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EFF SOURCE Fashion business success without compromise

22 April 2015

9 Open-Source & Low Cost Digital Fashion Business Tools

Contributor Sarah Ditty

Bav Tailor2


This month, SOURCE Intelligence focuses on emerging and transformative technologies for fashion. Here, we investigate nine digital tools that help you do better fashion business, available either for free or at a very affordable cost. Especially relevant for startup designers, small brands and individuals within bigger companies.


#1 Valentina

An open source code pattern drafting software

Valentina is a cross-platform pattern making program which allows designers to create and model patterns of clothing, using precision formulas and real body measurements. It’s free, no purchase required.

The goal of this software is to create patterns which are based on a either standard size or customer’s set of measurements. It blends new technologies with traditional methods to create a unique patternmaking tool.

Valentina users have full access to pattern creation. Patterns are created using traditional patternmaking formulas. Some initial training on how to use the program to mimic manual patternmaking methods is required. The software is still in beta. Additional features are currently in development, including 3D visualization of body avatars and patterns.

Valentina’s creators believe that “small-batch and custom-sized clothing manufacturing is essential to create a sustainable future, preserve small to medium sized textile spinning and weaving manufacturers, enable independent and small designers and manufacturers to scale up to make a decent living, rebuild local garment districts, and reduce or eliminate slave labour.”

The software is available for Mac, Windows, Ubuntu, Fedora/OpenSUSE. However, you do have to have a very strong command of computer software and some coding knowledge to use it, or a really nice helpful computer programmer friend.

Find out more about Valentina here.

#2 OpenFit

Customisable patterns for tailored trousers

OpenFit is a software that generates digital patterns for custom tailored trousers. It works well with rapid prototyping meaning hypothetically you can create custom fit trousers on-the-spot.

OpenFit has been built using with algorithms based on several well-loved patterns. It’s By the Book option uses a pattern drafting algorithm found in Threads Magazine: Fitting for Every Figure. Draft from Center uses our own pattern algorithm. Measure is a Kinect-driven measurement tool. And sample chromakey legging front and side photos can be found in the Open Fit Flickr Pool.

Again, like Valetina, you do need to have some technical know-how or at least the guts to try to figure how the machine build and digital patterns yourself . OpenFit relies on GitHub, code sharing and publishing service, or that it’s a social networking site for programmers.

Here’s a great resource for GitHub for beginner’s, “don’t get scared, get started.”

Find out more about OpenFit here.

#3 OpenKnit

Build-your-own 3D digital knitting machine

The OpenKnit machine (called Wally120 – corresponding to the number of needles required) is an open-source, low cost, digital fabrication tool developed by Gerard Rubio.

The build-it-yourself machine allows you to create bespoke clothing from digital files – i.e. 3D printing. It means that designing, producing and wearing clothes can now happen in the very same place, allowing you to make decisions regarding creativity and responsibility. For example, the machine can knit a sweater, from raw material, yarn to completed product, in about an hour.

Wally120 only includes a single yarn carrier and maximum knit width is approximately 30 cm. Its small size isn’t really suited for complex patterns or multi tubes designs yet. However, once made, it is convenient, clamping to any flat surface and is compact and light so easy to carry around and store away.

Like the other applications above, OpenKnit also relies on GitHub and you do have to be comfortable with trying to give the technical aspects a go. The instructions for how to build the OpenKnit machine are here: https://github.com/g3rard/OpenKnit

[censored] Made In the Neighbourhood (ft. a clothing printer, OpenKnit) from Gerard Rubio on Vimeo.

Read more about OpenKnit here.

#4 BurdaStyle

Cheap, digitally downloadable patterns for sewers

BurdaStyle aims to bring the craft of sewing to a new generation of fashion designers, hobbyists, DIY’ers, and inspire fashion enthusiasts. It offers downloadable PDF sewing patterns, project ideas, picture and video tutorials – all at a very affordable cost. Patterns are $5.99 USD each and short courses start are $19.99 – $140 USD per session.

They have a wide selection of patterns for women, men, children and babies. Courses cover topics such as: pattern drafting, grading, draping, how to use a serger 101, advanced tailoring, working with stretch fabrics, project “sew-alongs,” and much more.

See more and get started with Burdastyle here.

