As part of the blog, podcast and support channels here at Fashion Podcast, I will be interviewing a selection of industry professionals about their roles, with the vision to support students in their early career choices as well as supporting graduates into their first or future job roles. I hope that you all find them insightful! These blog posts are scripted from the Podcast episodes from ‘The Fashion Toolbox Podcast’ available on all Podcast listening platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
This week, to discuss the future of Fashion and the rise of digital technology I am joined by Emma Scott, Emma is a bespoke garment designer and pattern-engineering consultant driven by a desire to improve garment fit.
Thirty years of bespoke garment design, master pattern-making skills, MTM manufacturing experience, anthropometric research, and software development, give her a unique perspective on the workflows and processes required to automate virtual garment design and improve garment fit.
Emma developed the theory behind the Clone Block®, a tried and tested accurate method of producing a 2D representation of body shape far surpassing traditional 1 dimensional methods. She remains the lead developer of all fitting algorithms and co-developer on offshoot software solutions. She is actively engaged in the 3D body processing community; an active participant in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Industry Connections 3D Body Processing Working Group (IEEE IC 3DBP WG) and has authored several papers on body-shape analysis for improved garment fit and enhanced use of 3D technologies.
Fashion Toolbox 00:08
Could you tell us about your background in Fashion & how you first got into the industry?
Ah, well, that is a very long story, but I will give you the short version! My background is mainly bespoke. And I became very, very early, the reason I was in fashion is because it was just glaringly obvious how what we wear, our external look, the aesthetics. The impact that had on people's self-esteem, and on our own self-esteem and of course on how others perceive us. I mean, you do not go for a job interview in your pyjamas people are going to judge you poorly. So that dynamic fascinated me, and I saw women literally transform before my eyes. I am thinking a lot now of just people that had self-esteem issues with their bodies we would do wardrobes for them, and that was a very powerful. So, I wanted to reach a larger audience. So that spurred me into Made-to-Measure, because of course with Bespoke you have to charge a lot of money because it takes a long time, and that limits who can have it. It just seemed to me that the people that could afford that could afford the shops and could afford the tailoring. And so, it was like, the people that really need the Bespoke cannot afford it and that dichotomy bothered me. So I went in to Made-to-Measure, but you know, Made-to-Measure is of course, a step down from Bespoke if you want it to be a good business model you just can't put the same time into it. And so, this, of course, eventually led me into software writing and the CAD programmes and how can we make this quicker and better?
Fashion Toolbox 01:51
Yeah, I think it's really interesting that you mentioned about the confidence that it provides people because I think that a lot of us in the industry are almost drawn to that, because we want to help people and to help people feel better.
Yes, yeah, exactly. I mean, how often do you hear? You know, I have, I have young nieces that are 14 and 16. And I am sure you have heard this too. "I don't know, there's just something wrong with my body. Like, I just, I cannot wear this brand of jeans. And this is the brand of jeans that all my friends are wearing." Or, you know, "This is the new legging and it just doesn't work with my body, there's something wrong with me." Well, no, no. You are 14. It is about as perfect as it is ever going to get. You know, that's just kind of heartbreaking. But that is how, you know, that's how women in particular feel.
Fashion Toolbox 02:40
Yeah, I think that's how we become to almost get focused on the fit because it's so disheartening to hear that, especially from young people, that things aren't fitting the way that they showed and thinking that there are things was wrong with them, and there absolutely isn't!
What piqued your interest in 3D fashion? And how do you think it will benefit the industry?
