Let’s talk fashion
DALIM SOFTWARE’s DIALOGUE Engine is playing a key role in the image post-production and approval cycle for an international fashion brand’s e-commerce operation.
Recognised throughout the world as the precursor of modern prêt-à-porter fashion, the Max Mara Fashion Group (MMFG) is a leading international fashion house. Founded in 1951, it was the first Italian clothing company to offer ‘haut de gamme’ luxury women’s clothing produced to the highest industrial standards. The Group has consolidated its position over time thanks to a meticulous, luxurious style that has continuously achieved increasing success, reflected today in more than 2300 stores around the world.
Foreseeing the implementation of new technology and new processes based around Marketing Product Master Data management, MMFG decided to instigate an important technology upgrade in 2014. This was in order to support the Group’s various digital communication and sales channels, and e-commerce in particular, which was crucial.
Hyphen Italia was chosen as technology partner and was given the task of analysing, proposing and implementing a hardware and software solution for industrial-strength management of product photography based around the DAM (digital asset management) and PCM (product content management) capabilities of the Chalco.net online platform and the HSL (Hyphen Still Life) product photography system.
Luca Grioni, one of Hyphen Italia’s senior project engineers, worked on the project from start to finish. Grioni has hands-on knowledge of DALIM SOFTWARE applications and describes the project thus:
“One of the aspects of implementation covered the management of photographic image and data flows for MMFG items, specifically the product images and data (clothes and fashion accessories) which power the company’s e-commerce process.”
The process covered by Hyphen Italia’s HSL+Chalco suite encompasses full workflow management – from photography to publication on the e-commerce platform – and according to Grioni includes:
- importing and constant updating of records of products from the company ERP system on Chalco;
- generation, in Chalco, of a specific seasonal e-commerce catalogue (including remapping of product data from MMFG’s ERP/MIS database to its e-commerce platform), and the ability to create subgroups of matching products (‘looks’ or ‘outfits’) for photographic purposes;
- display of the shooting list for photographers and, during the photo shoot, automatic association of pictures with product data via barcode reading at the time of shooting;
- management of the image approval cycle (based on DIALOGUE) and image publication for the e-commerce site.
The Chalco.net and DIALOGUE Engine integration provides excellent results in the image approval cycle, overcoming the various inefficiencies and problems which have previously characterised photo shoot image management. Grioni confirms: “Previous technological limitations required all parties involved in the photography and image creation process – photographers, product managers and post-production operators – to all be working together in a single location over the course of a photographic session, with slow and expensive manual transfer of images for retouching, previewing and approval between the various local computers and hard disks.”
The new workflow enables photographers to send JPG or TIFF shots from the HSL workstation to the Chalco system, which regularly notifies remote post-production operators. These then access the DAM, find and download the images to post-produce, perform the necessary work then upload the post-production images to the system.
Where approval is required, the relevant product managers will receive notifications and access the DAM to preview, comment on and approve the post-production images through the integration with DIALOGUE Engine.
If a post-production image is not approved, a notification will be sent to the operator, who can see the online comments through DIALOGUE, and can then proceed with the requested modifications. This cycle is repeated until approval is given.
Luca underlines how “… amongst the advantages of the new process, based on centralised online components such as DIALOGUE, the following benefit has also become clear: everything is performed in real time, enabling the various parties – and even those not directly involved – to have an ever-evolving view of work in progress”.
The HSL+Chalco solution itself can boast some rather impressive figures: in the 2015 fashion seasons there were more than 100,000 images shot and managed on the platform; of these, around 20,000 were managed with the approval workflow based on DIALOGUE Engine, averaging four or five images for every product.
Thanks to DIALOGUE, a highly valuable series of functions, actions and characteristics are available to MMFG product managers:
- high resolution previewing of images;
- accurate colour display of images, thanks to the colour profiles selected and made available by DIALOGUE on the individual product managers’ workstations;
- annotation, with history and author identification;
- comparison between the processed post-production image and its previous version to obtain a rapid decision on the post-production result.
DIALOGUE Engine’s Compare function in particular has been a critical factor in the implementation project, as Grioni explains:
“Complex projects such as this often require a business process re-engineering approach, and this is precisely what has been adopted for MMFG. In this context, change management is of fundamental importance; involving the various parties in the process and gaining their acceptance is a determining factor for the project’s success. For MMFG, one of the most important drivers for involvement and acceptance of the system by the product managers was the Compare function in DIALOGUE Engine, which has made the image approval phase easy and even pleasurable, thanks to its sleek ergonomics.”
As far as Luca Grioni is concerned, “DIALOGUE is really in fashion.”