"Today, digital has found its way into most nooks and crannies throughout the world of fashion. From inspiration and design to manufacturing and marketing, digital tools have changed the scope of what an education—and career—in fashion looks like."
Set during the 1970’s punk rock movement, the movie Cruella is not only Disney’s live-action prequel to 101 Dalmatians, but a tour de force of fashion moments. The movie takes viewers on a visual journey as Cruella transforms from a young burgeoning fashion designer and petty thief to a revenge-seeking frontwoman, backed by a band of talented thieves and fashion-forward miscreants. From the frocks she designs throughout the movie to the characters’ wardrobes themselves, this movie undoubtedly inspired many to seek a career in fashion.
Yet as the movie demonstrates, fashion design before the digital era consisted of a pencil and paper, a dress form, and bolts upon bolts of fabric for draping. Relying on their passion and a pencil, it was up to designers to use these rather rudimentary tools and techniques to succeed. Today, digital has found its way into most nooks and crannies throughout the world of fashion. From inspiration and design to manufacturing and marketing, digital tools have changed the scope of what an education—and career—in fashion looks like.
So what tools and apps are at the forefront of digital fashion design today? And what digital education can someone anticipate when training for a career in fashion?
What is Digital Fashion Design?
Digital fashion design is a broad term used to describe the digital technology used to support the fashion industry. Increasingly, designers are required to possess digital know-how at every stage of their work. In this article, we’ll cover the five key stages of fashion design (inspiration, design, product development, manufacturing, and marketing) and touch upon the top apps and software that support each stage.
Benefits of Digital Fashion Design
The word that best encapsulates digital fashion design is precision. As with any industry, technology is greatly beneficial to narrow down guesswork in fashion. With algorithms, huge amassments of behind-the-scenes data encapsulation, and the sophistication of apps and software, the chance for error is greatly reduced.
For instance, technology has advanced to the point that higher-end fashion designers are able to take digital measurements with such precision that traditional fittings are unnecessary. By using a body scanner to create a virtual 3D copy of a person to create digital patterns, garments are custom-designed using exact measurements. Think of the time and labor saved for something of high importance, like a wedding dress. If a bride could see her specific body shape and silhouette in the dress digitally, a huge amount of time and labor (#$$) can be saved. 3DLook, an online fashion retailer, is one example of this technology coming to life.
“At 3DLook, we’re able to capture 86 different measurement points on the body. This allows our shoppers to peruse our collection using a customized electronic version of themselves, which cuts down the need for excess shipping and returns. This helps people buy clothes that they know will actually fit and look good, even when there's not a fitting room in sight.”
A great example of a truly immersive fashion portfolio is one that brings designs to life through 3D scans. An example of an immersive portfolio is the April 2021 collaboration between Cappasity and Victoria Andreyanova. The collection “Snow Maiden’’ was fully digitized in 3D, and Victoria Andreyanova became the first brand in Russia to present a new collection in the immersive format.
For students, technology has become integral in their education. Digital technology is used throughout the entire process, from inspiration and design all the way through manufacturing and marketing as seen here…
Which Software is Best for Fashion Design?
First, let’s identify the difference between an application (or app) and software. An app is built to perform a single function, whereas software is built to perform multiple tasks. In fashion design, the two most-used software programs are Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Because they are more affordable and user-friendly, many high schools across the country offer classes to teach the basics to their students.
Most of the fashion design process is done in Illustrator, from sketching to coloring and repeating pattern design to presentation boards. Illustrator is used to create a variety of digital and printed images, including charts, diagrams, graphs, logos, and illustrations. Illustrator allows a user to import a photograph and use it as a guide to trace an object in the photograph. Illustrator is so important in fashion design, that a quick search on StyleCareers.com (the largest fashion-only job listing site) details that every single job listed mentions proficiency in Illustrator as a requirement. Illustrator is also an essential tool for creating and maintaining a digital portfolio.
Photoshop is a tool for any type of image editing, from touching up photos to creating high-quality graphics. Using Photoshop, fashion designers can recolor textiles, create textile design repeats, clean scanned images, assemble CAD presentations, render sketches, and add dimensional shading.
Apps to Find Fashion Inspiration
The growth of fashion apps is astounding. Designers have more than 4 million software options, browser extensions, phone and tablet options available. Here are a few of the top recommendations that make fashion work easier, faster, and more profitable.
WGSN is a consumer trends forecasting company. By combining trends with data science and consumer insight, the technology is able to pinpoint consumer behaviors, interests, and tastes to shape how people live, work, and play. WGSN is used by 43,000 product designers and thought leaders in 32 global markets. Companies, brands, designers, and retailers use their fashion platform for trends in consumer behavior, retail, marketing and business strategy, and in-depth analysis across 14 fashion product categories. Its forecasting is highly influential in shaping future designs.
Fashion is universally considered a form of art. A key place for inspiration for designers is other more traditional art forms. Designers use the Art Authority app as a key source of inspiration. It allows people to browse more than 100,000+ paintings and sculptures by 1,500 of the world’s leading artists from ancient times to today. This easy-access archive is an incredible visual library to inspire every designer.
Created by the world’s leading fashion publisher, Vogue Runway provides images from 12,000 fashion shows and more than 1 million runway photos all the way back to 2000—a significant, indispensable archive. It also offers unlimited access to the world’s latest collections with options to watch videos of top runway shows or view images of each collection.
