GuestMay 7, 2024 AATCC Newsletter

Digital Twins: The New Digital Frontier in Fashion

In a landscape defined by increasing production costs, shifting consumer preferences, evolving social consciousness, and the proliferation of e-commerce platforms, the fashion industry has increasingly turned to digitization to remain competitive and relevant. From virtual reality fitting rooms to blockchain-enabled supply chains, digital technologies are reshaping how fashion is being designed, produced, and consumed. Are digital twins the next digital frontier for fashion brands looking to gain a competitive edge?

What Are Digital Twins?

In the context of fashion, a digital twin is a virtual replica of a real-world garment, shoe, or accessory. However, unlike 3D models or digital avatars, digital twins are built to contain more detailed information about the product. For example, in the fashion ecosystem, a digital twin can be built to contain comprehensive information about the product, including the origin of the design, the fabrics used to create it, details about production protocols, prices, geographical availability, and advertising/marketing campaigns the product has been featured in.


Digital twins contain comprehensive information about the product, including measurements, tailoring techniques, finishing processes, and fabric information.
Image Credit: Lui Iarocheski

A few years ago, digitizing fabrics to efficiently capture the intricate details, dimensions and material properties was challenging, but advancements in 3D imaging techniques and artificial intelligence have simplified the process. Furthermore, several digital platforms, such as Vntana, have emerged that simplify the creation and cloud storage of digital twins, allowing them to be accessed by cross-functional teams.

“3D design programs such as Browzwear, Clo, Keyshot, or Modo can help create digital models,” explains Ashley Crowder, CEO of Vntana. “These designs can then be uploaded on Vntana to create 3D line sheets that can be shared in real-time with remote teams for internal reviews or line planning.” Companies like SwatchOn have even created digital twin libraries with over 150,000 fabric twins that brands can borrow from.

As the physical product moves through its lifecycle, information is exchanged with its digital twin, either automatically through sensors or uploaded manually by individuals. Since the digital twin continuously mirrors the characteristics and behavior of its physical counterpart, it can be used to make accurate predictions and facilitate decision-making about the product, anticipate how it would perform in use, optimize design, and strategize manufacturing and production challenges that could occur.

Digital Twins in Design

The traditional approach to design and development in the fashion industry has long been criticized for its high costs and lengthy timelines. Furthermore, on average, each garment undergoes about seven iterations of design, with 30% of fabrics wasted during the process. Ultimately, all these fabrics end up in the landfill. Digital twins can help overhaul these unsustainable design protocols.

Designers can develop their fashion in real-time, improving accuracy, minimizing sampling, and reducing development time. Designs can also be shared for instant feedback, facilitating a seamless pipeline.  
Image Credit: Lui Iarocheski

With digital twins, designers can test out sustainable materials, patterns, styling details, and processing methods without ever needing to create a physical prototype.

“In some case studies, we have seen that digital twins can reduce the sample required during the development process by a remarkable 80%,” notes Lui Iarocheski, a Fashion Innovation Consultant.

Digital twins also improve design efficiency, allowing designers to collaborate with remote teams and manufacturing partners, identifying and addressing any potential challenges that can be linked back to the designing process. Adidas, for example, was able to use digital twins to simulate production and cost-optimize its sneaker design. Using digital twins to virtually test design, brands have been able to accelerate turnaround from design to manufacturing to 24-48 hours compared to the traditional 30-day timeline.

“This agility allows brands to respond quicker to consumer demand, enhancing the match between supply and demand,” Iarocheski explains. “Consequently, the benefits are twofold: it boosts profitability while also promoting sustainability by reducing overproduction.”


Digital Twins in Production

As the product moves on to production, digital twins serve as a shared representation of the product that stakeholders across the ecosystem can collaborate on. This facilitates transparency, accountability, and consistent communication between all stakeholders.

