Direction Digital: Design Director, Brand Developer and CLO Power User Matthew Mounsey-Wood Gives Key Industry Insights and Portrays his own Exciting Digital Journey

Matthew Mounsey-Wood is a design director and brand developer who has worked in various global markets and levels of the apparel and homeware industries. Starting out as an apprentice on London’s Savile Row, he has worked for iconic international designers, premium brands and design houses in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia. For the past couple of years he has been building upon his understanding and skill set within 3D design and the digitalization of the apparel and textile industry.

We caught up with Matthew to discuss his interest in 3D, how he has been able to implement CLO, the benefits and challenges involved in 3D design and the implementation of an end-to-end digital workflow, his take on a lean made-to-order business model, as well as his advice for brands who are looking to make the shift towards digitization. 

Source: Matthew Mounsey-Wood 

What initiated your interest in 3D design and how were you first introduced to CLO?

I have adopted 3D design tools over the last couple of years out of my desire to lead a more responsible design practice. Having spearheaded the product-creation sustainability roadmap in a previous corporate role and seeing what other pioneering brands have achieved, I came to appreciate that 3D visualization and sampling along with an end-to-end, connected digital value chain are key to removing waste from our industry. I was fortunate to attend a PI Apparel conference in Berlin 5 years ago. At the time I was double hatting between leading design and the sub-brand business units. I had just introduced digital textile creation to the brand and was initially looking for a PLM system; that’s where I encountered CLO. I was really impressed by how far 3D had come and how rapidly it was evolving into a truly powerful tool.

We used a complex online video conferencing system at the previous group I worked for. This allowed us to Email tech packs and set up virtual fit meetings between our office and distant factories. Nevertheless, we were still moving thousands of samples back-and-forth every season and even needed duplicate sets across locations. 3D seemed much more efficient and promised many more possibilities for communication and collaboration across the entire value chain. I didn’t have the opportunity to implement 3D before moving back to the UK two years ago, but have made it my focus since. 

Source: Matthew-Mounsey Wood 

How have you been able to use CLO as a solution for the work you do as a designer and consultant?

I love how accessible and intuitive CLO is. I’m self-taught and have been using CLO as I experiment with my own ideas. It has enabled me to break out of the shackles of our outdated nineteenth century industrial system and has put me back in the center of my own product and content creation, allowing me to express my creativity without using any resources. 

From the outset of my career I have been curious to learn and willing to push myself into uncomfortable spaces. My background is grounded in practical handcraft skills and a UK design education. This “disruptive” technology is ushering in an exciting era of much needed progress, connectivity, equality and opportunity. My Instagram is a rolling work-in-public of me learning and figuring out how I want to use this technology. CLO has enabled me to bring to life the beautiful digital textiles I create on my own avatars and built-out environments. I am tantalized by the prospect of creating a lean, end-to-end process populated with digitally created 3D imagery, video and AR.

 I have been applying my new digital skills by working with UK-based forward-thinking SMEs and brands by sharing my knowledge and experience and helping them through their first steps as they explore how 3D can transform their businesses. Using CLO, I start by digitizing their basic product libraries and creating true-to-life assets for their sales books, saving them considerable resources, time, effort, and money.

What are the main benefits of brands implementing end-to-end digital workflows in the fashion industry?

Fully connected, end-to-end, digital workflows are rapidly transforming decision making across the entire value chain; from concept to consumer. They are helping industry leaders make the paradigm shift toward higher value and demand driven sales models, which are more likely to deliver responsible and sustainable growth. Moreover, 3D assets are highly effective decision-making assets. They help optimise our communication, planning, design, merchandising, sampling, production, VM, as well as consumer facing A-B testing and co-creation. At every step, digital workflows have the potential of positively impacting a company’s agility and liquidity while saving multiple resources, lowering their environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Source: Matthew-Mounsey Wood 

What are the challenges you see in brands making the step towards digitization?

Fear of change can freeze people and brands. They might keep waiting to see what others in the pack do or for the technology to improve so it becomes effortless. Tech companies don’t wait, they ideate and iterate for continued improvement and success–there’s a lot to be learned from that mindset. For many years, people (I included) have said that fashion needs to be about craft (e.g. feeling the texture of textiles, trying the garments on) and have kept a wary distance from using 3D tools in their design practice. 3D tools don’t diminish the “hands, heart, head” of design. They don’t reduce the scale of the dream, or the ability of strong designers and creatives to set trends, create desire and mould the future they want. They don’t have to set the aesthetic–aesthetic is everything. These are just tools–tools well suited for a world addicted to screens and an immediate response. 3D makes you make decisions; good ones. It allows you to iterate and eliminate bad ideas and get feedback in real-time–all without using physical resources or creating waste. 

Having started your career as a bespoke tailor on London’s renowned Savile Row, what opportunities do you see in the future through the implementation of 3D design solutions, such as CLO, for on-demand customizable products?

The fashion industry is overstocked. Digitally enabled, lean business models offer ‘inventory-on-demand’, which has the immediate advantage and reward of supporting 360º 24/7 sales without money tied up in product. With consumer-facing customization interfaces, this method of production will become an important and lucrative business unit for all focused, purpose lead brands and boutiques in the future. 

Indeed, having started my own career as a bespoke tailor, I have experienced first-hand, the perspective of not making a product until the customer has committed to purchasing it. Therefore, I find it really exciting that we have multiple technologies today with very small footprints and comparative costs, which enable us to produce all kinds of customizable products that consumers truly desire on-demand. Moreover, we are able to present these potential products as true-to-life 3D digital twins in a virtual realm and that may be enough in itself to satisfy the need to be seen in the latest fashion. I propose that a growing number of post-pandemic consumers will be more ready and willing to appreciate the delayed gratification of waiting for their purchase if it truly means buying better, for both themselves and the planet

Source: Matthew Mounsey-Wood 

What is your advice for brands who are just making the shift towards a digital workflow?

Collaborate: You don’t have to do or build everything yourself. Most companies struggle to find the time and bandwidth to make such large transformations. Like any transition you will be working in the old and the new simultaneously. That is a hard ask. So, reach out for external help, facilitate your resourceful internal changemakers and promote a learning culture.

Study your end-to-end process: What are the key milestones and supporting data and documentation – how could a linked, digital workflow with 3D assets transform each one? Involve cross functions within and outside your organization including your key supply chain partners. True diversity in teams leads to the best results. “Faster” is not the goal – agility is. 

Keep the consumer (internal and external) in the front of your mind: Envision what is required for the perfect Tech Pack, Digital Sales Book, Commercial Activity Plan, Ecom Product Page, Retail Staff Training Manual, Social Media Post. You are going to acquire a new appreciation of quality information management, transparency, sharing, and creating automation.

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