Case StudyHow two Canadian firms collaborated using Orchids for simpler, faster 3D fashion design online
Embodee’s web platform helped them overcome traditional barriers, accelerating product creation and reducing costs.
4 min read
- Assortment boards created directly from 3D models — by team members without 3D skills.
- Physical samples reduced by sevenfold.
- Faster review and revision process.
- Significantly shortened production time.
The fashion industry’s adoption of leading 3D design tools is proving difficult. Million of employees work mainly in 2D, and training them in 3D is hard.
With a global shortage of 3D-capable designers, progress is slow and expensive.
Are there affordable ways to make the move to 3D and streamline product creation — with minimal training? How can the industry speed up progress and use existing staff skills?
Small companies across the globe face those questions as larger companies with deeper pockets race ahead with 3D.
Two Canadian firms, The Holt Co. and Snugabell found the answers. This case study examines their solution and the benefits they achieved. The solution? Orchids, a first-of-its-kind web platform from Embodee, a 3D technology innovator for the fashion industry. Commercially launched in March 2022, Orchids delivers simple-to-use tools, virtual collaboration, and vivid 3D renderings of apparel and other products — all online.
Snugabell, founded in 2008, is a brand well-known for specialty garments that make it easy for women to pump breast milk hands-free. To honor parents committed to breastfeeding, Snugabell started the annual World Breast Pumping Day on Jan. 27, 2017.
The Holt Co. is a one-person fashion service provider that works with small- to medium-size businesses. It’s run by veteran digital technologist Stacy Holt, an early industry devotee of 2D-to-3D conversion. With more than three decades in the fashion industry, she’s trained global companies on how to use Optitex EFI and uses it herself to create 3D models. Her other expertise includes pattern making and development of fit and sizing systems.
Both firms are near Vancouver in Coquitlam.
The Pilot Project
Working with Snugabell for the first time, Holt wanted to test whether the brand would benefit from using a 3D development process and the Orchids web platform’s tools. Snugabell‘s freelance designer-technical developer was adept with Adobe’s Illustrator and Photoshop but had yet to work in 3D. The platform, Holt said, leverages those software skills, which many people in the industry have.
In 2021, with Orchids in beta, Holt and Embodee agreed to conduct a pilot project with Snugabell and defined the scope. Among the goals:
- Show Holt and Snugabell how to use Orchids to create a new product line in 3D.
- Achieve a more collaborative and streamlined development process, including making fewer expensive physical prototypes by relying on virtual 3D design renderings instead.
- See whether Holt should make Orchids the hub of her future work with other clients.
Holt said that because she works with clients “who are fairly limited budget-wise,” she wanted to reduce the steps needed in the development cycle to finalize products. For that, the Orchids online 3D platform “is a very helpful tool.”
Embodee staff gave Holt five hours of training on how to use the platform. Training typically takes five hours or less. Then she helped the Snugabell team learn it, using their product design assets. CEO and founder Wendy Armbruster said she found the platform “very intuitive and mostly figured it out myself” but consulted with Holt at times.
From there began the nitty-gritty of creating products in a new way. The stakes were high.
Holt wanted her new client to succeed in its first 3D venture and emerge positioned long-term to thrive using the transformative technology. She also wanted to come away confident that adding the Orchids platform to her portfolio of services would help attract new clients eager to adopt 3D.
Snugabell’s goals were challenging — work in 3D on a new web platform for the first time while producing a new line of specialty functional garments, as well as other pre-and post-natal foundation garments. And all for launch in a new sales channel. The pressure was on.
Holt’s broad and deep experience meshed with Snugabell’s talents and creativity. Both companies benefited from Orchids’ short learning curve and its simplicity: using the platform anyone can work with 3D apparel designs from any browser, creating variants and adjusting their look and feel. With only a few mouse clicks, materials and different colors from digital libraries are added. Uploaded prints and graphics are easily positioned and scaled.
Holt exported 3D assets from Optitex and handed them off to Snugabell’s freelance designer-technical developer, Eva Garcia Mockford. She created 10 different assortment boards in Orchids with varying colorways and prints that inspired unique marketing stories for the new product release.
The high quality of the 3D interactive visualizations enabled the Snugabell team to quickly decide what they liked and to filter out what they didn’t. In fact, Holt said the visualizations, shared via web links, were so detailed that examining them seemed close to a haptic experience — without actually touching physical versions.
Armbruster said the Orchids’ 3D visualizations led to key decisions much earlier than in its usual process — before making any physical samples. “We could see that this seam was in the wrong spot or this wasn’t going to fit the body properly here in the back or we needed to add elastic or whatever. And not even before we started choosing colorways and prints and stuff.”
“Historically we’ve flat-patterned something, had samples made, sent them back, did revisions, and tried them on people. We ended up designing something that was kind of a throwaway after we got it on a body.”
The most striking metric to emerge from the pilot project was a nearly sevenfold reduction in physical samples. Typically, 20 would have been produced for the project using Snugabell’s previous process, and the number was cut to 3.
From an aesthetic and cost point of view, Mockford said, “being able to get quick answers and feedback with the visual tools rather than just static mood boards, which has been the way the industry has worked for a long time, was a lot easier for me to move through the process.”
“Instead of some of the things I usually did in Illustrator — just static crops or masking, I’m now able to rotate the prints, scale them…I basically did two rounds of presentation, client feedback, and turnaround, skipping a lot of steps and hours of work that it would have taken.”
Armbruster also pointed to shortened production time — a benefit that’s more important now than ever with the pandemic and rampant supply-chain delays — and one that saves money.
How significant is it for Snugabell to work in 3D and with Orchids? Armbruster, an apparel designer and pattern maker with over 20 years of industry experience, said: “I think it’s huge.”
And Holt? She’s now offering 3D collaboration using the Orchids web platform in her service offerings.