It’s denim season again and we are anticipating what’s next. How will trends in eco-responsible production and gender adaptability in styling and innovations deliver true consumer personalisation? What will be the big new denim story? More importantly, is the skinny jean dead yet?
Whether it’s the re-invented five pocket jean with wide or tapered leg shaping or a chino style sitting high at the waist, one thing remains constant: consumers demand a perfect fit, irrespective of design trends. As an industry, how can we best deliver fashion, newness and also democratize fit?
Here are the facts: 42 percent of consumers worry about getting something that fits well, with denim (alongside lingerie) named as they key category. And 85 percent of consumers stay loyal to a brand because their products fit them, according to Ed Gibbon in Edited.
A study from CBI in the Netherlands (2014) reported that for jeans brands to differentiate in an increasingly competitive market, they must offer:
- Excellent fit
- The latest in washing and coatings
- Newest fabric compositions: warp weft broken twills, space denim, etc. and
- Focus on a specific high-potential target group
In an industry where body shape is often misrepresented, Alvanon’s philosophy is based on creating 3D virtual bodies and fit mannequins that are true to the natural human body. Applying the latest technology and body shape data, Alvanon advises the world’s leading denim brands and retailers on fit and sizing strategies. So how do you build a fit & sizing strategy to ensure competitive edge and consumer loyalty?
Here are five top tips for the season on how to execute consistent fit:
1. Define your target customers and their body shapes.
Who are you selling to, or want to sell to? Start with the demographic of your core customer – where they live, age, ethnic and socioeconomic group. This important data will help to segment the customer profile and in turn will drive out a body shape standard.
For example; 55 percent of women in Europe have what we describe as an “average” body shape in that their bust to waist to hip measurements are well proportioned. These lucky people can wear almost any style and look good. However, what about the rest of the population? A further 30 percent of women have a “straight” body shape (having little waist shaping), while the remaining 15 percent are curvy. We should listen to the voice of our customers, as they claim 52 percent of brands still don’t make clothes for real bodies or people.
Regardless of body shape women generally cite the following factors as most desired:
- It’s all about the bum
- No excess fabric
- Back pockets must accentuate fit
- No gaping at the waist (mostly an issue experienced by curvy girls)
For men, it’s much simpler. Their shape is determined by their top to bottom shaping. They are they bigger on the top or on the bottom. The good news is that this doesn’t change significantly with age. The thing that impacts body shape in men is size.
2. Understand which sizes sell.
When considering new shapes and silhouettes, imagine it on your most popular selling size: this is your true customer. Having a graded 3D virtual body or fit mannequin will help focus on this filter and ensure fit integrity is maintained across the entire size range. Be ruthless and don’t offer all styles in all sizes, sometimes it just doesn’t work! With jeans sitting on the natural waist this season, it’s important to remember that proportionally the waist grows more than the hips or bottom; this will be key to getting the fit right.
It is difficult to talk about standard sizing for jeans as it differs from brand to brand. The key to success is maintaining consistency for your consumer; work to standard measurements as guide rules and understand what “loose, straight, slim and skinny” means for your brand in terms of core measurements and sizing. This approach drives sales and minimizes returns.
To illustrate the size of the challenge, here are some statistics reported by FitsMe in their Size Disparity Whitepaper: (One Poll UK)
- More than 60 percent of consumers find it a gamble as to whether the item will fit when shopping online
- Seven out of ten women buy different clothing sizes from the same retailer
- Half of the men buy different clothing sizes from the same retailer
Whether you sell your jeans by waist and inseam or by numeric garment size, communicating sizing to the consumer in a way that is informative, concise and engaging, is crucial. The customer must be able to choose the right size with ease.
It is a well-known fact that actual garment measurements can be different from what’s on the label! Sorry gents, while you boast that you still fit into a 34″ waist remember that there can be up to 1.5″ of ease depending on where the jean sits on the body and brand sizing.
Remember to put yourself in the shoes of the customer, who in addition to thinking about what style to buy this season, is having to navigate a purchasing journey which involves options of fabric, wash, size, rise and inside leg every time they buy a pair of jeans; it’s a minefield!
No apologies for repeating this statistic but this is why 85 percent of customers stay loyal to a brand which offers an appropriate and consistent fit. Indeed, it’s deemed as the #1 reason they go back to a brand.
3. Know your fabrics.
The focus on more sustainable materials and denim manufacturing processes continues to pick up pace this season, with recycled, recyclable or low-impact materials as key ingredients. Product functionality and durability ensures fabrics are designed to last and keep their look and color longer, a blessing if you have found your perfect jeans. With so much choice it can be difficult to select the right fabric; get it wrong and the impact on fit is disastrous.
The key from a fit consistency angle is to categorize fabrics based on weight and modulus (stretch properties — rigid, comfort stretch, super stretch). Other factors are aesthetic and will alter the look of the garment but will not directly impact the fit. Always fit your garments in the correct wash, there can be a big difference in fit between a rinse, classic stone wash or vintage washed garment.
4. Maintain consistent measurements and pattern blocks.
Consistency is key to keeping your customers loyal season after season. Trends may change but the basic body measurements and core shape standards should remain largely the same. An existing block can be adapted to incorporate seasonal trends with the body fit remaining constant in terms of shaping through the rise and crotch. This way you avoid reinventing the wheel each season, the consumer has consistency and your ability to get the new style to market faster is increased. Focus on style and adapting rise position and leg shape. If it’s not broken don’t change it!
To support brands in achieving great body fit, Alvanon has just launched a new men’s mannequin specifically for fitting denim. The mannequin has been designed to reflect the way men stand for better read of balance and rise angles, it has a deeper indent at the back rise, so fabric doesn’t” bunch up” or fold in at the seat.
5. Love the winners.
Never forget your best sellers. Update in-line with trends but maintain the core shapes that your customer returns to each season.
Skinny Jeans still represent 58 percent of women’s jeans. If you’re a denim retailer, skinnies are your core. What is exciting is the movement elsewhere, with cropped, coulotte, and wider styles all gaining in terms of popularity.
All things considered, it’s quite easy to offer newness and consistency of fit if you keep the customer front and center of all your decisions. This is the core of Alvanon’s ethos – create 3D virtual bodies and fit mannequins, that are true to the natural human body. We exist to help denim brands and retailers build effective fit and sizing strategies.