Technology Day at FIT Part II

Technology Day at FIT: Teaching and learning in Four Dimensions

My Avatar Myself - Elaine Polvinen aka Finn1 Flintlock

I was next at Technology Day at FIT to present “My Avatar Myself: How Avatars are Transforming Product Development, Marketing, Retailing and Education.”

My presentation was an expansive overview of how avatars that represent personal representations of the user are totally and completely transforming all aspects of fashion product development, marketing, retailing and how fashion education can respond.

I began my presentation with the OptiTex Red Dress video to illustrate what a multidimensional product development application is capable of producing. I have been totally immersed in researching and retooling on cutting edge technology for fashion/textiles education for the last 20 or so years and I have never witnessed technology transforming as quickly as it currently is now shifting over to 3D and virtual reality.

There is just no way a software application company can keep up internally with the changes taking place in the industry without forming multiple external liaisons and partnerships. In the same vein there is no way that retailers can respond to the mass personalization and customization [MCP] trend that the user centric social community market is driving without shifting to an integrated multidimensional product development and/or retailing application. The user is totally driving the market that is requiring these transformational changes. Fashion education in turn can successfully respond to this transformational technology and market trend by also forming liaisons, partnerships and linkages with industry and other fashion educators on a global level. Sharing resources, knowledge and skills regarding this shift over to multidimensional product development, MCP marketing and retailing will enable a quick and positive response to prepare future entry level professionals for the fashion industry.

Elaine Polvinen and Beth Harris meet for the first time in the real world at the FIT Technology Day.At the time I was researching for a manuscript I was working on last fall, one of the reasons that OptiTex caught my eye was because they were the only apparel/textile application I could locate that had formulated a variety of highly successful partnerships and/or liaisons that resulted in novel and creative  pre-marketing, and MCP marketing applications (in addition to a relatiively uniform level of development of multiple modules). This company was definitely ahead of the MCP social community trend that is currently taking place in the fashion industry. Technology leadership today is a precarious position to be in for any company especially when you have a multidimensional application that requires cutting edge development for multiple modular applications. It’s a high speed, high stakes race to the future – correctly predicting and preparing for future trends at the warp speed that is required for todays software applications. Quick response is a definite stratigic market positioning advantage.

A multidimensional system empowers the user to work seamlessly from 2D to 3D and back to 2D again in real time. And most important to retailers is to develop the product in digital content from square one. This equals BIG $$$ and time savings as well as enabling pre-marketing and MCP options. Why even discuss the lack of global sizing standards when parametric sizing is possible and fit models can simply body scan themselves into becoming the 3D virtual avatar dress forms that are then used to design and create a brands garments on? A brand can focus on developing sizing standards for their target customers. Multiple functions were displayed in the presentation that are mentioned in previous posts:

 Where is this mass customization emerging from? Think Webkinz – a multi-million dollar success story that involves exceptionally cute little furry avatar creatures that young children love. And who knows a young WebKinz addicted child that only has one Webkinz? Purchase of these little avatars enable entry into a very special social community that empowers the owner to do all sorts of things on line. And just to keep the purchases strong there they “expire” after one year, while others are forced into “retirement,” and there are continual introductions to new Webkinz [see video below]. Open your wallets!

Club Penquin is another on line social community that markets to young children leading to Barbie online and the Meez social community. The ability to make the animated Meez gifs in such a variety of backgrounds and movements had led kids to string them together to make some creative videos [see video posted below]. Search for Meez on You Tube. Oh yes I almost forgot all the Meez clothes are available for purchase at Sears. Sweet marketing concept.

The Club Penquin avatars have also inspired some creative YouTube videos

The crème de la crème of this trend for the youth market is the Sims and H&M “Where Fashion Design and the Virtual World Meet,” branding and promotion that created the Sims2 H&M Fashion Runway product. The on line Sims2 H&M Fashion Runway community votes to select the best design that will be produced for the H&M product line – what a creative and unique personalization and social community concept. This is an excellent virtual preparation for an emerging fashion design student.

Where is this social marketing trend moving after youngsters, tweens and teens? Try the MVM BrandMe personalized model trend that is rapidly expanding into fashion products. MVM  develops customized user centric applications specifically for retailers that empower the user to personalize their shopping experience and share it with a social community or “push” it to a blog or e-mail.  Viral marketing strategies for retailers are a reality with the MVM Dressing Room and Home Products Outfitting Solutions. Retailers can track buyer’s preferences and offer promotional items based on those preferences. [note: search MVM and/or BrandMe for previous blog posts]

Duel virtual and real world marketing is already taking place. Examples are House of Nyla and the Playboy line developed in partnership with Second Life fashion designers. Virtual World Product Life Management solutions for the apparel industry are currently under development as evidenced by the Black Dress Technology Subsidiary that represents collaboration between the Fashion Research Institute and IBM. A gargantuan virtual world is currently under development in the form of the Cyber Recreation District in Beijing China that has the potential to impact the world economy if successful. The need to download a virtual world application in order to access it may soon be a thing of the past with multiple developers [MetaPlace and SocioTown] to name a few] racing to release the most successful 3D virtual world that is easily accessible via the “flat Web browser” we currently use.

How can education prepare students for the 3D and virtual transformation that we are currently undergoing? Introduce them incrementally to a virtual experience like Second Life. Getting acclimated to a virtual 3D experience will provide them with the ability to think and conceptualize in 3D. Whatever the application they will be required to work on in the real world will be – they will already be halfway there because they have experienced and achieved a level of comfort by completing simulated fashion related projects in a virtual world. Projects like developing fashion collections, exhibits, brand logos, fashion show production, store layout and design, 2.0 Web applications, simultaneous real world/virtual world marketing and promotion.

If fashion education does not initiate the type of quick response solution (that students are taught with regards to the real world) to the unprecedented transformational technology shift that is taking place over to 3D, they run the serious risk of becoming redundant and obsolete and could actually be the driving force for industry to develop private training institutes.

Avatars are permeated throughout product development, marketing and retailing. Their use has multiple benefits for industry in the form of cost effectiveness and quick response, pre-marketing and MCP options. The use of multidimensional applications provide retailers with digital content to pre-market a product to a social community similar to the MCP Sims/H&M branding/marketing concept on a grand scale.

Virtual worlds hold great promise for product development, just-in-time manufacturing and multidimensional retailing. How will industry, retailers and education respond? This is like a massive multi player game of musical chairs [or Survivor] to see who survives and prospers by responding to the users [that are driving the MCP social marketing trend] and by creating strategic linkages.

continued on … Technology Day at FIT Part III

Link to my FLICKR images from the conference.

© 2008 All Rights Reserved.

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