Computer Aided Design (CAD) Analysis

Fashion design is not a process in itself, it’s a combination of different processes and skills like creativity, drawing, pattern creation, cutting, draping, sewing… It isn’t uncommon to find fashion designers that excel at only a subset of these skills and are less comfortable with others. In my case, picturing something in my head, knowing exactly what it will look like once finished and achieving it via the sewing process is natural. The drawing process is what I find the most challenging.

Working with “pencil and paper” is almost therapeutic (perhaps because it takes us back to carefree childhood…). It’s easy to erase and start over if anything isn’t what was expected, it’s quick to make a change and I feel that more ideas flow naturally once you start drawing. Achieving accurate shapes can be more challenging and heavily depend on a number of measuring tools to get that perfect symmetry. Unless one’s drawing skills are extraordinary, the end result may look just like that: a drawing. In my case that’s what happens, the mind won’t get transported beyond the fact that it is a drawing.

With CAD, the designing process unravels a number of opportunities to (almost) bring that drawing to life. The sketches are far more accurate, which is facilitated by the fact that CAD relies on repetitive shapes. There’s the possibility to reflect a shape in any orientation and it will be an accurate copy of an existing shape. It can be re-used from design to design without losing features. Traditional methods would make less likely to achieve an exact copy of an image.

Designing in CAD can take more time and effort than designing with traditional methods, at least during an adaptation phase. It will become easier as the creatives familiarise themselves with the software, but chances are an upgrade to the software will occur and a new learning phase will present itself again. The investment required is more substantial even for CAD software that isn’t fashion specific. Licence costs will surpass any spend incurred with traditional methods. A fashion design specific software will most likely only be affordable to large well-established companies, but less so to the individual designer or start-up.

Depending on the features within that version of the CAD software, there may be limitations to the designing process or a more difficult way to achieve something like draping. One wouldn’t face such challenges with traditional methods, as a designer can simply replicate whatever has been imagined without restriction. However, advances in technology will most likely mean that soon CAD will be able to accurately represent fabric draping with movement and the natural body contours. Some fashion design specific software versions are now offering a draping functionality, although this is still in its infancy. This results in added time trying to figure out how to bypass the limitations of the software. For someone not too familiar with the software itself this can simply divert all attention from the creative process. I found that CAD requires your focus split between the tool itself and the drawing process; generation of ideas along the way is not as natural.

Overall, CAD definitely helps achieving a good quality drawing and there’s no doubt its accuracy is paramount to the manufacturing process. Traditional methods will potentially be fully eradicated in the near future with daily life depending on technology. Customers will want to see a real depiction of the garments they are purchasing (3D) and manufacturers will want specific and accurate measurements with the associated tech packs to ensure garments are accurately made to customer’s specifications.

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