The Institut Français du Textile et de l’Habillement (IFTH) is keeping pace with developments in the textile and clothing industry and is increasingly committed to promoting the work of designers and prototyping in France.
In February 2022, IFTH opened LE LAB by IFTH, a technical platform of services for fashion professionals wishing to rely on eco-responsible and innovative manufacturing, within LA CASERNE in Paris, one of the largest accelerators of ecological transition dedicated to the Fashion and Luxury sector in Europe.
LE LAB by IFTH for
Design, Prototype and Evaluate …
At the heart of an exceptional ecosystem, this new space for creativity, experimentation and innovation is organised into three “workshop” areas: Designing, Prototyping and Evaluating collections are the key words.
LE LAB by IFTH provides a range of innovative equipment to enable every stage of a project to be carried out. In a 90 m² space, users have access to tools for creation (3D CAD, creation of avatars using photogrammetry, virtualisation of materials/fabrics, etc.), manufacturing (digital printing, laser cutting, ultrasound welding, etc.) and performance testing/evaluation (abrasion resistance, tensile strength, etc.).
François Pezeril and Hafida Boulahoite manage this space on a daily basis, and have invited AIRS DE PARIS into their world:
Why create LE LAB by IFTH?
IFTH is based all over France and has 145 employees working on several technical platforms, each with its own area of expertise! The one in Hauts de France (Tourcoing) specialises in weaving, spinning and nonwovens (with its European Nonwovens Centre – the CENT). The platform located in the Troyes region (Aube) specialises in hosiery, knitting and dressmaking (couture).
Another major platform is located in the Lyon region, where there is a technology centre dedicated to spinning and the functionalization of textiles, as well as one of IFTH’s largest characterization and certification laboratories.
The LAB by IFTH in Paris, which is open to visitors, is the latest service platform to be created within the Institute, with the support of the France Relance programme. It is aimed specifically at professionals in the fashion and luxury sectors who want to reinvent their manufacturing model and relocate all or part of their collections. We act as a “prototyping laboratory” for some major projects to transform design and production models.
Who can really benefit from the services of the LAB by IFTH?
The LAB by IFTH is open to all professionals in the textile, fashion and brand sectors, whether they are located in the heart of La Caserne or simply in Paris or other parts of France! Our machines are very useful for testing their projects on a small scale, as they often don’t have one in their structure, and this means they don’t have to invest heavily without any idea of the benefits in terms of time/cost/efficiency of the equipment. Needs vary according to profile, and some professionals are simply looking for better training in the use of different 3D CAD software packages, for example.
Can you tell us more about your services?
We offer three ‘levels’ of services:
The first level is a genuine “Fablab”, a facility offering equipment that is accessible to all professionals. A specific website (booking platform) is dedicated to the operational management of the venue; users log on and hire equipment for the duration they require. A shared diary is also available on this site. The LAB team is always on hand during the first use of the facility, to provide effective assistance and to follow safety instructions when using the machines. It is important to understand and know how to use them properly.
Secondly, other services are available for those who have neither the time nor the skills within their own organisation; the team can then offer customised solutions on request. The LAB by IFTH is able to offer digital prototyping on quotation, for virtual libraries of materials, physical prototyping, or even to create the first pieces of a new model or a new collection, for example.
The final level involves support in acquiring technical skills, alongside Hafida, a patternmaker by training (and by heart), who provides comprehensive training in the discovery and use of certain 3D design and pattern-making software.
On a day-to-day basis, the LAB by IFTH team also monitors technological developments by observing every situation and every new project. It’s interesting to compare the different solutions that can be envisaged, using different machines, because this enables us to provide our customers with the most relevant advice possible, depending on their needs.
How exactly does all this work, and what is the classic project cycle?
For us, it’s vital to support the fashion industry so that they can continue to improve the design (or eco-design) of their garments and products. Right from the start of the preparation of a collection, our machines enable us to carry out orientation tests for the choice of materials, particularly in terms of quality.
For example, when a brand issues a call for tenders to a supplier, it receives back different types of material from several brands. Our equipment enables us to carry out immediate abrasion and tensile strength tests… in short, the first tests on the durability of the garments! In this way, some professionals validate the quality positioning of the material they buy, before going any further in creating a model. This is an important step!
With regard to prototyping, which is essential to the product manufacturing process, we are focusing on digital innovation in fashion. Today, there are several types of software or tools that can be used to reduce product development time as much as possible, optimise process flexibility and responsiveness, and minimise the number of physical samples (and therefore potential textile waste), thereby limiting the environmental impact of prototyping.
For example, what do you do if you want to create a durable T-shirt?
For a classic T-shirt (as for other products), it is possible to test the resistance of the material, but we also propose a resistance test of the assembly method that will be chosen/used at the time of industrialisation. The idea is to validate the quality of the material, as well as the stitching and sewing methods, with the aim of providing a precise technical data sheet at the start of the product creation process. In this way, manufacturers have a clear understanding of their product.
Designing by moving from a physical material to a digital material (thanks to a dedicated scanner and 3D CAD design tools) makes production fairer and more profitable. We characterise the properties of the material (measuring the thickness of a material, its ability to drape and adjust, its elasticity) in order to create the most realistic digital material possible. This is important for creating the virtual pattern of the T-shirt, as the behaviour of the material must be known by the software beforehand.
The product is then assembled on an avatar, depending on the target customer to be dressed (size, measurements, etc.). Body measurements are taken (using a digital “body scan” solution) to create an avatar that matches the morphology of the future customers targeted by the brand. Once the avatars and virtual materials have been created, it is possible to carry out precise work (virtual sewing, etc.) and provide our customer with a set of visuals of the complete digital design. The T-shirt pattern is then automatically cut and physically assembled. From the virtual to the physical sample, there’s just one step that we take together.
Are these eco-design solutions already being widely applied in France?
We’re among the pioneers in this field! Many players are still unaware of the existence of these solutions, whether they involve body scanning or 3D creation tools, or they have heard of them but have not yet been able to test their full potential. However, more and more fashion schools are incorporating these tools and methods into their new ‘student pathways’, and that’s all to the good! The aim is to show, explain and enable as many people as possible to experiment with new solutions for producing better, more efficiently, optimising costs and reducing environmental impact, as closely as possible to consumer needs.
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