The Power of Fashion-Based PLM

PLM solutions were born in the engineering field, so it's only natural that they were initially built to protect against change and unpredictability. But fashion is all about change, with a landscape rampant with challenges including fast trend turnover, multi-distribution channels, and complex sizing and grading.

The fashion industry has only scratched the surface when it comes to realizing PLM's potential to combine creativity-enabling capabilities with a strong data management platform. That's why PLM that is purpose-built for the fashion industry is a game changer.

So what makes it different than other solutions available on the market? The answer is threefold: it extends visualization throughout the collection development process, incorporates design tools that push the boundaries of creativity, and provides an integrated platform that provides visibility and data accessibility necessary to drive business decisions. Together, these elements marry the creative process with technology strong enough to handle overlapping calendars, changing details, multiple approvals and all the re-submits that often occur on a daily basis.

A picture is worth a thousand words
The first creative spark for a collection begins with designers who are, by nature, visual thinkers and typically communicate their ideas through sketches. A fashion-specific PLM solution takes this critical component of the process into account and enables image management to be incorporated natively and intuitively in the system. For many existing solutions, this is often an afterthought since the focus is primarily on data management.

Visual libraries provide centralized storage for collection elements including embellishments, colorways and construction details. These elements can be easily accessed for reuse in a subsequent season, thus reducing the amount of time spent away from creative work. In addition, pattern-making and 3D prototyping technologies foster improved collaboration between creative and technical teams, helping to eliminate misunderstandings between departments. Everyone involved in the process can share ideas, sketches, fabrics, patterns and measurements with the benefits of technically correct and clear 2D and 3D images. What emerges is a common vision of how the end garment will actually look. Moreover, virtual product simulations can be carried out and shared quickly and easily before a physical sample is ever created.

The proof is in the print
A PLM solution for the fashion industry incorporates design tools that enable creativity. From sketching and storyboarding to creating unique printed, woven and knitted fabrics, a fashion PLM will provide the tools necessary to help your garments stand out in the crowd.

Many fashion houses are driven by their prints. In the United States, there is no copyright protection for garment designs, only prints and fabric designs. A true fashion PLM solution takes the impact of prints on defining a brand into account and embeds the tools necessary to foster this level of creativity.

A platform that brings people together
A fashion PLM handles the intricacies of multiple departments working together on a single product. It houses all information, creative and technical, related to the collection development process on a single platform. This tight integration covers the full design chain, starting with color palettes and concept boards, through to textile design, product design and product definition. The end result is that designers, pattern makers and suppliers are able to better collaborate and share information, which effectively reduces rework, improves common understanding and enables efficient creation.

On a truly integrated platform, a single design modification — whether it's a change in motif, repeat or colorway — updates related information throughout the system. This means that a change to a fabric design can automatically update seasonal boards, product sketches, fabric records, style records and any other related reports. It not only ensures there is one version of the truth for everyone involved but it also reduces manual tasks and communications issues and saves time. And in fashion, we all know time is money.

This integration provides visibility from both a creative and a business standpoint. With constant change, being able to understand where a garment is in its development is an important way to gain control, and it allows departments to make the right style, quality and budget decisions to keep teams on time and on target.

This is fashion
Building a fashion collection is a unique process and must be supported through a tailor-made solution. A fashion PLM channels expertise where it matters most — vision, creativity, quality and fit. Through the use of technology, companies gain a better look at the big picture and produce better designs and higher quality products in a timelier manner. This is increasingly important as consumer tastes continue to evolve and new challenges arise.

Luis VelÁzquez is a business consultant for Lectra North America.
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