Clothing, for all involved, is expensive. Buyers for department stores must know what styles are in fashion and will sell. If a buyer receives a bulk order of unpopular clothes, that drives profits down quickly. Clothing designers go through multiple designs and productions before making a final decision. As e-commerce grows, so does the demand to streamline the design process. Simulation graphics creates a bridge from the designer to buyer and holds promise to eliminate the need for prototyping. The VF Corporation, owner of some of the most popular shoe and clothing brands such as Lee Jeans, Vans and North Face, recognizes this need and partnered with Clemson’s Creative Inquiry program to sponsor a Corporate Creative Inquiry (CCI) led by Dr. Victor Zordan in the School of Computing and Dr. Olga Kuksenok in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Clemson students in the Simulation Methods in Graphics and Engineering CCI are working on a platform that virtually models how fabrics act, look and react using a computer graphic simulation system. The project ultimately hopes to create a prototype visualization package that can be the interface between designers and clothing stores. In this platform, designers are able to see a digital prototype and can edit undesirable features or move on to new designs. “For VF Corporation, this provides an inside look on the industry, and saves them time and money on clothing designs that buyers will not buy, and clothing designs that may fail quickly,” Zordan said. The simulations can also predict wear and tear patterns using the physical characteristics of the desired fabric. With the right algorithm, the virtual system could prevent the common scenario of clothes that rip or stretch after a few uses. This would eliminate the cost of fabric and raw materials while increasing corporate profits.
Steven Borisko and Colton Smith, both senior computer science majors, are two of the students working on computer development for the project. The computer models consist of a network of points and springs that act similarly to the way fabric stretches and reshapes. The team can then see how the fabric deforms when digital objects contact it, similar to what may happen in a realworld washing machine. With the cloth simulation, they can determine …“where the wrinkles, and after longer periods of time, the tears or rips in the fabric will be.” Borisko pointed out. “This makes the company look more reliable when they can present failure modalities to clothing buyers,” Smith explained. Smith also created a visual representation of fraying for the computer model. “It’s really more complicated to make it than it sounds. You have to make the program detect the edges of the computerized cloth and put wavy fringes representing fraying on the edges of this cloth,” Smith said. This visual appearance helps buyers assess what real products will look like.
The team can model multiple scenarios such as the newly developed washing machine test and tie-dye models, out of the general premise of computerized graphic simulation modeling. At its essence, this project attempts to streamline the design and critique process all while reducing waste for the designers, increasing sales for the clothing buyers and by extension providing more durable clothes for consumers. VF has responded positively at the prospects of this technology after seeing what the students have created, focusing mainly on educating them and guiding many of the students’ interests in animation for movies towards other applications in the business arena. Saving money, the environment and giving businesses excellent visualization and communication tools has potential to launch this technology into a highly competitive and rewarding sector.