Apparel product development follows a multi-step process that involves multiple teams to create a product that meets their customer's expectations. Apparel fit is one of the most critical points for defining the voice and product experience of your brand. Understanding the customer's perspective on the functional fit and the aesthetic fit are both critical for building customer loyalty. And while several teams have input into the fit of a product, the technical designer is ultimately responsible for the execution of fit based on the brand’s direction. 

Technical design historically accomplished apparel fit development on forms and fit models using previously developed referenced styles and inspiration garments to generate garment measurements which would be given to manufacturing partners. Unfortunately, measurements can provide little insight into the pattern shape needed to achieve the desired fit for function and aesthetics, requiring additional steps and resulting in a longer development cycle. Technical designers are then left to communicate revisions to vendors for fit and design details via photos, sketches, new measurements, etc. - all resulting in numerous samples to achieve the final approved garment.

Evolving Apparel Technical Design with Technology

Evolving the technical design development process to one utilizing technology and standards supports a brands evolution into digital product creation. Here, a body standard provides a technical designer with a form and 3D avatar to use for physical fit testing and virtual fittings.

Block patterns create fit standards which represent the most critical categories and fit expressions providing vendors and manufacturing partners with fit clarity and expectations needed in development. Block patterns are used for 3D apparel development on the brand’s avatar to hone designs and fit details prior to receiving a physical fit sample. Shifting the fit development process to one utilizing a standard body form, avatar, fit model, block patterns, and 3D technology provide technical design teams with a wealth of new benefits, detailed below.

Benefits of Product Development Technologies for Apparel Fit

  • Reduce apparel fit iterations
  • Improve apparel fit consistency
  • Increase sourcing flexibility
  • Create more accurate and timely photo samples
  • Identify more accurate costing earlier in the fit process
  • Increase customer satisfaction, reducing returns
  • Improve a brand’s sustainability

Reducing lead time offers an opportunity to leverage the voice of the customer earlier. Previously, the customer voice was heard retrospectively based on sales data, returns information and online reviews. Now, new product research and fit testing tools and techniques allow brands to engage their customers more readily within the product creation process.

For example, in a recent project, Bespoke Branded Fit was able to collaborate with a well-established national brand and use the voice of the customer to impact the fit and marketing of the product before launch.

ORVIS APPAREL FIT CASE STUDY

While collaborating with Orvis on a recent development project for a women’s pant, the design, technical design, and merchandising teams were using previous customer comments to impact current development. The key goals were to update the design and improve the apparel fit, functionality, and construction of the garment.

The technical design and merchandising teams opted to start with a competitor review to benchmark market trends and competitor fit and to validate the team’s concept direction. Utilizing the competitor review findings, the design team provided updates and collaborated with technical design on the fit direction. Technical design developed a block pattern for the initial fit direction and provided a 3D review for fit prior to proceeding with sampling with the manufacturing partner.

The initial development time for the product was reduced, therefor the preliminary steps were impactful to approving the base size garment to meet production deadlines.

Considering the volume of the program and significance of the buys, the team decided to conduct a fit test to validate the full-size range. While validating the full-size range the team fit on consumers with a range of sizes and body shapes.

There were two key items which impacted the product:

  1. Technical design was able to adjust the rise grading to improve the overall fit in several sizes.
  2. Merchandising was able to capture the feedback from several testers who preferred a trimmer fit and sized down.

Downstream, the marketing team capitalized on this information and included it in the copy to aid with consumer apparel fit direction.

The impact from just these two outcomes will lead to reducing return rates, improving customer satisfaction, and a loyal, returning customer.

Myranda Caputo of Bespoke Branded Fit

Myranda Caputo, owner of Bespoke Branded Fit, is an apparel technical development strategist with more than 25 years of experience in the apparel industry. She draws on her knowledge of technical design, pattern making, pattern grading, garment fit standards, and brand sizing development to drive an efficient technical development process for apparel. Myranda brings innovative ideas and alternative solutions to brands facing process, fit, and branding challenges.  She has worked with a range of companies including Hanesbrands, Orvis, Spiraledge, Dick’s Sporting Goods, L.L.Bean and many boutique brands with their fit and sizing development.