Digital technology is at the heart of a project led by the University of Huddersfield in the UK, helping a leading Yorkshire fashion company expand its operations online.
The university’s Department of Fashion and Textiles has been working with luxury designer fashion retailer Nomad Atelier of Barnsley to improve its online shopping offer with the creation of digital ‘avatars’ on which consumers can model clothes.
The project has been funded by AHRC Future Fashion Factory (FFF), an industry-led collaborative research programme. The university’s Technical Textiles Research Centre is one of the three research centres associated with this £5.4 million project.
Nomad was launched in the late 1990s and is the brainchild of Rita Brittan, who opened the famous Pollyana store in her hometown of Barnsley in 1967. Always keen to innovate, Rita has worked closely with Claire Evans and Charlotte Goldthorpe, senior lecturers in the Department of Fashion and Textiles, to use the university’s knowledge of digital technology in the fashion industry.
“Nomad wanted to investigate digital approaches to selling on its website,” said Evans. “Charlotte and I initially went in to look at how its platform worked pre-Covid-19 and made a number of recommendations about labelling and moving around the platform.
“The next part of the project was looking at how Nomad could include digital realisations of its garments. We advised that it was a big ask, given the size of company. Nobody else was doing it at the time, so we took the idea to Rita herself. She has a very good reputation at the top end for selling clothes and has a very loyal client base.”
The project – Web-based digital applications for independent UK fashion manufacturers – took the patterns of Nomad’s garments and used pattern design software to digitise them. After a considerable amount of refining, an avatar was produced to model the Nomad garments and provide an idea of their look and fit, tailored to the customer’s own specifics.
“The first animations were quite simple, a bit bland and dry looking,” Evans added. “We have now animated them with a bit of lighting to add a little bit of ‘magic’, putting more emphasis on colour and physical appearance to provide more of a ‘wow’ factor.
“Like making a dummy, you can make a specific body for a person tailored for them and people can see what the clothes look like on them. We have imported real patterns from Nomad, giving our use of the software a real edge.”
A successful bid for funding from AHRC FFF helped with the project and tied in with the aims of AHRC FFF, to help Yorkshire companies in their development.
“I am really looking forward to carrying on working with the Huddersfield team,” said Rita Brittan. “It’s all about discovery, and it has changed so much for us – our shop was all about people coming here and having a personal experience. That’s all changed in a year, but we wanted to keep the best of our approach. The university team has allowed me to do that, and I’m so excited about the next stage of the project.”
“Using animation and virtual tools in fashion and integrating them into the process while reducing the number of samples is still at that early development stage but we are further exploring how it can be exploited and integrated,” Evans concluded.