iPad, Fashion PLM, and the Connection Between Fashion Designers and Customers

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I recently had the opportunity to meet with Centric Software and get to know more about Centric 8 Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Sourcing Solutions for the fashion industry. Among the interesting topics discussed, a recently launched product called Collection Book for Fashion iPad app was most impressive. In my view, this iPad app is a great product, as it takes advantage of the user interface (UI) feature of the iPad. However, even more important is the mechanism behind this popular mobile device—the enhanced connectivity between fashion designers and customers who purchase products from fashion manufacturers for wholesale or retail purposes.

Centric Software introduces this product, noting “The Centric 8 PLM system captures design changes made only minutes before styles walk the runway at fashion events. That up-to-the-minute style option and availability information is delivered by the PLM system directly to customers through a visually appealing, highly intuitive, Collection Book for Fashion app on the iPad mobile device platform.” If you’d like to have more information on this product, click here.

Consider a typical use scenario for the iPad app. During a trade show or other event, a fashion buyer becomes interested in a particular product, but would like to have more information on it before making a decision to buy. Access to up-to-date product information through the iPad app would provide the fashion buyer with all the necessary information. Once the decision is made to buy this product, he/she can simply place an order on the spot through the iPad. This is definitely a more efficient process for selling and buying fashion goods, compared with the traditional paper-based and/or computer-based approach. But, I do not agree with crediting all good things about this application to the iPad.

Undoubtedly, in this particular case, the iPad provides an ideal UI. The app will still work if you replace the iPad with a laptop, but not as conveniently, efficiently, and, one should say, fashionably. The iPad certainly does a great job in terms of presentation. But for full functionality, you need a PLM system that can provide real-time product information with a built-in order-taking capability or a PLM system that is connected to external ordering applications.

Often, PLM is not a transaction-oriented system. Its focus is on the definition and development collaboration of a product. In many industries with PLM in significant use, following product release—designing and engineering (to address the product’s technical feasibilities)—the product will undergo subsequent processes, such as ordering, manufacturing, and servicing. In some industries, such as automotive and aerospace, although the entire process from product design to delivery has become more collaborative, a long process still exists between a product design change and the availability of the changed or updated product for ordering purposes.

Due to the features of fashion goods and the specificities of the fashion business, a seasoned fashion designer would be able to anticipate and handle the impact of product changes that he/she is about to make. This advantage I thought was the most important factor behind the Collection Book iPad app. It appears that Centric Software saw the feasibility, from the business process perspective, of building a continuous and convenient connection between fashion designers and their customers. Once the usability and cost of tablet computing had improved, an exciting yet natural evolution was for this vendor to introduce enhanced designer-customer connectivity through the iPad.

I consider Collection Book for Fashion iPad app an eye-catching element that will serve as a door opener for Centric Software as it approaches customers. Of course, the iPad app itself will become a new revenue source for the software vendor, but more importantly, the iPad app gives one more appealing reason for customers to adopt Centric Software’s PLM solution. To fully realize what the iPad app is capable of offering, you need a PLM system up and running.
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