Innovations

Just as the sewing machine revolutionized the fashion industry in the early nineteenth century, today the computer has taken on a major role in all aspects of the fashion industry. Computer programs, including computer-aided design (CAD) software, have been created to assist designers in creating their work. Designers have tools that can provide 3-D images of new designs, saving the manufacturer huge investments normally spent on samplemaking. Computerized pattern design systems (PDS) offer 2-D design functionality that can be combined with product data-management systems (PDM) to track a garment from creation through to production lifecycle management (PLM).
The future of designing and manufacturing clothing is on the cusp of monumental change. Computer technology developed by OptiTex PAD System, Gerber, and Lectra, provides a full range of software solutions ranging from design, patternmaking, grading, and marker making. These programs can now interface with interactive 3-D draping systems. Today, not only can 3-D samples be created but changes to these virtual designs automatically modify their associated digital patterns. Companies will continue to develop this software and eventually online shoppers will be able to customize their own wardrobes.
Bodyscanning technologies from [TC]2, Cyberware, Bodymetrics, and Intellifit capture body dimensions more accurately than using tape measures. Body dimension information can be useful not only for creating custom-made patterns but also as a research vehicle for manufacturers who wish to update their patterns and sizing for better-fitting clothing, region by region. Bodyscanners are also being used by dress-form companies such as Alvanon and Shapely Shadows to create customized dress forms that help manufacturers standardize fit for a populace with ever-changing size needs. Retailers, manufacturers, tailors, and designers acknowledge that these innovations are the future of the fashion industry and better connect them to their customers' needs.
Other innovations on the horizon involve clothing construction. For-mafit has developed the Clothing Creator, a patented process of manufacturing clothing using ultrasonic cutting, bonding, and heat molding, which eliminates the conventional cut-and-sew process. Using this process, automated systems can manufacture a garment without any direct human labor within a 45-second cycle. Not only does this technology cut down the cost and labor-intensive process of garment manufacturing, but it also could drive the New Look for the twenty-first century.
Innovations involving technology within the retail sector have recently exploded with the invention of seamless and continuous product tracking systems referred to as radio frequency identification (RFID). Unlike traditional barcodes, RFID utilizes a numbering scheme called electronic product code (ePC) that has the ability to provide a unique ID for any product throughout the world. These tags, which cost pennies and can be as small as a grain of sand, are being used worldwide by major apparel retailers and manufacturers. Available systems have been created by Paxar, Envision, Intellitrack, Oasis, and Project Logic, to name a few. By tracking, in real time, which clothes move to and from racks and then through purchase stations, marketers will be able to monitor customer behavior and consumer product end use with unprecedented precision.
Beginning with popularity of the Home Shopping Network (HSN) in 1985 and QVC in 1986, alternative retail channels other than brick-and-mortar stores have emerged. The desire to reach the maximum number of people in the shortest period of time resulted in a burgeoning media-driven retail environment that today produces billions of dollars in sales. The Internet ranks right up there with television when it comes to amazing sales potential. By 1994, e-commerce and e-tailing were household words. According to the State of Retailing On-Line (version 8.0), a study conducted by Forrester Research for Shop.org, online retail apparel sales amounted to $10.2 billion in 2004 and $12.5 billion in 2005. Startup companies, as well as established retailers and manufacturers, utilize the Internet to build businesses and reinforce their brand image.
Another issue for retailers and manufacturers in a global marketplace is reducing the time to market. What once took eighteen months from the time of conception to the distribution center now takes between three to six months. The decisions relating to finding the right place to make a particular product, negotiating costs and bids, managing the product (PDM), supplying, tracking, and distributing can now be accomplished by utilizing sophisticated Web-based on-demand software solutions. Pressures to reduce costs and improve performance to compete globally have elevated the strategic importance of supply management within most apparel enterprises. Companies such as New Generation Computing provide fully integrated product lifecycle management systems. This new wave of technology has eliminated many unnecessary non-value-added steps to the process, which, in turn, has reduced both time and costs. The import agent of the past has been replaced by "sourcing enablers," who use these advanced-speed sourcing methodologies to streamline the entire process, from creation to distribution. Sourcego, a leading sourcing enabler, was among the first full-service agencies based in the United States and China. Their success, and that of the companies they serve, is based on computer-driven technology, which ultimately increases return-on-investment (ROI).
The textile industry in both the United States and Europe, for the past century or so, has been searching for ways to revitalize the industry, having lost production to countries like China, India, Korea, and Turkey. Between 1994 and 1996, the textile industry in the United States lost 50,000 jobs alone—and the number continues to grow at a steady pace. Recent changes in trade agreements and trade regulations have greatly impacted the domestic apparel manufacturing and textile industry. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, roughly half of the total capacity in the apparel industry has shifted from developed countries to less-developed countries (LDCs) over the past thirty years. The top five apparel-manufacturing countries are China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Taiwan, and South Korea. Apparel imports are growing most rapidly from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, and India. Industry estimates show that the average apparel worker in those countries earns about 10 percent of the hourly wage of a comparable worker in the United States. Profit margins throughout the fiber industry have also been squeezed due to offshore competition and the rising price of oil.
Research into renewable resources to create fiber is expanding for numerous reasons: to reduce our dependence on oil, for ecological purposes, to save money, and to act as a marketing tool. Beginning with the recycling of plastic bottles by Malden Mills in 1979, the textile industry is exploring alternative sources of materials that would otherwise go to waste, items such as poultry feathers, peanut shells, coconut shells, and corn. In 2002, Cargill Dow launched Ingeo, a fiber derived from corn that has the same properties as nylon but is cheaper and produces less carbon dioxide than the production of polyester or nylon. The demand for products made from recycled, sustainable, organic, and renewable materials is expected to grow as today's younger generations get older and speak out about their concerns regarding greenhouse gases, global warming, and the long-term effects of carcinogenic pesticides on their lives.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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