Sustainability is a spectrum of ideas and takes different forms depending on individual values, priorities, and life circumstances. The focus is always on the mindful use of resources and acting in a way that minimizes ecological impact.
The production of clothing requires a lot of resources: from the cultivation of raw materials to the processing of fabrics (yep, your jeans don’t just look „used“ or „washed“) to the cut, design and all the manual work that goes into sewing. A few more steps and many miles later, the piece ends up in your favourite online shop, you’re in love with it, order it and then – it doesn’t fit properly. Now it either stays in your wardrobe and is rarely or never worn, or you send it back. By the way, you are not alone in this. In Germany, every fifth item of clothing is never or almost never worn and there are an estimated 280 million returns per year in Germany, of which the largest share is clothing Forty percent return rates are not uncommon in the fashion sector.
Whew. And all that effort with the raw materials, the textiles, the sewing, the transport, and everything?
Why do clothes rarely fit well?
In the 19th century, there was a turnaround from tailor-made individual items that were perfectly adapted to the bodies of the buyers to ready-to-wear clothing, i.e. the standardization of clothing sizes. This made mass production possible in the capitalist industrial age.
After that, however, too little happened: “Today’s sizing and grade rules are based on measurements originally taken for military uniforms at the time of the US Civil War. It’s the only data early ready-to-wear manufactures had available. Over time, this has been modified and tweaked by brands to include vanity sizing, resulting in no fit standards across any one product category.”
The system of clothing sizes that we know today goes back to measurements taken in the 1960s. That was 60 years ago! After that, there were repeated serial measurements, but the basic idea of standardized clothing sizes remained the same.
Most recently, in 2007, there was the large-scale measurement study „Size Germany“ which, however, was only fully accessible to the participating companies and therefore could only contribute to a limited extent towards modernizing ready-to-wear tables across the board.
Lack of data and overproduction in the fashion industry
So the fashion industry has a data problem: clothes based on old numbers and standards rarely fit like a glove. Bodies change and are more individual than a measurement chart anyway. In the course of a lifetime, the body shape of many people changes again and again temporarily, or even permanently.
But we also know from the serial measurements of the last decades that people have generally become larger on average. Currently, only about 30 per cent fit optimally in standard clothing sizes. For the other 70 per cent, standardized sizes are not the optimal choice. How can this be?
Collecting new data is time-consuming and expensive. But that’s exactly what’s important so that there is no unnecessary overproduction of sizes or fits that only live out their existence in a warehouse – or worse – in the trash.
The problem of high stock levels due to overproduction has been exacerbated with the coronavirus, according to trade association estimates. Retailers are sitting on 500 million garments. However, market analysis by Euromonitor estimates that even before the coronavirus, 230 million new garments were shredded annually.
Size confusion in the fashion industry
Many brands therefore continue to develop their clothing themselves and adjust it on the basis of experience and customer feedback, which is good in principle, since they do not cling to old clothing tables. However, these size adjustments are often not really precise due to the lack of data. All this leads to a confusing size jumble with many uncertainties. For example, a size L from one brand usually turns out quite different from a size L from another brand. Frustration while shopping is inevitable.
Every return must be transported
Returns are often resold as A- or B-goods, but they still cause environmental problems. According to DHL a parcel return should „only“ cause less than 500 grams of CO2, but with 280 million returns (in Germany), that would still be around 140,000 tons of CO2 per year, which are only caused by the return routes and could be partially avoided in the fashion segment through properly fitting clothing. The data problem is therefore also a question of sustainability.
Bye-bye, wasting resources!
There is another way. We have set out to do something about this waste. With our innovative AI technology, we can measure you individually in 3D and create your digital twin from the data. The twin then becomes your shopping buddy, so to speak, thanks to which you’ll always know whether a potential new favorite item really fits and makes you happy.
Sounds good? We think so, too! Because together we can ensure that fewer resources are wasted. Become a part of a more sustainable fashion future!
“Buy less, choose well, make it last”
BEAWEAR - towards a circular fashion economy via digital transformation
Despite all the technological innovations of the past twenty years, the fashion industry remains stuck in the industrial revolution. Overproduction and waste are rampant, and people and the planet are paying the price.
At BeAwear, we’re leading the digital transformation of apparel using data. It all starts with a body scan, which is how we help our users filter and find items they’ll love.
Promoting a sustainable, circular economy for clothing is a subject close to our hearts. We don’t just want to address the problem of return rates but think about the entire lifecycle of a garment to make a real contribution to a more sustainable fashion industry.