The science behind garment technology

Traditionally, garment technologists are creative and fashion-led, responsible for preparing sample products and bulk production processes. However, there’s now a new member of the family. And this one’s a scientist.

Size and fit technology is taking the online fashion world by storm. It’s helping reduce returns and attract customers. And it wouldn’t be possible without this new wave of garment technologists (GTs).

A scientific approach to garment construction

Yes, we keep reading about how robots are going to take over our jobs, but, for the moment at least, technology is actually creating opportunities.

In order for size and fit technologies to provide shoppers with accurate recommendations, they need to match customer biometrics with individual garment technical specifications. And that’s where our scientific breed of GTs come in.

It’s still a relatively new side of the profession, and our GTs’ backgrounds are in technical design, technology of apparel, pattern making and traditional garment technology. Reasons for switching to the science side vary from person to person.

"I felt like I had the chance to work on something innovative in the clothing and fit business, while using my knowledge of garment technology and design," says Liisa Hansen, garment technologist (GT) at Fits Me.

Meanwhile, Liina-Mai Püüa, also a GT at Fits Me, adds: "We wanted a break from the classical fashion calendar cycle. This job is totally different but allows me to apply all my previously gained experience in production and planning”.

Using data provided by clients, they discover exactly how the garments ‘work’: their cut, drape, textile features, design and so on.

It’s about processing this to determine the best possible fit for each item, including how this changes depending on biometrics and body shape.

"One of my tasks is to process garments in order to apply fit advice. This is very similar to what I did when I was a technical designer – but instead of investigating products from retailers’ websites, I used to look at the fabrics and illustrations and tried to understand the designs in designer’s point of view when creating the patterns," says Hansen.

All this feeds into the algorithm that sits behind size and fit technologies.

Developing faster, smarter technical solutions

Although a relatively new member of the fashion family, this breed of GT is at the cutting edge of online shopping technology. The volume of garments that need to be processed is huge. Therefore, a big part of their job is ongoing research and development. Working with tech teams, they’re constantly updating and tweaking the processing technique to improve size and fit technology.

"One of my favourite parts of the job is R&D. Working closely with the data science team, we continuously try to figure out how to make our product even smarter, more user friendly and more automated," says Hansen.

Creating a brighter future

Year-on-year, online clothes shopping has grown in popularity and retailers have had to compete to offer the most attractive deal. Consumers are expecting ever-faster delivery times, and now Amazon is talking about warehouses in the sky so you’ll get your goods within minutes.

Although it may sound great in theory, the environmental and waste consequences of both rejected and returned items could be damaging.

So how can garment technologists make a difference?

Obviously, the short-term goal is to help consumers find clothes that’ll fit them more quickly.

Ultimately, this will lead to happier customers, fewer online returns and – consequently – smarter production, less waste and less environmental impact.

Püüa sums up her hopes for the future: "I wish the consumer would care and understand more about the production process and pricing. How many people are involved in producing one t shirt: from growing the cotton plants to selling the items in the stores, and consumers posting their choices on social media. Especially when they promote sustainable production."

She adds: “I hope one day all the specific needs of a consumer can be implemented into the production process to reduce waste and raise self-esteem by good/personal choices."

For more information on Size and Fit – download Fit Me's free whitepaper.

Discover how understanding your customer’s body shapes and garment fit preferences can reduce returns and improve your online conversion rates. Register for the upcoming Fits Me webinar here.

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