Well, okay, it will. Yeah, I could just go on and on about this forever. But I mean, you know, we are talking about self-esteem right now. And so, you know, with regards to being able to see what something is going to look like on your body before you purchase it for online sales, that is pretty powerful. But, you know, if we want to move further into fashion, we want to talk about sustainability. Well then sampling, coming up with the design, that takes a long time, you know. There have been times we have done, if it has been a Bespoke, or a higher end, like my background to bridal and eveningwear, you do seven iterations before you got that design, right. You know, you can work on half scales and you do all of these things that you can to save money, but there's just no way around it, the power of 3D to do sampling and to take care of those iterations, you know, you're not using the physical materials is tremendous. But you know and then it's just going to move into so that people can actually design what they would like on a computer, you know, imagine being able to go and to, because bridal & eveningwear, a lot of it is quite simple styles and to be able to click on a computer and to test an array of bodices on your body and an array of skirts. A lot of times when people go to get married, they have never had a formal gown in their life. The experience is kind of daunting for them, and if you go Bespoke, of course, you can afford to have toiles made moulages, and you can test them out. But once again, not everybody can afford that. So, just to have that ability in 3D once again, you know, you are empowering somebody on a really important day in their life. It is an amazing opportunity.
Fashion Toolbox 04:50
Yeah, definitely. I think it is really exciting times ahead far. Design fit and sustainability in terms of in terms of 3D Fashion. I personally, I have been practicing with CLO3D.
Yes, you know, the beautiful thing with CLO is the price point makes it more accessible.
Fashion Toolbox 05:10
Yeah, it is definitely accessible for a lot more people. And they have the free training, as well on YouTube, which is fantastic. So, for students and anybody interested in 3D, it is just an amazing platform.
So, you have a breadth of experience in pattern cutting and anthropometric research. Could you explain to listeners how the two work together and the benefits?
Okay, so when we think of when we think of Fashion, we really, I think that that people going into Fashion Design, what you really think about is 'Fashion' like the really cool stuff, and that's all great, because, you know, I mean, couture is where it all trickles down from. There is another side of Fashion, and that is what we call functional, the functional fit and the functional garments. You know, that is really important too, because we can make beautiful things. But then we have to go to the office, and we have to be able to lift our arm and reach the book off the high shelf and so, we need to we need to understand that better. But now that we're talking about 3D it would be really nice., I mean, it would be an ideal design environment, wouldn't it if we could just go and draw a pretty sketch, test it on a mannequin and move on? And I mean, let's be honest, that is the icky part of fashion that none of us like, it is the rework and the rework. So, understanding the pattern and the geometry of it is really important and if we can put that into the computer then some of that work is taken away from us.
Fashion Toolbox 06:38
Absolutely. I agree with that.
Do you think that post-Covid19 more businesses will start to take 3D seriously?
Yeah. So, there's a lot of difficulty with that. There is a lot of misunderstanding because there's a lot of marketing that says we're there., it's done. I mean, you have used CLO3D, you can see the power of it like it's tremendous. As you are designing, as you're making the pattern you're sampling at the same time. I mean, that is, it's tremendous. Translating that virtual to the physical, there is still there's still problems, right? But we are getting there. We are getting closer.
Fashion Toolbox 07:15
Yeah, yeah. It's really, I just can't wait to see how much it improves over the years because like you said, it's nearly there, but that end part is just the bit that needs a little bit of finesse and polishing. And soon we might not need all of those samples, hopefully!
Yeah, yeah. And of course, just to address the question that you asked that I think I got sidetracked on COVID has exacerbated all of this. Because, you know, as much as it has been financial constraints on us as consumers. It has been just horrific for the apparel industry and the manufacturers and the brands and the retailers. And so, if they're going to survive, they need to tighten their budgets up. And, as far as the costs of production, we have taken that below where it should be, there's just really no more savings to be had there. There are no more savings to be had with the materials because we need to start talking about sustainability, which is going to actually take material costs up. So, the only other place we can save is in the sampling. So right now, COVID has really put emphasis on that.
Fashion Toolbox 08:25
Yes, it is definitely sped up that process. I mean, it was destined to happen eventually, but it is just put a whole lot of pressure on that. Definitely.
How important is fit in fashion? And how do you think this is changing over the centuries?
