CORDIS - EU research results

Support IT solution for creative fashion designers by integrated software systems to collect, define and visualize textile and clothing trends through innovative image analysis from open data

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SOMATCH (Support IT solution for creative fashion designers by integrated software systems to collect, define and visualize textile and clothing trends through innovative image analysis from open data)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-06-30

The problem addressed by Somatch is a major issue that remains unresolved in the industry of high end clothing: consumer demands are unknown at the time that the clothing production is planned. The fact that the clothing manufacturers do not have a consistent and scientific insight but a rough and intuitive one (if present), on the users preferences on textiles, colours and shapes of clothes, results in a non-optimized design and production of new collections and in a very high rate of un-successful new design proposal. Design creation in fashion is very often lived as a pure creative process, where stylists act as pure artists, who interpret, on the basis of their personal intuitions, the trends of the market without any methodological support and with a high margin of risk. Only famous stylist, well established and working for large fashion groups, have the credibility and the advertising support to set their own trends into the market, while SMEs (90% of the total on the basis of Euratex estimation in 2011) have no access to their services and can have expectation of success only by a better interpretation of the market. If such information was available, clothing SME manufacturers would be able to drive their design process and to better tune production and retail choices in relation with trends and needs of consumers.

Therefore, the objective of the SOMATCH project was to improve the competitiveness of SMEs companies in the Textile and Clothing (T&C) sector by providing creative designers with detailed and reliable trends estimation and forecast of user acceptance. This way to achieve this goal was through the creation of an innovative tool for the mining and visualization of large sets of unstructured data related to the use and preferences of fashion products by consumers, supporting T&C companies quick reaction to the market dynamics and better adaptation of design to real consumers’ demand.”
Therefore, the main innovation objective of Somatch was the deployment of a tool for the generation and visualisation of knowledge from the huge, unstructured data related to textile and clothing (T&C), present in all suitable internet content, starting from image analysis.
SOMATCH faces this complex and challenging deal by the combined development and application of state-of-the-art advanced image analysis technology in clothing and fashion, as well as social network analysis.

The visualization of the generated data is performed from off-line statistics, generated after daily data processing, and by new real-time instruments for image collection and evaluation of designs. When commercialized, Somatch could open a vast field of new approaches for the fashion designers, supporting final user’s involvement into the whole trend evaluation and a close interaction with them.
To reach this purpose Somatch consortium included research centres expert in image and content analysis (TUM, UPC), software providers, experts in data management, platform development and fashion tools (Holonix. Sparsity, I-Deal), end users from SME textile industry and retail (DENA) and social networking, design community and e-commerce (Weblogs, Not Just a Label)
The Project started on 1st, January, 2015 and had a duration of 18 months; the work carried out has been focused on six main activity areas:

1. Development of the software to locate, select and extract media (images) of potential interest for the T&C analysis purposes, including web, blogs, forums, social networks.

2. Development of data analytics instruments, including three areas:
2.1. Data relevance analysis based on social network open data structure and links
2.2. Adaption of existing algorithms and development of new ones to locate, identify and characterise apparel and clothing in images and to extract cloth design (i,e. color, shape and fitting) information
2.3. Transformation of information coming from relevant data and image analysis into understandable statistics indications to support SME new product proposal definition

3. Development of interfaces to provide T&C designers and users with the knowledge generated, in an intelligible and user friendly way:
3.1. Generic application, for consumer use (web-based)
3.2. Ad hoc visualization system to extract fitting and clothing information from mobile devices for designer use, gathering future gamification for user interactive involvement; although this functionality was discarded in the end to focus on web functionality

4. Integration of all the above modules in Pilot software.
5. Testing by designers and final users by a dedicated web portal and demonstration activities to prepare commercial exploitation
6. Development of communication and exploitation activities

Therefore the main results achieved in the project have been:
- Definition of detailed system requirements
- Definition of development framework
- Data extraction functionality for targeted main social networks (Twitter, Instagram and web pages) developed
- Development of data relevance analysis module
- Tool for training image analysis algorithms developed
- Algorithms for cloth parsing and detection in images
- Development of cloth fitting analysis algorithms
- Integration of all the above results in the final Somatch platform
- Initial test and demo of the Somatch platform carried out

Figure 1 shows the concept of the project.
Once the project has finished, the overall conclusion of the action is that the Somatch beta system is up and running. Its functionality has fulfilled the main expected goals and now some additional investment is required to scale-up the solution and polish the last functional steps towards the final exploitation of the system.

In parallel to the tasks above, the consortium has also applied a big effort in the execution of an exploitation strategy as well as communication of project activities and results; in the end two web pages are launched:
- for general communication of the project scope, consortium, objectives, etc.
- for communication to fashion designers community
The main communication actions carried (videos and publications in social networks and conventional media) can be accessed from these websites.
While doing the last fixes and improvemets of the system towards its exploitation, Somatch has the potential to provide a new service to T&C product designers and a virtual laboratory where to test new product looks and specifications against costumer’s behavior and current trends (or even incoming ones). The system can act as a new knowledge source for designers, which will be able to take into account accurate details, trends and statistics of clothing usage with an adapt interface which puts on his/her hands information and T&C knowledge which was hidden for them so far; this is a noticeable progress beyond the state of the art, because no similar tools in competition, covering the same functionalities of Somatch, have been introduced in the market.

The potential impact covers different areas:

The capacity to understand and interpret new design trends and to propose new market-successful products has a great impact in the capacity to offer added value from the company and to sustain its long term success by:
• Decrease the time from the idea to the end product (time to market)
• Reduced production costs (more rational batch sizes)
• Reduced environmental costs
• Reduced product returning ratio

The use of Somatch can help the fashion industry to optimise use of the manufacturing lines for prototyping and sampling process dedicated to new design proposal, with more adequate batch sizes, reduced environment impact and production costs due to reduced energy and raw material consumption involved in the process. as well as improve the rate of success of new proposals and reduction of the cost of new design development per clothing unit

Somatch could allow the company to predict the success of T&C product before proposing it to its customers. The wide range of innovative customized products is an added-value to satisfy multiple customer’s needs and to guarantee the precision and quality of the products. Customers can influence the design process and the fashion enterprises will be able to react to fashion changes and incoming trends, in domestic as well as in international markets.

In general terms, the above strengths provided by Somatch to the EU fashion creative industry have the potential to increase the competitiveness in a sector comprising 146.000 companies and 1.8 million workers in the EC (source: Euratex).
Somatch leaflet, rear page (Low resolution)
Somatch logo
Somatch general concept
Somatch leaflet, front page (Low resolution)