Fashion Fit Technology… As If?
When I ask people about fit technology they often give me a puzzling look. Most people who are not associated with the fashion industry, hear ‘fit technology’ and think fitness and health. People in the industry are even more puzzled about fit technology because it sounds more like something from “Clueless” the movie.
Fit technology is real and in the future it will be a very familiar concept for everyone. Right now there seems to be some disconnect between the use of the technology and the general understanding of what fit technology can do.
Fit technology allows for a virtual understanding of ‘fit’ through body-scan data, input data (where customers input measurements) 3D design, brand comparisons, tension maps and fit ratings. The purpose is to eliminatethe need to physically try clothing on.
There are two worlds where fit technology is beginning to have an impact, the design room and the user experience in retail, specifically online.
Example of Browzwear’s tension tracking software on moving virtual model.
Let’s Start in the Design Room
Many 3D design technologies, help designers to understand the fit of a garment by allowing the garment to be manipulatedon a generated fit model. Programs such as Optitex, Browzwear, andClo3d all allow designers to assess patterns’ functionality, fabric drape and ‘fit’ prior to actually making the garment. Fit in these types of programs can be determined by tension maps and visual understandings of patterns in 3D form.
But is this enough to satisfy our understanding of fit? Is the future of fit assessment going to be completely digital? There is a possibility that it could be but I spoke with Irene Mak and she thinks differently.
Irene is an independent product development and technical design executive consultant with over 40 years of experience in the industry. She has worked with brands such as Bluff Works, New York & Co, Victoria’s Secret , Free People, Anthropologie and American Eagle to name a few. She also teaches at The Fashion Institute of Technology where she received her bachelor’s.
Irene had a different opinion about the extent of fit technology. She views it asa compliment to human interaction but never a replacement. Her years of experience have allowed her to see the err of technology when human intervention is not involved. Irene also knows that during a fitting a very intimate thing happens that can’t yet be generated by a computer… conversation.
The conversation between the fitter and the fit model is most important in the fitting process because the model can describe things that a computer is not able to communicate. Although a computer can indeed communicate tension in fabric and incorrect lines it can’t yet say “ this just does not feel right here”. In this case, fit is also about comfort and currently computers are not able to thoroughly describe comfort. But they are getting closer. Fit technology is useful in the design room but it may not be the answer to all of your production problems.
Fit Technology in Retail and Online Shopping
There are many companies that provide fit experiences in extension to the shopping experience:
Customization Technology/ 3D body scanning:
When I put personal measurements into fits.me system they could not find a dress for me. Realistically, I would have had to choose which part of my body I wanted to fit and get the other parts tailored but this technology left me no other options besides rejection. Simple example of limited software capabilities.
Style suggestion software and comparison technology:
RentTheRunway: In my opinion Rent the Runway has the best fit assessment of any technology and it involves no technology at all just social commerce and peer review. I get to make my own decisions about fit based on comparisons to myself and viewing the dress on many different people.
Size comparison technology :
Can’t say I was too excited to measure a dress I owned to compare. In fact the extra step just made me look elsewhere for a similar dress, but the software is available with many high-end brands and could be useful if you have the time,
All of these companies provide an extension to the traditional online retail experience. But each company focuses on different ideas of fit. When it comes to consumers, fit is a more complicated notion than we originally believed.
When I conducted my two- part study on men’s denim shopping behaviors in store and online I learned that fit has multiple components. Based on the type of shopper the participant was identified as determined the type of fit experience he needed to feel comfortable with understanding fit online and in-store.
- If a shopper is a brand junkie, he or she may love a specific brand and how that brand fits them, this type of fit may not be the perfect digital comparison found in a design rooms that matches garments to the virtual model. Instead, this fit is about personal style preference and brand affiliation.
- If the person likes to try new styles he or she may be more willing to forgo a perfect fit in order to obtain the perfect look.
- If the person has specific needs, i.e. long arms or specialty sizing the fit becomes more about satisfying the most dominant need first and the secondary needs can be made up for later. Fits.Me could be a great solution for this customer.
You can see how this can become complicated for software designers who are trying to create the best possible fit solution across the board. You have to first fit the type of customers your software will be best for, target them and retain their interest.
Future of Fit
So what exactly does fit mean and how can technology begin to solve this problem? That’s a complicated question but technology and companies are already working on it.
In the future I believe shopping will continue to become a more personalized experience. Algorithms will track what you have bought, what’s in your closet and what products you prefer, while physical stores will utilize technology to track your body measurements in the privacy of your dressing room. Cell phones will monitor how long you look at products. The combination of these techniques will produce sophisticated omni-channel experiences that will turn consumption into a more automated but personalized process. But is this what consumers want? Honestly it seems a little scary but we will see what happens. What do you think?