Well, fit is incredibly important. And, you know, we see a beautiful design and we would like to have it, and we try the size on and it doesn't fit us, but if that could be corrected for our body, then how would that look? You know, everybody has that thing in their closet that they put on they just go, "I feel good, you know, I could just walk through fire with this on!" and if everybody could feel that way, like if you just didn't have to worry, is this strap going to fall off if my arm goes here?, why is that leg twisting on my Blue jean on my body? and why when I sit down my jeans stay where I want them to? And if people did not have to think about those things, there is not that distraction in their mind. So, I think fit is really important. And when I briefly mentioned functional clothing, I mean when you're, this is a huge issue right now is women in uniforms, like firefighters, military, police, they have fit restrictions that you would not believe and that interferes with their job. I have done work with athletes talking about fit, and I know athletes who've had double mastectomy, by choice because they just got sick and tired of trying to find a bra didn't inhibit them in their sport like triathletes. I mean, we have got to do better.
Fashion Toolbox 10:08
Yes, we absolutely need to support those women working out in those industries. I totally agree.
What about garment ease in sizing? And is there such thing as a simple formula that you can recommend to those interested in pattern making and garment fit to follow?
Well, okay, so that is the key. And I will tell you the secret. And the secret is this; we have the 2D pattern. So that is the dimensions of the pattern. And what we in the industry have commonly done is garment fit, equals body dimensions, which you take with your tape measure, plus ease, it is very simple. That is the simple formula. But there is something missing in that formula and that's actually what my research has been about. What is what is that missing formula in there? And so, there's a tremendous amount of research going into that when we're taught to draft in schools, we're taught to draft blocks that have a limited amount of ease in them. So, what we need to do is we need to be drafting blocks, specifically for the body, only for the body, maybe it's nothing you would ever wear anywhere else, and then you add ease afterwards. The problem is, is our theory, our pattern making theory the body to pattern theory, there's little holes missing and shaping, because we have multiple non developable areas on the body. You know, we talk about breasts we talk about the bum but you know, we have got shoulders, you know, we hunch a little bit and so our back hunches, there's just so much more than just the obvious breast and bums. And so, and what is that shaping? How do we quantify it properly? So that theory is missing. And I think every university in the world right now is working on that. I am part of some of those groups. So, I think we will get this figured out.
Fashion Toolbox 12:06
Hopefully, fingers crossed, because as you said, there just are so many different shapes and sizes out there. And it is not just about, nobody is average, there's no such thing as average. And we really need to get that right and get some sort of better fit for people.
Yeah, and if we can take the ease out of it, and first of all, just analyse what the pattern looks like, just as the body then we can start building better ease theory, and more importantly, ease distribution and better fitting, more functional. Why can't fashion be functional? You know, it should be. The opera singer should just sing, she should not have to worry if she's going to pop the corset, you know.
Fashion Toolbox 12:48
What benefits do you think that 3D Fashion will have on sizing?
Well, we are going to be able to... I am a big proponent, as you can tell for body shape inclusivity. But one of the things that we have never really been able to study that well, in schools it's just within the last 10 years you start looking at it, is design for body shape. What is body shape? You know, we hear hourglass, we hear rectangle, but that is an aesthetic thing. To make that aesthetic look properly, we need to know; what is the geometry for an hourglass? And I will give you a little secret, it's not the same for every hourglass. So, there's a difference between aesthetic body shape, and geometric body shape, the one that changes the fit. So those are the things that we need to understand. So, 3D can help us test better fitting patterns for that. Why do two people with the same dimensions, why do they have different fitting requirements? So, this whole concept of design for body shape will allow us to do it. It is a fascinating experiment; I challenge you to do this because in CLO now I do believe you can import avatars of different shapes and sizes. So, you know, do that, and take a very simple design, a jacket, you know, and end the jacket at the hip on one person. And then you'll be like, okay, but on this height, maybe I want to edit add in another ... you know, and that's the simple one and then add some weight to them and see and it's, and that's design for body shape. Now, if you had to do that, in a physical environment, you know, there is a lot of time involved. You are making the patterns and you are printing the patterns; you are cutting them; you are sewing them. So, 3D is fabulous for testing design for body shape.
Fashion Toolbox 14:35
Oh, yeah, definitely. I agree with that. I did a little exercise where I made my own avatar of myself, entered all of my measurements and made it and it was just fascinating to see, and actually see what you look like on the screen as well.
