The future of the fashion industry is now. The global pandemic of 2020 brought about massive change in the way consumers think and act with regard to buying clothing. Just four months into 2020 sales had fallen 79% from the same time the prior year. The industries largest ever drop. Alternatively, sales of sweatpants were up 80%. Now that the globe is slowly returning to normal, the fashion world is emerging a changed beast. With many companies offering work-from-home as a permanent option, the fashion industry may never return to its pre-pandemic form. Who’s going to need in-office attire? That being said, made to measure and made to order fashion is making a comeback and made to measure technology is enabling it.
(see how much money major retailers lost due to the pandemic)
Out With The Measuring Tape
From what we can tell, the earliest measuring devices were used by the Romans, though they more closely resembled a ruler than a tape. In December of 1864, a patent was granted for the first retractable measuring tape. So we know measuring tapes were around at least by this time. The measuring tape is a staple in every garment makers tool box, though with more internet based purchasing happening these days, it’s becoming a less useful tool.
Made to order fashion never went away, though the rise of fast fashion and shopping malls in the mid 20th century relegated it to the specialty event category. This includes wedding dresses and custom suits. Traditional made to order fashion is performed using a combination of methods. Multiple fittings coupled with a measuring tape are required to create a well fitting garment.
With the rise of the internet, no longer must made to measure businesses only serve their local community. They can attract customers from around the globe. As long as the business has a quality online strategy and a proper method for fitting customers remotely, an online made to measure business can be successful. Thankfully, new measuring technology has come about to enable this.
Measuring Your Customers
If you’re running an online made to measure business, collecting measurements from customers is still a must. Though deploying tailors to customer’s homes is both costly and time consuming. Not to mention it’s only as accurate as the person doing the measuring. Which brings us to the idea of sending measuring tapes to customers to have them measure themselves. This is a bad idea. Consumers are notoriously bad at reading and following instructions.
The refusal of consumers to take the time to absorb instructions has been the case forever and business around the globe spend millions trying to solve this. A humorous example is from Gateway Computer. In the early 2000’s they received a phone call from a woman who apparently had not consulted her owners manual upon setup. She was confused why her teacup kept slipping out of the cupholder on her new PC. The cupholder of course was the tray that slid out to hold a CD-ROM. You never know what a consumer is going to do when trying something new.
Collecting body measurements is the way made to measure has been done forever. Though with contactless and remote ordering on the rise, taking measurements becomes a hurdle. There are many online businesses which ask customers to measure themselves. They’ve implemented lengthy tutorials and video instructions to enable this. Though expecting at home customers to do this properly leaves room for error.
3D Body Measuring Technology
The idea of inclusive sizing is slowly fueling the made to measure comeback. The variety of body sizes and shapes continue to grow, which has all but solidified the fact we’ll never have standard sizing. Enter 3D body measuring. It’s a huge improvement in available made to measure technology. 3D body scanning will more consistently measure a human form. Notice we didn’t say more accurately. Determining accuracy when measuring a human body is subjective and the apparel industry knows this already.
In addition to being more consistent, 3D body measuring will capture a significantly higher amount of measurement data. In a fraction of the time none the less. This is good because consumers are lazy and impatient.
In the past, 3D body scanning required a customer to leave their home to visit a shopping mall. Body scanners were large rooms outfitted with many cameras. At the end of the session, the customer received a printout with all their measurements. In addition to being a little violating, it required effort.
Today, companies like 3D Look are perfecting at home 3D body measuring. Users are still required to wear very form fitting clothing during the photographing process, but at least they can do it at home. Without the use of a friend or retail employee.
Collect Measurements From Their Best Fitting Clothes
The idea body measurements are the best and most accurate way to produce a well-fitting garment is highly debatable. This is because of the topic of fit preference. Tailored has had many conversations with retailers an fashion brands about this. They all agree one cannot rely on body measurements alone to produce a good fit. To go further down this rabbit hole, we had a conversation with the former owner of a 50+ year old bespoke clothing brand. Based in the UK, Frank Rostron is home to high quality, bespoke men’s dress shirts. Rostron himself commented on this subject by saying capturing a man’s chest measurement does not inform the tailor how tight or loose the man prefers his shirt. Rostron would ask customers to bring in their best fitting shirt or trousers to be measured as well.
Traditional made to measure garments come together in phases. Because it’s not true bespoke, the tailor will perform a fitting with the customer and select from various available patterns to then construct the garment. Today it’s getting even simpler than that as many made to measure brands have garment blanks for customers to try on. These blanks are then altered to fit the customers fit preference.
These methods become a challenge for remote customers. Since no fitting can take place, businesses must rely on technology. To avoid the chance a customer will not appreciate the fit they’ve received, it’s now more important than ever that made to measure businesses collect not only body measurements, but measurements of well fitting clothes from their current wardrobe.
The Handsfree Clothes Measuring Solution
If collecting measurements from your customer’s best fitting clothes is something you’ve wanted to do but never had the means, Tailored has created it. Representing an even further advance in made to measure technology. If you’re looking for it, you’ll notice many high end denim brands ask their customers to measure their best fitting pair. They do this so there is a higher rate of success in finding a preferred fit when shopping online. Though similar to above, customers are required to do this themselves by following a tutorial. Leaving room for error.
Seeing a need for measuring automation, Tailored developed a patented solution using computer vision and machine learning. Their tech, called Capture, is easily accessible using a mobile device. It’s a system trained to recognize a single garment, laid flat, in a photo. Capture measures clothing similar to the way a human does, though in a fraction of the time. It taps into the desire people have now days to take pictures, though unlike body scanning, it doesn’t involve taking pictures of ones own body. Thus taking any uncomfortable feeling away.
The Capture system leaves little room for error as it forces users to position garments in a particular way. Their mobile device must also be parallel to the garment, to prevent measurement inaccuracies. In only takes a few seconds for an entire garment to be measured and the data transferred to your personal web dashboard.
Compare Apples to Apples
A fun game to play at a very early age involved taking blocks of various shapes and putting them in a hole that matched their shape. Square peg is square hole, round peg in round hole, etc. Collecting measurements from your customer’s best fitting apparel is similar to this. The introduction of stretch into most garments made today makes this method even more feasible. Consumers know how they want their clothes to fit, though it’s difficult to put into words. A garment measuring tool helps brands understand fit preference more accurately than body measurements alone.
Made To Order – The Future of Sustainable Fashion
If made to measure technology can continue to push the on-demand apparel industry, it could see a true return to form. With much attention being placed on innovative ways to collect customer fit data, similar effort is being put into the rest of the supply chain. One reason there is a lack of automation is because apparel production is a very complex process and human dexterity and intuition are difficult to replace.
The pandemic saw the fashion industry as we know it grind to a halt. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of inventory sat on shelves and in warehouses as stay-at-home orders spread throughout the globe. Made to order is not only more sustainable for the planet, it’s also a smarter business practice. Unfortunately making small batches of garments is currently much more costly than producing apparel in mass quantities. Because of this, advances in sewing and pattern cutting are needed to truly open the door for any apparel business to adopt made to order. There is one company based in Los Angeles that is revolutionizing on-demand in the denim market. With their new fulfilment technology, it is now cost effective to produce jeans on demand. Let’s hope we continue to see made to measure technology trends grow.
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