HONG KONG--Political lobbying and marketing hype notwithstanding, fashion remains very much a nuts-and-bolts industry. So it was fitting that two of the most attention-getting presentations at the International Apparel Federation's annual meeting here last week were about technological innovations and whether they were practical or economically feasible.
Michael Fralix, director of manufacturing and education resource at Textile/Clothing Technology Corp. (TC2), the business-government consortium for the U.S. soft goods industry, highlighted various developments in information technology. They included a virtual store on the Internet where buyers can order custom garments, body-scanning techniques, single-ply cutting and digital printing.
He said that while several body measurement systems were being worked on worldwide, one effort a collaboration of TC2 with Gerber, the real challenge so far was to use the collected data to meet the fit preferences of consumers.
"One guy likes to have his jeans fit loosely, the other likes a tight fit," he said. "How do you get that into the equation?"
Fralix also showed several trompe l'oeil digitally printed children's garments from Japan. The denim markings on the knit romper had been printed on, as had the top vest.
"I had to look really closely," he said. "The printing quality is fabulous."
Although he admitted the process of such printing on fabric was still very slow and prohibitively expensive, he said breakthroughs like this could completely alter the manufacturing process, moving finishing from textiles to garment suppliers.
Apparel manufacturers could just buy white fabric, wait until the last moment and print only after marking. Lead time would be reduced significantly, and such an operation would be more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly, he said.
Kenneth Wang, managing director of Sterling Products, a Hong Kong children's knitwear manufacturer, did a computer demonstration of an interactive sourcing database for Hong Kong suppliers of accessories and trims and another on how to create a 3D paper pattern.
Wang has started a nonprofit Apparel Quick Response Club for members worldwide from every sector of the textile industry to find and share solutions via the Internet.
"We want to take things that everyone in the industry wants--adaptable multimedia databases, document and file management, spreadsheets--and bundle it in a cheap and simple way," he said.

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