“The last few months have been really challenging for freelancers. I was thrilled when the phone rang and David Gandy wanted us to work together again!”
Maggie Mattioni has been designing menswear for over two decades, creating distinctive designs for luxury brands and high street retailers.
Among her clients was Marks & Spencer, where she worked on the tailoring for David Gandy’s exclusive range. That relationship has continued to bear fruit, as Maggie is currently completing a range of designs with the former Dolce & Gabbana model for his next collection.
Increasingly Maggie is working with 3D design software, often starting with weaves made using 2D tools and translating them into 3D. The same garment might look totally different in each format, but the 3D version gives a clearer impression of the finished product.
“If you want to try a slight variation, you can do it in an hour instead of waiting weeks for a new sample,” says Maggie. “Instead of making eight samples in different colourways, you can make one to get the tailoring right and explore different shades with the 3D model. You could even create 3D lookbooks and cut down on traditional photography.”
The process of rendering each garment can be time-consuming for the designer, Maggie says, but the knock-on effect is to make the overall manufacturing process quicker and reduce its carbon footprint.
“I remember when I started out, when samples came in and I literally drew stitch lines on them with a ruler,” she adds. “I went back to college to learn some computer skills and people told me I was mad! It’s clear to me that 3D is the next frontier, which is why I’ve spent so much time learning the skills.”
Maggie was planning a trip to Copenhagen for additional training in 3D design software, but the course was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
Thanks to her network of supportive contacts and the training provider itself, she has been able to make up some of this lost time during lockdown, self-teaching alongside existing projects.
One of the key benefits of 3D design is that manufacturers need to make fewer physical samples before a design is signed off by the buyer. Having worked with brands and experienced the sampling process, Maggie says it is common for several versions of each garment to be created by a manufacturer; those which are not selected for production can end up in landfill or destroyed.
“This is the next stage for sustainability,” she says. “We already promote the idea of sustainable fabric, and the industry is finally working towards supply chain transparency. Eventually as awareness grows consumers will start asking how many samples it took to get the garment they’re holding.”
Producing fewer samples has the benefit of reducing waste, but it also speeds up the sampling process: rather than waiting for another sample to be made in a different colourway, a designer can quickly demonstrate how the garment would look. Speeding up the sign-off process for each piece helps to shorten the overall lead time, making manufacturing more agile and responsive to shifts in demand.
Major brands worldwide have started to adopt 3D design to capitalise on this potential.
Last year Tommy Hilfiger announced that it would only use 3D digital design tools from its Spring 2022 collection onwards, meaning most of the brand’s apparel will not be physically made until it appears on the catwalk or in the showroom. Designers, pattern-makers, fit technicians and product developers will all be trained in 3D design to support the transition.
Creating each garment in 3D even opens up new possibilities for retail, as Maggie has found working with I Am Denim. Without access to models for traditional photography, the UK-based jeans brand has started to explore digital avatars to display new collections for website users.
For Maggie, this demonstrates how much more quickly digital tools are being adopted in response to the pandemic. As businesses are investing more in developing online showrooms and virtual fitting rooms, she is passionate about equipping creative designers with the digital skills to drive the process.
“Designers know the fabric, we know the pattern-cutting – we know our fashion better than anyone!” she explains. “We should absolutely be involved with every stage whether it is 2D, 3D, or the physical garments. Upskilling designers is so important.”