Fashion That Fits
by Jerry Inman
Fashion has a fit problem, and it’s a $62 billion–plus apparel- and footwear-return problem annually and growing, according to the Franklin, Tenn.–based global research and advisory IHL Group. A staggering 70 percent of all returned apparel online is fit related. As an industry, let’s be honest—“universal sizing” does not exist, either globally or even in the United States. Sizing charts differ by brand, and U.S. Standard Sizing has not changed since the war—and that is World War II, not the Gulf War.
We have also seen American body shapes change over the last few decades, with 67 percent of American women now in a size 14 or larger, according to the women’s lifestyle site Refinery29. Most people lie about their actual size. Studies have shown that shoppers prefer to buy clothing labeled with small sizes because it boosts confidence. In fact, the Daily Mail states that the ladies lie more than the men, with 50 percent of women not telling their partner, friends or colleagues their true size.
Whatever you would like to call it—vanity sizing or insanity sizing—it’s a mess. However, with the explosive growth in digital platforms, the need for sizing guidance driven by technology has become more important than ever.
So, technology to the rescue? Not so fast, as big data has so far been a big dud for fit in many areas. Fit-recommendation algorithms have required heavy and consistent input of measurement data, and production of 3D rendering and body scans has been cost-prohibitive for most retailers. First-generation virtual fitting rooms had a slow start as did an onset of various solutions being deployed and tested at a wide range of retailers. There is a need for low-friction, easy-to-use and engaging solutions, so let’s take a look at some of these newer and more-engaging technologies.
One of the true leaders in sizing technology is True Fit, a Boston-based company with a data-driven personalization platform for footwear and apparel retailers that uses rich connected data and machine learning to enable personal experiences. It has organized the largest platform of apparel and footwear data through its partnerships with thousands of top brands, the world’s leading retailers and millions of consumers. It allows retailers to provide highly personalized fit ratings and size recommendations to shoppers. It also allows retailers to curate highly personalized collections for each consumer through personal style rankings that leverage its deep understanding of both users and garments.
Amazon.com is now the largest clothing retailer in the United States and has bet big on 3D modeling systems to make sure customers get the right size the first time. Amazon is using a device to take the internal measurements of its products, allowing creation of 3-D models it then stores in a database. As a user shops, Amazon would be able to recommend products with a similar fit based on whether its dimensions match the reference item within a certain threshold. Let’s say you like the way your Adidas sneakers fit. Then you could be assured any sneaker Amazon recommends as a match would fit well, too.
To measure every product Amazon sells requires a huge amount of effort, but it does have a 46,000-square-foot photography studio in London to shoot some 500,000 images of clothing a year as part of its focus on increasing fashion sales. Amazon has also recently acquired the New York–based software company Body Labs, which creates true-to-life 3-D body models to support trying on clothes virtually.
Other notable in-store fit technology comes from the San Francisco–based Oak Labs. It has an interactive touch-screen mirror that empowers shoppers to customize its fitting room’s ambiance, explore product recommendations and digitally seek assistance from store associates. Using RFID technology, the mirror recognizes products as they enter the room and synchronizes with the retailer’s inventory system to provide intelligent product recommendations. It also seamlessly connects shoppers with sales professionals via dedicated mobile or wearable devices.
Israel-based MySizeID allows consumers to quickly and easily measure themselves via smartphone and then be matched with apparel items in their size across Unified Commerce. It predicts the body circumferences required by the retailer size chart using proprietary algorithms and then recommends to the user the appropriate garment size according to the retailer’s size chart.
Mad Street Den, an India-U.S. startup, and its sub brand, Vue.ai, is selling artificial-intelligence technology to bring visual stimulation back to the shopping experience. It analyzes clothing and automatically generates images of the garment on a person of any shape or size. Brands no longer have to hire professional photographers or fit models. All they have to do is take a picture of the garment on a plain surface. Since this is virtual, there are no real-life models, but the Vue.ai engine can generate a human figure of any skin or body type and predict how the garment would look and fit.
As today’s connected consumers require a more personalized and customized shopping experience, make sure your company invests in the right sizing technology for your brand. Strap yourselves in, as there is so much more on the horizon to jolt the customer journey. The most important thing to remember at this point is, “Know if it fits before you ship.”
Jerry Inman is a retail expert focused on the fashion, style and technology industries. He is also the cofounder of the retail consultancy Demand Worldwide as well as the fashion trend forecaster MintModa.