When the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on fashion week events earlier this year, brands found themselves struggling to connect with Chinese audiences, so then, they chose to forfeit physical shows for video replacements. Fast forward to September, many have started adopting video presentations or a “phygital” (physical + digital) format for the Spring 2021 shows.
But some visionary fashion tech companies have long reflected on the pain points of runways, and are now envisioning a digitalized showcase for clothes and accessories during fashion weeks. As such, Jing Daily spoke with three Asian fashion tech companies that could empower the future of fashion weeks with core technologies ranging from textile digitalization to artificial intelligence, 3D scanning, and virtual idols.
Sector: Physics engine, artificial intelligence
Main use: Digitizing textile
Partners: Shuting Qiu, China Textile Association
Founded in 2018 by three Chinese co-founders, HeartDub is a fashion tech company focused on digitizing textiles via artificial intelligence — a concept only a few cared to learn about before COVID-19 accelerated the market demand, said Zhou Jiaxuan, the company’s COO and co-founder. Its client number has soared from just over a dozen to more than 100 over the last few months.
The core tech team started developing HeartDub Material in 2014, which sets itself apart from the usual form of digitizing clothing and people in gaming and movie production contexts, said its CEO and co-founder, Huang Jingshi. “When we look at special effects in movies, many clothes like those from Avatar and Frozen were made at a high cost and a very long time. Elsa’s clothes in Frozen, for example, took a team years to complete and bears a price tag of over $300,000,” he noted.
The key difference is that traditionally, the virtual clothing must be rendered frame by frame in 3D modeling software, whereas HeartDub uses physical calculation to collect data from textile companies. A full set of clothes could come alive on a screen in under three hours with HeartDub Material, said Huang, who recently participated in an AI-accelerator program organized by Alibaba.
But even before COVID-19, HeartDub had already been working with the Chinese designer Qiu Shuting her Fall 2020 runway show during Paris Fashion Week this February. Qiu’s signature use of bold and bright designs has delivered great results, Zhou said, adding that they would announce more partners by the end of the year.
As the only digital textile producer to be appointed by the China Textile Association, HeartDub has worked with the top 100 textile companies, including Swiss luxury brand Bally’s owner Shandong Ruyi. “Our next step is to work with more clothes brands through our textile partners after having collected data on textiles and patterns,” Zhou said.