Yeah. Because then you can really just, you know, because we can all make beautiful sketches, and that is lovely. But how does that translate and sometimes it does not work out the way you think it's going to. Because when you're using a seven, eight head figure for your sketching then, I don't know about you, but I'm not there.
Fashion Toolbox 15:08
Yes, this is definitely where you can make those little tweaks to make the garment actually look right on different shapes and sizes, I think the 3D software is just going to be so good for that.
So how have you been developing 3d fashion to support sizing within your business at Fashion Should Empower?
The geometry of the patterns. So, how to make these shapes and specifically we are going to move away from 2D pattern making and it's going to be in 3D. The problem right now is this correlation between the virtual environment and the physical environment. What are the things in there that have gone wrong? So that is partly where my work has been. Then, to be honest, we got that solved but then there is still something, what else is it? There's a lot of steps in this 3D apparel pipeline, and a lot of that has to do with, going back to the anthropometry is the avatars that are coming in. A lot of the avatars that we are using right now, even the ones that are coming from the mobile apps, they're not quite there. If you understand Bespoke, there are slight differences. So, what do we do to create these avatars better? I mean, we know that body scanning is absolutely precisely correct. Manufacturing apparel has used body scanning down to the microns. So, what are the missing components that are in there? So there's a lot of you know, I kind of had to step out even though my focus has always been on the geometry of the pattern and how we build the theory and the rules so that we can give to computers because a lot of what you and I do is very heuristic, we don't even know we're doing it, so how to make those fundamental rules to tell the computer. And then the other part was just to find out, where are the other problems, and it's coming in when we post-process the, the avatars, when we measure the avatars, a lot of the mobile apps, what they're doing is reconstruction of avatars. And there's different ways that happens that some are more accurate than others. And so, if you give me a body that's really accurate in the 3D and I draft a really accurate pattern for it, but that avatar doesn't actually reflect you, then it's not going to translate to the physical world. So just to find out where are those holes translating from virtual to physical? The technology's there we just need a few little tweaks.
Fashion Toolbox 17:39
What are Virtual Shaping Methodologies?
That has to do with this body to pattern theory. So, pattern making design is really mostly art. It is 50% art and 50% the geometry of the pattern. But a lot of what we do is heuristic, I am sure you will have done this, you are fitting a design, you have the moulage, and you think, "I'm just going to tweak right here." What have you done? And why have you done it? And are there other ways that you can do that? You know.
Fashion Toolbox 18:11
What do you feel is a future for Made-to-Measure and Bespoke services?
So, this is interesting. I set into this business I was in Bespoke. I went to Made-to-Measure because I wanted to reach a larger audience. And then the ability of computing to be able to help me reach an even larger audience. I mean, that's pretty tantalising, that is really cool. So, everything that I did was to bring Bespoke to the masses. What I found along the way, is that there are grounds for sizing systems, there's a tremendous similarity between all of us. And so, once we achieve this level of Bespoke, there's so much that we can apply to our sizing systems, just an example... So, our standard sizing system for our favourite blue jean, that is for a certain type of hourglass, let's just say, a very limited hourglass. But what if we had above that hourglass, four other body shapes, and below that four other body shapes and did a size chart for each of those? Well, those are the things that we can take from Bespoke. So as much as all of my work was for Bespoke, I've kind of come full circle and determined that there is a place for ready to wear, not just Made-to-Measure but for ready to wear to really to fit better so that people actually don't need Bespoke. And then what can happen is then, in a computer environment, the consumer can engage with the computer and Made-to-Measure becomes about choosing a better tone for your skin with the colour, choosing the cuff that looks a little nicer, the leg length, you know, all of like those little tweaks without really even changing the design as a whole, just tiny little features. So, it's exciting.
Fashion Toolbox 19:59
It does sound really exciting. It would be nice to just worry about those little minor aesthetics rather than the size of the time!
Wouldn't it? Yeah.
Fashion Toolbox 20:10
So, what other sectors of the Fashion industry do you feel will benefit from 3D software?
