Sorcha O’Donoghue has long been bothered by the disparity in clothing sizes between different stores.
“I went shopping once and got a pair of size 8 jeans on the label. Then I went to another store and went back to size 12,” she says.
Thanks to the coronavirus, the 36-year-old human resources consultant who lives in Norwich is making more online purchases and the inconsistencies have become even more evident.
“I ordered clothes that I had to send back several times because they were too loose around the chest area or too tight around some other area, even though they were the same size,” she says.
Earlier this year a friend advised her to try meepl, a Swiss company that has technology designed to avoid those hassles.
Ms. O’Donoghue downloaded the app and stood in front of her smartphone wearing tight leggings. The app took a full scan of his body from all sides and created a three-dimensional rendering of it.
With this information, she has calculated her size and can give you advice on which size to choose in stores including Topshop and Zara.
“I’ve used it about four times since then and find it really, really easy. I don’t need to buy what I was wearing the last time I walked into a store. All I have to do is get in my purse, pull out my phone, click on the app and I have all my information stored, ”says Ms. O’Donoghue.
Meepl creates a 3D body profile and matches the consumer’s personal body measurements with the standard garment data. In online stores that use his service, the customer avatar can be uploaded to a virtual dressing room to try on items.
Experts say if this type of app spreads, it could affect how clothing retailers do business.
An earlier attempt to use a body measurement app, Japan’s Zozosuit, was unsuccessful in Europe, amid claims that it was not accurate. However, that system was intended to make bespoke suits and not to match customer sizes to existing products.
In addition to providing better customer match, the new generation of apps can also help with returns – a huge problem for online retailers.
A 2018 report from Barclaycard suggested that nearly half of the amount UK shoppers spend on clothes ends up being reimbursed by retailers.
It found that a third of shoppers buy clothes online expecting the items to be unsuitable before they’ve even tried them on.
“If these apps are linked to a basic block list between retailers, then that’s a big step forward as they will minimize returns – the biggest bane of online retailers,” says Maria Malone, principal business lecturer. of fashion at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“With apps like these you only realize what is already preordered by the customer, so you will reduce waste.”
The Israeli company MySize also has an app that can measure a person’s size, but without using the phone’s camera.
Instead, a user moves the phone along the body and the app uses the accelerometer sensors and gyroscopes in the smartphone to calculate the size.
MySize used the data collected from customers to train an artificial intelligence program to recognize patterns and characteristics of the human body shapes, which it then uses to make its calculations more accurate.
Each person’s dimensions are stored in a database, which retailers can access to get a size recommendation.
“The [fashion] the industry doesn’t like consistency, ”says Billy Pardo, head of production and operations at MySize.
It’s an industry that often resorts to sizing out of vanity, which is the practice of labeling clothes a smaller size so that brands trick customers into thinking they’re thinner than they actually are, says Ms Pardo.
“Some retailers give me a size 38 in European sizes. In fact, I’m a 40,” he says.
“When you know the profile of your customers, you will produce less, which will ultimately lead to a more sustainable industry.”
The fashion industry is under pressure to reduce waste. Each year, 85% of all textiles discarded, or 21 billion tons per year, end up in landfills, according to a report by the United Nations Economic Commission.
Affordable and trendy clothing, produced quickly and sold at low prices to meet ever-changing consumer demand inspired by celebrity culture and the runway, is one of the main culprits for all of this.
The rise of so-called fast fashion over the past 15 years has established a business model whereby some brands produce 52 collections each year, which translates into one collection per week.
According to the UN report, the apparel industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions.
“This is crazy,” says René Stampfl, meepl vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“Fast fashion has changed the way consumers in the Western world think about buying clothes.
“There is so much overproduction that millions of garments end up in landfills or are eventually incinerated.”
Mr. Stampfl is confident that a technology like his, which can create a unique body profile, can help address this problem.
“When the consumer shares their body measurements with brands and retailers, the personalization of clothing is achieved by everyone,” he says.
Mr. Stampfl thinks that, in the long run, exploitative factories will give way to so-called micro-factories.
More technology for business
As the name suggests, micro-factories will be smaller and use automation to reduce the use of resources such as energy and textiles.
“These micro-factories will meet the new supply and demand,” he says.
Rethink the block
But Manchester Metropolitan’s Maria Malone is cautious about the idea. He says the concept of “personalization” becomes more applicable the closer we get to the high end of the designer spectrum.
“High-end brands could definitely do this because they could be in a position where they only order stock that fits their customers,” he says.
The same isn’t true towards the lower end of the spectrum, however, where the powers behind fast fashion lie. Garments are so low in value and profitable so little that the incentive to change is low.
But there may have been some positive signs of change among the buying public that emerged during the national blocs.
“In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, people aren’t going out that much,” says Dr. Malone.
“They don’t feel like they have to impress others and they started thinking: ‘Why do I need 54 pairs of shoes in my wardrobe? How can I use what I already have in my wardrobe?'”