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Vila’s 3D journey from samples to showroom

By Weixin Zha

15 Jun 2021


Picture: Screenshot Vila Showroom Video

Danish label Vila held its first buyer event based entirely on 3D technology this year. So how did the Bestseller-owned brand create the virtual experience and how far has Vila come in its 3D design process? A designer and sales manager share their journey.

Two avatars greeted buyers from Europe’s biggest online retailers at the entrance to Vila’s showroom. They were virtual versions of brand director Simon Khong Harbjerg and international key account sales manager Josephine Schorling Bach.

As it was the first of its kind, the event was geared towards buyers from e-commerce companies who are familiar with 3D samples and included commercial products that were easy to understand and clients were familiar with.

Picture: Screenshot Vila Showroom Video

“Within the virtual event we had well-known shapes and qualities in one of the rooms on our platform, which means that the suppliers have produced it before and the customers have sold it before,” Schorling-Bach said during a video call.

The room with designs that buyers knew had the best “hit rate”, she added. Around 70 buyers attended in February. Beforehand, they received boxes with treats and samples of product materials presented during the event.

The buyers first saw a 35-minute pre-recorded video of the 3D showroom which introduced products, prints and qualities. Afterwards, they could explore four collections in detail by clicking on individual styles to pull up more information.

The buyers could also create a wishlist and wrap up their buying on Vila’s B2B platform later. A meeting with a team from Vila concluded the experience.

“Some were ready to buy through the platform, some not,” said Schorling Bach. In general, she felt that customers supported Vila’s initiative. “This is the first step but they’re definitely feeling that this is the right way to go,” she said.

A helpful format during the pandemic

It’s still difficult to show Vila’s full collection in 3D as some suppliers don't use the technology yet and some categories like knits or outerwear are harder to render as 3D samples.

Categories that work well - such as tops, dresses and occasion wear - were presented in the showroom, said Mette Harbo Staun, who works as a 3D project manager in Vila’s design team.

Picture: Screenshot Vila Showroom Video

3D technology helped Vila when the buying process was forced online due to the pandemic.

“All our appointments are online and instead of standing in the showroom and showing, for example, a long dress in front of a camera, it is actually easier to share a screen and show the pictures of a 3D sample,” said Schorling Bach.

“On the 3D sample you are able to see the small details, like stitching, the buttons, close up on prints - which is some of the things you need to buy a product. This is a huge advantage for us, definitely.”

Speeding up the workflow

Vila started implementing 3D design with key suppliers two years ago. Just before the corona crisis, the Chinese suppliers were onboarded to start exchanging 3D files with Vila’s design team instead of the traditional physical samples.

The corona crisis helped to speed up the process, recalls Harbo Staun.

Picture: Screenshot Vila Showroom Video
Using 3D samples also helps Vila to speed up the process of bringing products to market. Buyers who order for their stores can make decisions and request changes based on virtual samples, saving the time and material needed to produce physical samples. Vila’s design and internal buying team experience similar cost and time savings. The suppliers show their styles and details on 3D sketches to the buying team which picks the collection and shares the design with the sales team.

Fewer samples, less waste

“The digital workflow is running through the entire value chain,” said 3D project manager Harbo Staun. “This gives us the most efficient way of working because it saves time, it saves a lot of cost, and it’s possible to make a decision without being dependent on the physical samples.”

About 30 percent of the suppliers have started to create styles for Vila in 3D first. How much 3D samples are used also depends from collection to collection and the department for which the collections are made.

Picture: Screenshot Vila Showroom Video
The new way of working required a shift in attitude, which is paying off. This process saves the samples for the visual design part, which the buying team at Vila doesn’t need to see in real life anymore. Physical samples are still needed to test the fit of the clothes. “It’s also a mindset change and feeling comfortable with buying from a sketch”, said Harbo Staun. “Receiving a physical sample can take several weeks, depending on the supplier. A change on a 3D model can be made within one day.” Now, her design team can receive orders from clients based on design before asking their suppliers to create the physical sample. “It’s a very beneficial way to work - from our side and our suppliers’ side”, she said. “We can make sure that we focus our time on the styles that have received an order. That’s one of the biggest changes internally in our development phase.”

Are 3D showrooms the future?

While Vila may gradually increase its use of 3D design, it still remains to be seen how the brand will employ the 3D showrooms in the future.

“We have the universe but it won’t be updated on its own, you need to decide how to use it and where to use it,” said Harbo Staun.

“There is a lot of technical work behind it every time. At the moment, we’re only creating this universe for some specific events, it’s not an ongoing thing for our main collection. It’s still in the starting-phase.” Seven members of Vila’s design and sales teams worked on the 3D sales event launched in February. They were also supported by six suppliers and two external partners who built the 3D showroom – which highlights the efforts that went into creating one 3D event. But Josephine Schorling Bach is sure that more events will follow: “This is definitely not the last time you will see something from Vila in terms of 3D location and samples. We’re already working on some new initiatives.”

Picture: Screenshot Vila Showroom Video