By  on December 20, 2007

Technology already makes the world feel smaller by removing time zone and geographic barriers. Now, some apparel companies are toying with technology to make garment sample fit sessions palm-sized.

Fit sessions bring designers, merchandisers and patternmakers together in a room to examine how a prototype drapes on a live model. The fit model describes where fabric is binding or bunching so modifications can be made before the next sample is assembled and sewn.

In a twist on the traditional fit session, apparel brands substituted a computer-generated form, or "avatar," for the live model, and featured it in a video viewed on a tiny iPhone screen. It's only a limited-scope test, but it might suggest opportunities to cut lead time and save money on excess samples, model fees and travel because garment-fit details could be examined on mobile devices anywhere and at any time.

An emergency led to the approach, said Arshad Sattar, managing director of Timex Group, a $100 million apparel manufacturer with 18 factories in Sri Lanka. When a New York client was time-pressed to approve fit before placing a final order, she requested a digital sample to be e-mailed, and she would view it on her iPhone. Los Angeles-based Tukatech modified its 3-D e-fit Simulator software for iPhone compatibility and soon, "we were getting fit comments while she was taking the train ride to the office," Sattar said.

"The designer will still need to see [physical] samples," Sattar said. "The sample process cannot be taken out completely" because fabric quality and construction must be approved.

"The idea is to cut down sampling time and cost," said Beeta Grover, president of Scala Eveningwear, a Los Angeles apparel company. Grover, who recently started using an iPhone to review digital samples, said the device's small screen — 3.5 inches measured diagonally — is not a hindrance because a zoom function enables him to blow up details for closer examination.

The fit simulator software highlights tight areas in red and loose fabric areas in blue to indicate where fit adjustments are needed. These functions, as well as an X-ray option, are designed to provide the feedback a live model would give during a traditional fit session. Other companies providing software for virtual prototyping include OptiTex, Lectra and Browzwear.

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