Carhartt Turns to 3-D Models to Speed Product Development

Carhartt Inc. is exploring how it can use 3-D modeling to see how its clothes will fit before it manufactures physical products, a move the company says could save money and speed time to market. If you can get to where you’re getting to a final product in a digital manner, that has incredible opportunity,” said CIO John Hill.

By Steven Norton – Wall Street Journal

Carhartt Inc. is exploring how it can use 3-D modeling to see how its clothes will fit before it manufactures physical products, a move the company says could save money and speed time to market.

The clothing manufacturer is working with tools from fashion-design software firm EFI Optitex and Shima Seiki, maker of computerized knitting machines and design systems, among other companies, to visualize how certain clothing items will drape over a body, Carhartt CIO John Hill said during a visit to The Wall Street Journal’s New York office.

Rather than developing physical samples to see how a button size affects a certain piece of clothing, software can understand how weight impacts a fabric and show it on a digital model.

3-D modeling stands to speed up Carhartt’s product development process by limiting the number of physical product samples it has to create. Sometimes the company sources some physical manufacturing abroad, increasing the time it takes for Carhartt’s designers in Dearborn, Mich. to receive the samples. The digital designs can allow them to visualize different styles and accessories while dealing with fewer physical materials.

“The question is how can we make that experience almost the same without having to produce the sample,” Mr. Hill said. “If you can get to where you’re getting to a final product in a digital manner, that has incredible opportunity.”

Digital designs could also help Carhartt spot potential problems with clothes before they hit a physical store. In the past, issues with a piece of clothing, such as too much color in a particular area, wouldn’t be seen until it’s on the floor. Technology now allows the company to create digital models of a retail store to see what its product line would look like in the real world.

Down the road, Mr. Hill envisions using technology to allow customers to try on clothes using their smartphone cameras and digital avatars, so they can see how things will fit before making a purchase. “You can imagine being able to take your own avatar…and you can actually try (the clothes) on you.”

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