Body Language. “Today, it’s not a question of whether they fit or not, it’s whether they fit to your preference,” said Janice Wang, chief executive officer at Alvanon, who speaks of the “competitive edge” brands communicate in their fit — or what Wang calls their “brand DNA.” Wang presides over Alvanon, a privately owned apparel fit technology business numbering three generations of apparel manufacturing experience. She works alongside her brothers to manage the pain points of fit for an industry hungry for data and differentiation, to parallel the increasingly differentiated body types worldwide. Be it the U.S., Japan, China, Mexico or anywhere on the map, fit presents unique challenges, and brands must respond as such.
By “mapping” fit using Alvanon’s “bodies as a framework,” Alvanon is instilling standards and an “enhanced method of doing,” with a hub that features more than 6,000 virtual bodies based on 1.5 million body scans conducted worldwide by Alvanon. Brands such as Stitch Fix, Chanel and Under Armour have been working with its 3-D avatars to help maintain their size standards. Increasing efficiency and reducing production waste, an extended benefit may be brand loyalty. The dream scenario being if a customer really enjoys a product fit, she will buy one of every color, and brands won’t be subjected to markdowns and excess inventory.
“Sustainability is efficient business,” reiterated Wang. Acting with education and industrial solutions, from the design stage means less waste later on, in addition to better fit.
Walking into a brand fit session at Alvanon could mean bringing in a current product, such as a line of women’s shorts, with intention to size down, for example. Whatever the scenario is, Alvanon works with the brand directly to decide a new standard and actionize a strategy, so as not to shock the customer during the size transition.
“In fit, you want to be disciplined,” said Wang, who cited J. Crew as an example of discipline in its size standards, bringing a “very militant” approach, that is consistent over time. Wang also mentioned how a disciplined approach to data fuels the “bodies” her company brings to market. At Alvanon, data is gleaned from many sources, segmented by the market region of choice including: sales data, returns data and physical measurements in what Alvanon calls “scan shows,” which enlists scanning technology to gather live data on real people. The next scan show is planned for September at CurvyCon, the convention focused on promoting the body diversity movement.
And regardless of changing technology, brands need a standard, their own standard. Equal parts education and communication make it achievable for brand standards, “the further you go away from design to factory,” according to Wang. The 3-D bodies are digitally accessible for vendors and for any stakeholder during product development so that brand size standards are easily communicated.
Alvanon’s forms are “built digitally to be physical.” Recently, Alvanon relaunched its North American size standards for kids due to variances in height and weight distribution over time. On a large display monitor in an office anchoring Alvanon’s open workspace, is a 3-D body rendering for a nine-month-old, built off a suite of size data. A quarter-inch tolerance is left for production, and the size is accommodated in this instance, with the addition of a diaper. For Alvanon, it’s about being disciplined, and even the diaper counts in garment fit.
While universal size standardization may seem enticing to non-loyal consumers who enjoy shopping across brands, it’s more utopian than reality. Today, brands are soliciting technology to find their true fit.