#5 Materials Sustainability Index (MSI)

Decide what environmentally sound materials to use in your products

The Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) is a cradle-to-gate index informed by life cycle assessment (LCA) derived inventory data to engage product design teams and the global supply chain of the apparel and footwear products in environmental sustainability.

The MSI was originally developed by Nike and is a result of more than eight years of materials research and analysis. In July 2012, it was adapted by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and incorporated into the Higg Index, a tool that measures the environmental and social performance of apparel and footwear products.

The MSI outputs numeric scores, with a higher score representing better performance in the selected environmental impact areas:

  • Chemistry
  • Energy and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Intensity
  • Water and Land Use Intensity
  • Physical Waste

The complete MSI dataset is open source and the vision is to evolve this tool into a “Federated Wiki” that will further empower collaboration and data transparency across the apparel and footwear industry.

Find out more about MSI here.

#6 Mimoona

Test the demand of your designs before production

Not yet fully launched, Mimoona will enable fashion brands and designers to predict the demand for their products before production, saving you the money associated with redundant production and allowing you to produce and sell more of your successful designs.

The site works by letting the designer/brand set a minimum quantity amount for each product that must be reached in order for the design to be produced. Customers are then able to look through the different designs and pre-order the ones they like. If there is enough demand for a certain item, the design will be produced. If not, the order will not be placed and customers will not be charged. It’s basically a way to crowd source demand for your designs. It helps you figure out which of your products the market actually wants and also gives your engaged customers the chance to have a say on your collections.

No information on cost is available yet, but sign up for early access, here.

#7 Brandboom

B2B SaaS Sales Automation tool for wholesalers that sell products to retailers

Brandboom is a digital wholesaling platform that allows wholesalers to put together easy, nice-looking line sheets, share them and sell products to retail buyers.

Brandboom claims to have 176,000+ retail buyers (from 90,000+ retailers) using the site and has done $845 million with of wholesale transactions to date. They say it allows you to service 40% more buyers because it helps you spend less time fixing ordering errors and more time reaching out to buyers.

Line sheets and your product presentations can be customisable, smart phone responsive and can be downloaded to its custom iPad app which can be used offline. Orders can be exported into Quickbooks. It replaces the need for photoshop, design softwares, Excel spreadsheets and pen and paper.

But the real beauty of it…. it’s not out of the reach for sole designers and small brands. It’s completely free for up to 50 products and is only $50 USD annually per user.

See how it works here.

#8 StartUp Fashion

Affordable fashion business tool kits and templates

If you are very new to the fashion business or starting your own brand, StartUp Fashion gives you some simple templates to put together your line sheets and costing sheets.

The Line Sheet template makes it easy to plug in your images and other necessary information to create a clean and professional line sheet you can feel confident to send to buyers.

The Cost Sheet template gives you a detailed way to cost your products with the mathematical equations set up and ready for you to just plug in the relevant information.

They also have a how-to guide on how to do yourself a marketing budget and how to build a business advisory board.

You can download these here, each for only $12 USD.

#9 Ethical Trading Initiative Workbook (Ed. 2)

A comprehensive guide on how to source and trade ethically

The ETI workbook is a manual on ‘how to do’ ethical trade for buying companies, based on the Ethical Trading Initiative’s (ETI’s) experiences and learning to date. Its purpose is to share learning on how to develop and implement an ethical trade strategy. It presents this learning in the form of step-by-step guidance that is intended to be of practical use to professionals who are responsible for sourcing and buying for a company.

The workbook is organised to break up the different aspects of ethical trade into separate, manageable stages. However some ‘stages’ should actually be ongoing or frequent activities. For example, persuading your colleagues and managers of the ‘business case’ for ethical trade is unlikely to be a one-off activity. You will probably need to justify your case every time you draw up a budget, request resources, report against your activities and so on – and all the more so during lean periods.

It’s divided up into three main parts:

  • Part One: Getting started on ethical trade
  • Part Two: Getting to know your supply chain
  • Part Three: Assessing supplier worksites and following up on improvements

This Workbook is meant to support the ETI training series, which is not a free service – but none-the-less, this 11 chapter guide is free to read and incredibly useful for any designer, brand or buyer of any size. Download the full guide here.

Image credit: SOURCE Member brand, BAV TAILOR


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