Apparel sector to adopt scientific fit practices, Boden, Burberry, Burtons and BHS menswear, Dorothy Perkins, George, Joules, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, Mothercare, Next, Topman, Topshop and Peacocks were among nearly 200 delegates to attend the seminar at the ASBCI’s two day interactive sizing and fashion technology workshop and seminar held recently at the Leicester Tigers, Welford Road Stadium.Speakers gave delegates a vision of fashion’s future in a series of presentations that put the shape of the global consumer at the heart of consumer ‘fit’ and retail success. With the “decade of quantity” behind us delegates were urged to enter a “decade of quality” where value, quality and consistency would give more consumer satisfaction and uplift sales.

State of the art technologies such as 3D body scanners that generate detailed shape data by age, gender, ethnicity and geographic area are already playing a major role in making fashion fit more consumers better and this is predicted to increase as the technology is developed for home use and in retail outlets.

The seminar programme opened with apparel fit expert Ed Gribbin, president, Alvanon Inc., who tackled the consumer “fit frustration factor.” He argued that: “The disposable fast fashion decade of quantity is finished” and the consumer demand for value, quality and consistency will drive a new “decade of quality.” Fashion success will depend on satisfying consumers’ demands and ‘fit’ plays a key role in securing a purchase and preventing a return.

In the face of a UK and European population in which two-thirds of its female population is obese he urged fashion suppliers to abandon the old idealistic “hourglass or athletic build” fit standards. He explained it is time to adopt scientific fit practices and processes based on real consumer shape data generated by 3D body scanners and design garments on 3D virtual Avatars and customised technical fit forms. For brands that achieve a consistent fit the reward will be customer loyalty, increased full price sell through and reduced returns. He concluded: “Communication is key – tell your target customers why your fit is better for them.” To this end Alvanon is currently developing a new consumer shape and fit mobile app – to be launched in 2012.

Karen Schiller, senior consultant fashion, Lectra agreed: “Global morphology is very varied so fashion suppliers should go to size surveys to identify their target consumer demographic, then generate body measure charts for their consumers that can be translated into design and pattern charts.” 3D design prototyping on realistic idio-parametric Avatars allows designers to create styles with visually correct proportions across the entire target size range and in over 140 fabric types. “There is no investment in fabric or shipping and it allows for fine tuning before any physical samples are made saving time and money.”

She added: “Making clothes that look good for size 8, 10 or 12s is easy but making clothes that fit well on size 14 plus is more challenging…Some fashion companies are still making five or six physical samples of a design before approval.” Design in a virtual environment is the future because ironically it is based on body data from real people.

Dr Jochen Balzulat, director 3D body scanning, Assyst Bullmer UK partner Human Solutions GmBHis also committed to delivering the technology that: “adapts products to the real human shape by providing detailed information on customers’ sizes and shapes.” The Human Solution 3D laser body scanner collects detailed measurements of size, shape and posture from which it produces size tables. This vital marketing information can be used to determine market share potential for companies thinking about exporting product into new overseas markets. It is also used to produce 3D models upon which 2D patterns can be “thrown”, modified and validated.He warned: “If you do this visualisation you need a realistic shape of your target customers across your size range.” For companies that cannot afford a customised consumer data programme, shape data by population can be obtained relatively easily and inexpensively through the company’s on-line iSize morphological data taken from existing global 3D scanning projects.

Andrew Crawford, managing director of consumer shape research specialist Sizemic has worked extensively on a number of the UK’s largest shape collection projects including Size UK. He advised delegates to: “move away from its fixation with linear measurements as they have little to do with body shape.”

The industry must acknowledge that the classic hourglass figure of the 1940s and 50 is now straighter and less curvy. Retailers who have invested in 3D shape research not only know the shape of their target customers but what percentage of their offer would fit that population, what adjustments they need to make to fit more of that target market and even how the shape of their preferred fit models compare with the body profiles of the consumer population.

Putting the theory into practice is Jackie Lewis, head of technology ladieswear with the UK’s largest e-tailer Shop Direct Group, SDG. She gave delegates a fascinating insight into how SDG developed and launched its new 50+ fashion brand Recognising that body shape changes as we get older SDG tasked it technical teams and isme designers to create: “Fashion with no age barrier” and to focus on women between 50 and 65 years where the average dress size is 14. Body shape data taken from real women in the target population helped isme designers produce clothes that fit.

New sleeve lengths, neck drops, hemlines, revised bust darts, rise lengths over tummies together with discrete control panels in trousers, curved waist bands, trouser leg lengths according to preferred heel sizes were all taken into account and patterns were redefined to suit the target shape. Then real women were invited to wear and try the garments and their feedback informed new designs. Crucially isme is communicating the technical differences to the customer so they understand why the clothes fit them better.

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