3D body scan a virtual fitting room
DESIGNER Ju Feifei is well aware of the demand for bespoke clothing that offers a perfect fit for every customer.
The concept of "customerisation" was what spurred the London College of Fashion graduate to start a store in Beijing that designs and makes tailored clothes.
Every year, Lanzhi Fashion serves 50 to 60 customers who spend at least 20,000 yuan each (S$4,100).
However, her customer base is growing too large for her to meet their demands for tailored clothes.
"I cannot serve more clients due to the limited capacity of our team," said Ms Ju.
A solution that she is now looking to is 3D body scanning.
The technology is maturing and, with the advent of virtual reality (VR), could spawn a new high-tech business model.
"The measurements collected from the 3D scanners are more accurate than manual work, so why don't we use the new tech?" she pointed out.
3D body scanning can be used to replace time-consuming traditional tailoring.
VR can then be used to show customers how they can expect to look in the prototype outfit- before the clothing is even made.
This is done by first establishing a 3D model of the customer. Designers can then "put" the virtual clothes on him and make alterations. Colours can be changed, for instance.
"Images can be sent to their smartphones or tablets and alterations could be made if they are still not satisfied," said Ms Ju.
However, not many garment-makers are as keen as her to bring technology into fashion in a big way.
Xia Hua, an entrepreneur who has been in the garment industry for more than 20 years, said both the 3D and VR technologies are now mainly used right before purchase - playing the role of a fitting room, rather than influencing decisions at an early stage.
Industry insiders specialising in VR related to "trying on" fashion and accessories say that the virtual world has the potential to overhaul the custom-clothing sector.
For example, designers may create clothes on a 3D model rather than sketching it on paper in the future.
However, the expensive price tag of the required technological devices is a barrier.
A handheld scanner might cost more than 10,000 yuan, while the price of a body scanning closet might be as high as one million yuan.
In addition, being scanned via a handheld scanner is not very pleasant - the customer may feel tired as he needs to keep still for several minutes.
Some may not be comfortable having their bodies scanned wearing only underwear.
Zhou Ting, chief director of Fortune Character Institute, said in the research agency's 2015 luxury report that the Internet makes scaling up of customerisation possible.
When individuals needs are collected online, after an analysis, they could be matched with companies on the supply side.
The customerisation sector witnessed an unprecedented development last year, with 4,000 such brands in existence.
This outnumbers traditional luxury brands 20 to one, said Ms Zhou.
High-end customerisation, at an yearly revenue of US$50 billion (S$67.6 billion), has taken up a 20 per cent share of the luxury market. Garments and pearls are the top items involved.
"Everything could be custom-made in the future," Ms Zhou said.
However, investors may be cautious.
Wei Xu, a VR industry investment manager with Hejun Capital, said the scaling up of offline custom-made stores are a doubtful area.
"One single store's success cannot guarantee another," she said. "New technologies can lower costs... those who customerise their clothes are not sensitive to prices, but it takes time for them to be willing to use new technology."
While VR can revamp the garment manufacturing sector, this "tremendous" change may take place online rather than in physical stores, she added.
CHINA DAILY /ASIA NEWS NETWORK