinkles that develop when they’re worn, just like the real thing.

Ready-to-wear products distributed in Japan are usually planned about a year before they go on sale, and prototypes are ordered from overseas sewing factories.

Revisions are made and new prototypes ordered, a process repeated multiple times.

But, with 3DCG, the color and length of a garment can be changed by simply modifying the data, thus saving the time required for prototyping and transportation costs. This conserves fabric and energy.

Rin Morishita, 20, is one of the student who worked on the designs for commercialization. “I realized that the processes involved in making clothes can be reduced,” Morishita said happily.

This is the first such project by Urban Research. The person in charge said, “It’s important to raise the degree of perfection when converting 3DCG into actual products. We want to tackle this challenge with the students.”

Using 3DCG is also expected to reduce surplus production of clothing.

Since 2017, Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Corporation Fashion Co. has been providing apparel companies with a manufacturing and sales model that incorporates 3DCG. By posting images on its website and taking orders in advance, the company can ascertain the demand for particular colors and sizes.

One issue is training personnel to use the technology. Tokyo Fashion-technology Lab started a training program three years ago, and has also sent instructors to the Osaka Institute of Fashion. President Yuji Ichikawa said, “We want to revolutionize the industry through human resources.”