Researchers at the University of Strathclyde are developing biometric technology to help shoppers select the right size of clothes.
Not all clothing sizes are created equal – they tend to vary in size between different brands. For example, one brand may label an item of clothing as a size ten but another brand could label it a size 12. This inconsistency in sizing can be inconvenient and lead to confusion for the shopper.
It is estimated that half of clothes and shoes bought online are returned because they are the wrong size. Moreover, it can cause distress for shoppers in the changing room as they attempt to guess which size will fit them. This, in turn, can transform the shopping experience into an unpleasant exercise.
The University of Strathclyde’s new tech is said to be able to provide accurate measurements using just two photographs. It can determine the precise size of a person by converting pictures of the front and side of an individual into a 3D image.
The process of measuring someone can be done remotely in a ‘virtual fitting’. Unlike a 3D body scanner this can be done using photographs taken at home. The biometric technology uses an algorithm to take images and calculate measurement across someone’s body.
Danny McMahon, the project lead at the university, said: “The overall aim of the project is to understand people’s sizes and custom-make clothes to that size and shape. It has the potential to eradicate the problem of different store sizes and offers the possibility of moving away from standard sizes. It is about a more individual experience and customers having confidence that the clothes they buy can fit.”
This new technology could be a real game-changer for the clothing retail industry, as research by Mintel has revealed that almost half of women aged 16 to 44 struggle to find clothes that fit. 130 luxury retailers have told researchers that they hope the technology will help to tackle this issue and thereby reduce the amount of merchandise being returned to stores or being altered.
Registered stores will be able to take the gathered measurements and log them so that they can offer tailored clothes, with customers even able avoid the uncomfortable experience of the changing room. Customers will be able to preview looks using the 3D pictures, meaning they can see exactly how they will look in an outfit before they try them on.
The project has secured £10,000 of funding from Scottish Government backed Interface, with the hope that the technology can be developed into an app. The technology is set to be trialled in a few months’ time with the aim to have it widely available in two years’ time.
A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: “Choosing new clothes can be a tricky task for many people and we support technological innovations that help people select the items they will be happiest with.”
Mark Hogarth, creative director of luxury brand Harris Tweed Hebrides, said: “I can see it cutting down on waste, because many clothes are impulse buys which later turn out not to be good choices. It will also cut down on returns. But people will still want a personal service.”
Jaki Love, director of Textiles Scotland, said: “Innovation is key to the survival of the industry and this research will provide unique opportunities for our designers and manufacturers to create bespoke products for their customers and reduce waste. Being at the forefront of innovation and sustainability in textiles will put Scotland on the map as the place to source bespoke luxury fashion.”