Fashion 4.0, No. 18: Made-to-Measure Fashion Goes High-Tech

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Recently, Dr. Jan Beringer, a professor specializing in textile and fiber chemistry at Germany's Hohenstein Institute, wrote an insightful column in Sourcing Journal about how brands can create better-fitting garments. Technology is obviously one avenue to optimizing fit, but there are multiple ways to use it. 

Since 2016, Beringer has led the development of clothing physiology, fit and workmanship of garments, functionalization of fabrics, textile UV protection and textile reprocessing research at Hohenstein, which offers accredited and independent textile testing, certification, and R&D.

The institute's latest studies involve a 4D body scanner. What is 4D? It's a way of scanning that, through a series of rapid snapshots, reveals changes in body shape during movements, and shows the impact of movement on a garment as well as how a garment can restrict movement. Range of motion, particularly in sportswear and workwear, can then be analyzed for improved function.

This image, above, from the Hohenstein Institute shows 4D scanning at work

Hohenstein noted that 4D data paired with 3D visualization shortens or eliminates sampling time and cost. It also creates more accurate measurements for size charts and pattern-making. That in turn leads to less material and product waste. If realistic size data results in better-fitting garments, better function and ergonomic comfort could also positively affect garment return rates, brand loyalty and profits.

Beringer explained why it's so hard for apparel brands to nail the perfect fit

Not Knowing Your Target Wearer

Many designs only consider the target group’s gender, which is not nearly enough information. He noted that measurements must include actual body shapes (“morphotypes”) and predicted motions during wear. For example, a Men’s Size L looks significantly different on a 6’2” athlete than the average “dad-bod.” Women with the same bust measurement may have completely different  body shapes. The pattern and material optimized for a golfer’s swing would be different than workwear worn by a mechanic.

Using Only "Fit Models" to Create Sizes

To make clothes that fit not just fashion models, but also the actual target customers, real people need to be measured. The old-school tape measure is one way to do it, but 3D scanning allows developers to gather and analyze detailed, realistic body measurements and shapes. The movie-like visuals from 4D scanning reveal changes in body shape and measurements during fit-relevant motions. Both the impact of movement on the garment and the garment’s impact on movement can be analyzed and optimized.

Nike currently uses foot scanning to help customers find the right size shoe

Not Investing in a Solid Base Pattern 

Taking the time to create a well-developed base pattern with accurate data from the target group, just like taking the time to design an ideal garment silhouette, can pay off when it comes to speeding up future designs cycles. Once that "blank canvas" is perfected, it can be iterated on in an infinite number of ways with different fabrics, yarns, colors, textures and patterns. 

Design time is also cut significantly by using avatars, or 3D visualizations of scanned body shapes, so designers and customers can virtually try designs on realistic body shapes. This eliminates the need for sampling and long lead times. 

Variant's Principles

Variant was founded on the same beliefs that technology can help us find a way forward in creating mindful fashion, with less waste and more customization. Thank you for following along on our journey, and we hope we inspire you to find your own ways to make even the smallest changes. Every little bit counts. 

With Gratitude,

The Variant Team

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