Using digital twins, brands can simulate and streamline the entire production line, identifying potential processing issues, minimizing inefficiencies, planning inventory, reducing lead times, strategizing resource allocation, and facilitating predictive maintenance. For example, by simulating how fabrics fit and drape, digital twins can minimize fabric wastage that occurs during the cutting and sewing process by 10-15%.

Digital twins can also optimize the supply chain by helping establish virtual warehouses, production facilities, and retail stores. As a result, brands can track the movement of products in real time, analyze and forecast customer demand, and optimize inventory management.

“Digital twins also help reduce waste and excess inventory by facilitating a made-to-order production model,” Iarocheski notes. “This means that brands can sell products digitally first and then produce the physical counterpart on demand.”


Digital Twins in Merchandising and Marketing

Although the traditional stronghold of physical retail stores remains dominant, the convenience, accessibility, and evolving sophistication of e-commerce platforms have prompted a significant decline in physical retail sales. To remain competitive in the face of these evolving consumer preferences, fashion brands must enhance customer shopping experiences both online and in-store.

Digital twins can help make shopping more convenient for customers in several ways. The digital twins that were created during the design and production process can be seamlessly transitioned to B2B and e-commerce sales platforms. In conjunction with virtual fitting rooms, digital twins can help customers envision how the garment will look on themselves before making a purchase. Zara, Nike, and Puma have enabled virtual try-ons in their physical stores.

“Having digital twins at the point of sale allows customers to interact with a dynamic, playable asset rather than a static image, adding their personal touches and feeling more involved in the creative process,” says Iarocheski notes. “This involvement not only boosts conversions but also fosters deeper brand loyalty.”

Crowder adds, “3D renderings of garments give consumers a much better understanding of the product, so they are more likely to purchase online and reduce the rate of returns. We have seen that 3D renderings almost double the conversation rate compared to 2D images.”

Digital twins also facilitate personalized shopping at scale. “Using digital twins, brands can get insights into the products that customers are engaging more with,” Iarocheski explains. Using these insights fashion brands can offer tailored recommendations or even create made-to-order clothing that fits better.

“Personalized fashion using 3D digital twins supports an inventory-less business model, mitigating the risks associated with unsold stock,” explains Iarocheski. “Not only does this align with modern consumer expectations, but it also steers the industry towards a more sustainable and customer-centric future.”

After-sales, digital twins can continue to enhance the customer experience. Through simulation of degradation, brands can use digital twins to predict the durability and longevity of their products. This means they can provide more informed guidance to their customers, helping prolong the life of the product. The digital twin and all its embedded metadata can be securely stored on the blockchain, allowing customers to access verifiable information about the product’s origins and environmental impact. In turn, this transparency can help foster customer loyalty and brand credibility. Such a strategy can help customers authenticate their purchase, facilitating counterfeit prevention and intellectual property protection.

Digital twins could also play a key role in the fashion industry’s goal to transition to a circular economy. All the metadata stored in the digital twin can help customers upcycle or recycle the product.


Fashion passport: Digital twins can be used to build blockchain-based tokens or non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to help customers authenticate the product and track verifiable information regarding its origins and environmental impact.
Image Credit: Lui Iarocheski

Moving Beyond Proof-of-Concept

From design to sales, digital twins have proven their worth across multiple dimensions of the fashion business, validating both short-term gains and long-term ambitions. Yet, several challenges remain before the potential of digital twins can be effectively realized. Given that digital twins store sensitive data, addressing data privacy and security is paramount to navigating consumer acceptance. Furthermore, digital twin technologies can be expensive. Considering that transitioning to digital twins will require significant employee upskilling, the technology remains inaccessible to many fashion brands, particularly smaller brands with limited resources.

Within these challenges lies an exciting opportunity for transformation. Digital twins have the potential to revolutionize every step of the fashion lifecycle, offering unmatched personalization, sustainability, and efficiency. As the industry moves toward embracing this transformative technology, collaboration and strategic investment will play crucial roles in unlocking the full potential of digital twins.

About the Author

Nicola Davies, PhD, is a behavioral scientist with a passion for writing.  She can be contacted via LinkedIn.



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