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Could body scanning be the future of fashion? Industry innovator Alvanon believes so

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Size and fit are among the top reasons customers return online orders, although they needn’t be. Nearly two decades ago technology innovator Alvanon began researching the possibilities to help standardize the selling of apparel online. Upholding the simple premise “let's look at the body that we are actually designing the goods on," Alvanon revolutionized mannequins based on authentic human anatomy and an intrinsic understanding of pattern making and garment production. Today, an array of internationally renowned brands, designers and retailers turn to Alvanon to ensure their products achieve the best possible fit.

FashionUnited spoke with Jonathan Wang, Executive Director, Research & Development at Alvanon, to explain the fundamentals of body scanning and why it is an essential tool for brands.

The perfect fitting jeans are just a body scan away. What do you make of this premise?

A close-to-perfect fitting jean could be a body scan away; this would depend on how much integration there is between the body scan and the brand that produces the jeans.

We at Alvanon use the data collected from body scanning in aggregate; for us, it’s more important to know how various body shapes work across different demographics and building a fit standard that works for the brand’s target market.

By utilizing the latest body scanners we can tell how a specific brand’s jeans may fit to different body shapes, but to get a “perfect” fit would require knowledge of the person’s fit preferences and also the brand’s fit intent.

What exactly is body scanning? Is there such a thing as standard sizing?

Body scanning utilizes different technologies from infrared to millimeter-wave to capture the surface of the body, then takes specific key points on the body to get the body measurements. Given that most clothing is manufactured in mass, brands and retailers utilize different standard body sizes to determine their size ranges and fit intent.

Consumers have come to tolerate inconsistencies in garment fit. Often due to a lack of choice in their preferred brands. What is the hurdle for fashion companies to implement sizing solutions?

Before implementing any sizing solution online or offline, brands need to choose a fit standard to go with and stick to that fit standard. Regardless of how good any of the online fit prediction tools or sizing solutions are, it will only work if the brand has a consistent fit.

Digital technology has defined the age of personalization. How can brands access relevant data about their customers and become more size savvy?

It’s important to understand as a brand who you are targeting and build a body standard that fits that target market. We collect and analyze our data, targeting specific demographics based on our client’s needs. For instance, we realized that the plus size market was not being addressed in terms of size and fit, and we worked with different curvy events like theCURVYcon to capture this information in order for our clients (brands and retailers) to make better decisions based on real consumer body shape data.

There are various fashion tech startups offering customized clothing solutions, like photographic measurement from images. What do you make of this?

There are a few tech startups with great technology and machine learning algorithms to recreate a body from photos or from 3D scanning. I think in 1-2 years this tech will mature but it will need more industry-wide adoption in order for this to succeed.

Advancements like 3D printing and automated sewing hold great promise for customization but haven’t been widely adopted by mainstream brands. Is body scanning tech more approachable?

Body scanners really function more as a tool to collect body shape and measurement information about the consumer. There are also made-to-measure brands that use the body scanner to help their pattern makers see the body shape and get measurement information faster. As the technology simplifies, the machinery is less cumbersome to move from location to location, and the retail experiences changing, body scanning will become more mainstream. But at the end of the day, it really is all about how you utilize the data captured from the body scan itself that is most valuable.

In the era of consumer-centric retailing, what is the best way to optimize product development?

Have a standard for fit and be consistent with that standard throughout your supply chain; all the other bells and whistles will fall into place.

For more information visit www.alvanon.com.

Jonathan Wang is a member of Alvanon’s founding family, joining the company in 2004 to overhaul its manufacturing process and streamline Alvanon’s product offering.  As Director of Research and Development, Jonathan is in charge of all new products, from prototype to rigorous testing for marketing integration. Apart from physical products, Jonathan is also in charge of new projects, including partner scan projects, and Alvanon’s newest Global Body Research Initiative (GBRI).

Since 2001, Alvanon has dedicated itself to body shape data research and has gathered more than 1.5 million body scans in 30+ countries, most recently, in China, Colombia, Costa Rica and the US.

Jonathan was previously a product designer at Lanard Toys and Radi Design – overseeing product design through to manufacturing and market integration.  While at Radi Design, he won Good Design Award 2004 for Electronics for MOBIcam Wireless Monitoring System.  Jonathan graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Otis College of Art and Design, specializing in Toy Design.

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