Well, I think I predict a very tumultuous decade for fashion coming out. There is no way around it. It is completely being revolutionised. The only thing that's equivalent is when we switch to mass manufacturing. And any massive change in a society is a painful process. There's going to be lost jobs. But then those jobs are going to be recouped in other areas. Every aspect, every single aspect of the industry, it is going to be completely disrupted.
Fashion Toolbox 20:49
Yeah, it has been turned on its head, hasn't it really? I mean, it has been coming for years I think but we probably did not expect it to have to happen so soon. The COVID pandemic has definitely pushed it along.
Do you know, when I was in high school, which is 30 years ago, I could buy a really nice pair of blue jeans for about $75 to $100 (Canadian), and I could still buy a pair of blue jeans for that price. And that does not speak very nicely for what's happening in Fashion. You know. And the truth of it is that people that are manufacturing our goods, I heard an expression other day and I really need to find out who said this so that I quote them properly. But it was "slavery with a stipend" and that is the dirty little truth of how we manufacture goods, and that has to stop. But stopping that is a painful process. And a lot of the calls that I was on particularly after about the 90-day period into the global pandemic. Were with manufacturers, it is a difficult thing to talk about. But some but some of these manufacturers had over the last few years, put all of their money in because the brands and retailers were pushing them for more sustainability. So, they were taking out massive loans. They were overextended to bring in sustainability, then COVID comes along. Now these same brands and retailers were not accepting their goods. So, these people that are already working on these really tight margins paying, their, literally slavery with a stipend they have no money. So, the disruption that's going to happen there that needs to happen there. COVID has pushed over the edge. But you know, it's pretty hard to see men who've had these companies for their whole lives know, like, I just want to feed my employees, and they're banging on the doors and I can't do it and, so some of it's been hard to listen to.
Fashion Toolbox 22:53
Yeah, this it really, really frustrates me and I was only talking about it earlier that, I think that we are going to have to upskill, but the people that can't upskill because the skill can't be replaced, are those machinists, and the pattern cutters, they are absolutely the hidden talent of the business and are probably the worst paid. And it is just heartbreaking.
Do you believe 3D software can help with a more sustainable model in Fashion?
I absolutely do. Yeah. But with that there is also going to be a downside. There's this major disruption, there's going to be jobs lost, there's going to be jobs gained. And so, we just need to be prepared for this massive change. You know, maybe that's one of the things that will come out of this pandemic is, I was seeing this 90 days in, all of the things that people couldn't do 90 days. Oh, I cannot do that. I cannot wait. I mean, the world could not possibly stop. Really? We did! We just did it. So, it maybe taught us that we can change more than we think we can.
Fashion Toolbox 24:04
How important is it to still have a knowledge of manual methods of Pattern Cutting and Grading and when using 2D and 3D digital technology?
In my opinion, and a lot of my colleagues will argue on this, I think it is eminently important. But I'm also the type of person that still, even though it wasn't taught when my kids went to school, I thought, I believed that multiplication tables still needs to be taught, I believe that phonetics still need to be taught. I think these things are key to critical thinking. If you just let the calculator do everything for you, you know, there's elements of critical thinking that are gone. You spoke about ease, well ease is very simple math, but if you do not understand the basics of pattern making, you can't do that. Right now, I spoke of the body to pattern theory that is actually nonexistent because we heuristically do that as designers, and now we're trying to build that into computers. So, if you don't have the skills to understand when you manipulate that dart, why exactly? I mean, we are taught how to, you know how to, to manipulate it around an apex or something but can you change that apex? Why do you change that apex? How does it change on different people? And what is happening to the grain line on different body shapes when we do that? These are the rules that we need to put into the computers now. So, the basics of "Do we need to know that?" Well, you can go and look at CLO and you can start to believe that you do not need to because you can just see everything there. But if we want to translate virtual fit to physical in something that we like with our eye, then, we really need to see those pattern making skills as a teaching tool, for machine learning. They are going to be critical in the next particularly next decade.
Fashion Toolbox 25:58
Yeah, I totally agree. I still stand by the idea that manual methods are absolutely imperative to understanding, even working on the 3D systems. I think that you have to have a knowledge of how things work and where you can move things, I think, but yeah, moving the darts unless you are actually physically doing it. Even seeing it there I do not think it actually translates unless you have done it manually.
