Reposted from Qlix Magazine, click here to see the original article
Ram Sareen, CEO of Tukatech, is one of these individuals who is innovatively molding the next generation of pattern making for the next generation of fashion designers. He talks with Qlix about his early beginnings and how Tukatech could be American Apparel’s savior…
What prompted your start in the garment industry, and in particular, how did it lead up to you becoming one of the most influential and sought out individuals in apparel product developement and garment manufacturing?
Growing up in a family of “garmentos” in India in the early 60’s, my weekend chore was to take buyers and designers from the USA and Europe to see the Taj Mahal. Listening to them for 8 hours round trip was my weekly crash course in the fashion world, although at the time I had no idea how much I was learning about “what not to do” in the fashion business.
Fast-forward to 1974 when I arrived in Canada with a degree in Mechanical Engineering but no formal work experience. At that point, I realized how much I understood the apparel business and combined that knowledge and my engineering background with hard work and lots of luck to eventually start Tukatech.
My sole objective when I started Tukatech was to transform pattern making to a digital process that is accessible to apparel manufacturers all over the world. From there, we changed the paradigm in the fashion industry to help them produce “fast fashion” with the help of computers. We also worked with the fashion schools (teaching with Tukatech systems and making our CAD as a text book) to produce students who really contributed rather than worked as design assistants.
As you can see, I never did anything conventional in my life, and I do not plan to change my pattern at this age. I have always looked for ‘other’ solutions. I think Tukatech’s innovative approach and our unshakable commitment to train and produce results made a significant difference for the fashion industry. It is really a very humbling experience to be an industry leader, but it is also very challenging to stay that way. I am blessed to have a wonderful, loyal and very capable team to support my dreams.
Tell us…what makes Tukatech’s e-fit Simulator (3D sample making software) so innovative from other 3D sample making software (i.e. OptiTex), and do you feel it’s the future in garment making?
3D prototyping is absolutely the future of garment making, just like it was the future for the development of buildings, cars and so many other products. Tukatech’s 3D solution shines above the pack by being the most flexible and powerful of the solutions. Garments with very unique or difficult construction can be done in Tuka3D that could not otherwise be done thanks to its ‘draping in stages’ features and the ability to hide/show, and lock/unlock pattern pieces. The unique in-viewport animation capability gives users the ability to set up runway shows on their own, as well as analyze the fit of garments while in motion.
Have you ever tested a pair of jeans by sitting down to make sure there’s no ‘peeking’ in the back of the waistband? In Tuka3D, you can actually do that and see if the problem will occur. The full 3D aspect of Tuka3D allows users to work more directly with the 3D garments, creating sewing instructions and adjusting placements, adding groups to specific parts of the garment that behave differently from the rest of the garment, etc.
The majority of our readers are students or novice fashion professionals. Can emerging designers/fashion companies benefit from your products/services, though it seems that your client base deals mainly with larger companies? If so, how and is it budget friendly for a startup/emerging designer to use?
Certainly students, emerging designers, small companies, and start-ups can benefit tremendously from our software and services. Traditionally, CAD software costs thousands of dollars, which may be beyond the budget of someone just starting out. We felt it wasn’t productive for the industry for smaller companies to not have access to the best technology. Therefore, we created a rental program of our entire CAD software suite. A company of any size can rent our full professional version for as little as $150 per month per user.
Furthermore, smaller companies need a way to output their patterns/CAD drawings. However, they are not likely to invest initially in the expensive hardware. What’s the use of making CAD drawings cheaply if it it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg to share them with your manufacturer? We created a solution by partnering with FedEx Office. Most FedEx Office locations have the required specialized printing capabilities and allow you to upload content to their site and have it printed to the nearest location.
We also created a portal from our CAD system to the web through a service called TUKAweb.com. TUKAweb.com is a full service product development, data conversion, and hosting site that smaller companies can use to outsource work which would otherwise be too expensive to do internally. Essentially, through our rental program, online services, and FedEx partnership, we have become an extremely useful tool for start-ups and small companies.
As for students, we believe they should have access to the best technology. However, a student’s budget is even smaller. So we created a student rental program. Students can rent an educational license at $25 a month, with the same access to FedEx office printing/plotting and our online services, as long as they are full-time students. Many of the more than dozen California fashion programs in our own backyard require their students to rent every semester. Additionally, we created a program where students who graduated could continue to rent at the student rate, $25/month, for up to 6 months after they graduate. We found that this helped students get job placements and continue to hone their skills.
I read that Tukatech formed a recent partnership with American Apparel and Tukatech, and that even Dov Charney, Founder/CEO of American Apparel, made the following comment, “We chose Tukatech for their strong reputation as a leading technology provider, and have already seen savings of $4-5 million annually from implementing their software and consulting services.” My question to you is with the financial troubles still looming American Apparel (even though you’ve saved them $4 – $5 million) does a statement like this hurt or help Tukatech…in your opinion?
It helps us tremendously. As surprising as it may have seemed to the public that American Apparel was having so many financial problems, one has to realize that a CEO so hands on as Dov is, is well aware of those problems is working to solve them far in advance of them ever reaching the press. Dov is proactive. Some of his problems are simply not within his control (the real estate crash, financial crisis), while others are more creative choices that always have higher risk. However, streamlining areas of cutting room operations, product development, and fabric utilization are relatively straight forward. It’s a science. Why cut this much fabric when you can move some pieces here and use less area? Why re-grade a pattern over again every time when the computer can do it for you automatically? It’s far easier to make a decision to choose automation then it is to take your entire line in a different direction. Dov realized that he needed help in these areas and came to us. By automating several core processes, he was able to increase his yield, save time, and ultimately make more garments in any given week. Of course, what he chooses to make, how he sells it, and how he runs his financials are not things we are involved in.