The optimum digital mood board and a hugely popular resource for designers, Pinterest allows designers to pin (e.g., collect) and save images to use as reference. Users can create their own boards full of looks that inspire them, or browse other people’s boards for inspiration. With more than 602 million boards on fashion and 21 billion fashion ideas, Pinterest is a vital tool for exploring new ideas and trends.
What Apps are Best for Fashion Illustration?
Although we already touched on the importance of Adobe Illustrator to the fashion world, there are other apps available for fashion illustration. Here are two:
There’s never enough time to draw technical sketches from scratch for every project. Apps like Repsketch allow designers to repurpose and customize existing sketches created by the community of top technical fashion designers.
With this app enables users can:
- Select from a variety of styles from casual tops to gowns, and modify to create a new look.
- Quickly change a neckline or sleeve style.
- Add a logo to any garment.
- Download, embed, or share a public link of designs with the world in web-friendly format.
Simply put, Pret-A-Template is a digital sketchbook. It allows designers to sketch designs on an iPhone or iPad. They offer more than 500 templates, including a wide variety of body types and specific details, like shoes. Users can select from predefined skin, hair, and makeup color pallets that complement their look.
Apps for Fashion Product Development
Tech packs (or specification sheets) are blueprints of a design. They document the design, the materials, and the construction—-everything a garment needs for production. Traditionally, these spec sheets are a time-consuming task. Fashion designers despair the endless frustrations of creating flat sketches that include condensing words to fit in a format, making changes, and repeated data entry to fix errors.
Techpacker makes tech packs much faster and easier to create. The app translates tech packs into cards, so the process of creating them becomes more visual, collaborative and up to 70% faster. The advantage of cards is that designers can copy, move, reuse, and connect them. They can invite manufacturers onto the app and integrate it with other apps to make it super powerful.
A tech forward 3D software, CLO3D allows designers to visualize sketches through the use of avatars that serve as dress forms in all shapes and sizes. The app enables people to import their own patterns or draw directly in CLO. They can add fabric choices and see it all come together in 3D format, and even finetune their design in real time.
Zapier & Workflow:
With the wealth of apps and the challenges of communicating between them, here are two options that make it easier: Zapier (designed for web) and Workflow (designed for iPhones). For instance, Zapier allows designers to connect with thousands of apps so that they can work faster and more efficiently. Workflow uses a simple drag-and-drop interface allowing designers to mix and match hundreds of actions, create quick shortcuts, manage media, and share content. There are thousands of available workflows that can be added to Dropbox automatically.
Apps for Fashion Manufacturing
Once the garment is designed and the prototype is created, it’s time to produce it. Sourcing the right fabric and finding the right manufacturer are the next steps.
Finding a reputable manufacturer specific to a product category is difficult. Finding a good one is even harder. For those specifically looking for a manufacturer in the U.S., Maker's Row is useful. With roughly 3,900 apparel and accessories-related makers that are clearly sorted by categories and rating, designers are able to review in-depth factory profiles to find the perfect manufacturing partner.
Unfortunately, manufacturing in the U.S. isn’t always a viable option for up-and-coming designers. For those looking to lower manufacturing costs by looking outside the U.S., a greater number of manufacturers can be found through Global Sources, a global company with a whole host of manufacturing options from around the world. People prefer Global Sources as they put a lot of effort into listing factories that meet higher standards than their competitors.
Swatchon is a wholesale fabric platform based in Seoul, South Korea. It ships to 52 countries and has 100,000 fabrics to choose from online. This platform works with brands of all sizes, allowing them to place an order as small as 3 yards, or up to 500,000 yards.
Higg Co is a technology company that focuses on building tools that power sustainability measurement. Higg Co helps brands reduce energy use, combat audit fatigue, and safeguard those who work in the supply chain. Higg Materials Sustainability Index allows designers to create custom materials and understand their environmental impact.
Best Fashion Marketing Apps
As noted on the infographic, the last stop on the fashion journey is “Marketing,” but that requires consumers and businesses to know where they can find a specific fashion line. There are apps that make it easy to attract buyers. Here are a few:
Shopify is an ecommerce platform that allows people to set up an online store to sell merchandise. People can customize their storefront, accept credit card payments, track and respond to orders—all with a few clicks—to power more than 350,000 businesses.
Think of ShopifyPlus as Shopify on steroids. The platform is for those who want the sophistication of a great ecommerce platform without the hassle of setting up their own. Participants join some of the biggest names in fashion. ShopifyPlus also provides the opportunity to launch high-profile ad campaigns, offers, and the ability to connect with customers on social media across a global marketplace.
Brandboom is a wholesale ecommerce platform to create clean line sheets, get orders directly from retailers, and receive payments. After setting up a line sheet, people can directly send a link to buyers and showrooms to book and pay directly. This reduces time-consuming back-and-forth communication and narrows the risk of missing critical SKUs or sizes.
A hot online marketplace for indie boutiques as well as start-up designers. This is where designers can set up an online store and immediately have access to thousands of global customers. Those looking to join need to simply submit their brand and fill out an application on the Garmentory website and start selling once approved.
Parsons Paris and Digital Technology
While the breadth of digital options available for designers and fashion students undoubtedly seems overwhelming, technology is vital to the industry. For high school students aiming their sites on a career in fashion design, schools like Parsons Paris offer online courses that may include an introduction to some of the more popular digital fashion tools, like Adobe Illustrator.