No, and then relating that to, to fabric as well. And I always get students to work with a stripe or a plaid, a really one that has been manufactured properly. And say, let’s put this yoke on straight of grain, let's do this yoke just straight from the body block. Now let's put that yoke on bias. Well, what happens? Well, you think it's just going to stay the same? Well, no, you have added an element of stretch. Now you have got negative ease that you need to account for. Now the shape has completely changed. Okay, so you can reinforce that with interfacing, but does that change your design? So, there's a lot of geometry and a lot of math and it's an opportunity to take design to the whole next level, but we really need to understand the rules now. So before you could almost get away with, for example when I went through school, you could get away with a more artistic approach to design because you were just going to make moulage, it was a given. But we want to get away from that now we want to we want to quantify it.
Fashion Toolbox 27:03
Yeah. Speaking of fabrics, and understanding the properties and how changing things, changing it and the bias or whatever can totally change a garment. How important is it, do you think for people to understand that early on before they start Pattern Cutting? And is it still important with digital technologies?
Yes, and it will be more important than ever, because, for example, if you take a singular design, and you make it in five different fabrics, you are changing everything. In fact, the same design most likely will require different adjustments to the pattern. And through my career a fair amount of forensic pattern work, so when something is really gone wrong in manufacturing and they want somebody to blame, I reverse engineer to see what's happened. And a really, really big one in the industry, well, there are two actually, denim and bras because they fit quite closely, but there's an assumption unfortunately, a very peculiar one (not with top end manufacturers) But a blue jean pattern, I've got a great design, I want to do it in five fabrications, exact same pattern. Wrong, depending on the stretch of that pattern, you're going to have different amounts of negative ease and that really, really changes the pattern. So if you've used the same pattern on different fabrications, and it's a really basic thing that people forget that, if you're using denim that has no stretch and I denim that has stretch the pattern is really different. Particularly in the bias, you know?
Fashion Toolbox 29:07
What one key piece of advice would you give to someone who is interested in entering the fashion industry?
As much as it is hard to dedicate time, a set time, whether it's daily or whether it's once a week or whatever, to stay current. Because right now, you know, industry is changing quarterly. That technology's changing that quick, and you have just got to stay on top of it. And we are in a really disruptive phase and you just don't know what's coming next. And the other thing is to really check your sources. There is a lot of, I want to choose my words really carefully here. The word fit for example, in marketing is really overused and it is used quite incorrectly. You know, you will say, "Oh, with my new software you can" (I'm not going to pick on anyone here) "my new software, you can try clothes on your body and see how they fit." No, what the marketing should say is you can 'see' what that design might look like on you can't judge fit, if it's not a clone of your body, if it's just a twin, like virtual mirrors and things like this. So just to really watch the spin on the new marketing that is coming out because we can do everything with technology. We cannot do it right now. A lot of the new technologies that are coming right out are still in the learning phase, and there's a component of machine learning with them and they're in their learning phase so they're not perfect, you know, iPhone apps. photogrammetry apps are one of them. They are going to be phenomenal in a few more years. They are still in their infancy, you know, they're not perfect. So, check the sources and really, really stay informed. Yes,
Fashion Toolbox 30:52
I completely agree with that and what you are saying about always learning and staying current that is just completely my motto. I have totally committed myself to lifelong learning, I think that's how we all should be in the fashion industry because things are forever changing. I mean over the past few years, it is just phenomenal how much things have changed, it really is. So, I completely agree.
Yeah. And your podcast is a perfect opportunity for you to do that and then share that knowledge with everybody. So good on you, Laura.
Fashion Toolbox 31:28
Follow Emma's journey here:
Glossary of Terms
Moulage = Design by moulage, or molding, involves first sketching a design, then applying the outlines, using 'bolduc' technique, of your design to the mannequin. After this you will apply the basic fabric on the mannequin, shape and cut it. When satisfied with the results, you will take off the shapes and trace them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK9kwaapqp0
Useful Links & Further Reading