How Sizing and Fit Directly Affect Fashion Sustainability

While global supply chains are a focal point issue in the fight for a greener fashion industry, the impact of one's sizing strategy is not to be ignored.

Fashion sustainability has recently become a prominent topic in our industry due to growing stakeholder expectations on corporate social responsibility. According to a recent study conducted by Vogue, 69% of surveyed shoppers consider sustainability a high priority when purchasing new apparel. That's a considerable number, to say the least, and indicates how serious shoppers are when it comes to aligning their values with their dollars. As brands actively look for ways to deliver the products their shoppers know and love at a lower cost to the environment, many find themselves wondering where to start.

While restructuring one's supply chain or altering existing designs to accommodate sustainable materials are always good options, these are far from the only methods brands can use to mitigate their environmental impact. Especially since one of the most significant yet overlooked contributors to apparel's ecological crisis is not manufacturing but sizing and fit. Take a look into how this seemingly benign issue that shoppers have struggled with for decades has all-encompassing consequences for brands with sustainable aspirations.  

The Apparel Sizing Crisis and Its Effects on Fashion Sustainability

Dumpsters full of textile waste, detrimental to fashion sustainability

Over the past several years, closures of brick-and-mortar storefronts have led to a significant increase in eCommerce activity across all product categories. The most notable of these categories has been apparel, as many shoppers, distrustful of branded size charts, had outright refused to purchase these products online in the past.

As shoppers were forced to convert their living rooms into the new dressing room, the shortcomings of existing sizing methods came under a global spotlight, and brands suffered in the form of significantly rising return rates. This scenario left most brands in a bit of a pinch. Online shoppers had become (and still are) reliant on lenient return policies to combat inaccuracies in sizing and fit; however, processing returns for resale or repurposing is costly, often exceeding the value of the garment itself.

As it would cost them more to process the returned garments, many brands resorted to discarding these products, resulting in an influx of textile waste being dumped into landfills and/or destroyed, causing irreversible damage to the environment.

Today, sizing and fit issues are responsible for over 50% of apparel returns (according to Shopify), and approximately 11.3 million tons of textile waste is dumped into landfills every year within the U.S. alone. Of course, these garments don't find their way into landfills via teleportation. The reverse logistics associated with returns processing also contributes to the fashion industry's already immense carbon footprint.

While the pandemic brought eCommerce sizing issues under a global spotlight, these complications have persisted since the dawn of online shopping, driven by the apparel industry's reliance on outdated and inaccurate sizing methods. Today, size charts continue to be grandfathered in by apparel brands because they've become somewhat of an "industry standard." Yet, these brands often do not realize there are alternative methods available that can combat the egregious amounts of textile waste being accumulated every year.

Bridging the Gap Between Sustainability and Fashion With WAIR

WAIR's Sizing Solution in Action

"If size charts aren't the answer, what is?" is the question you are likely asking yourself at this moment. The answer is simple: technology.  

While apparel sizing has been a longstanding issue in eCommerce, its effects on shoppers, brands, and the environment have not gone unnoticed. Recent developments in AI and body scan technology have opened up the doors for the creation of modern solutions that deliver the sizing accuracy needed to reduce environmentally harmful returns. One of those solutions is WAIR, an AI-driven virtual sizing solution built upon the world's largest and fastest-growing database of 3D body scans.

How WAIR determines a shopper's best-fitting size is simple. The shopper simply enters their basic body information (such as height, weight, and age) into WAIR's intake survey. Their results are then filtered through our database of over 2.75 million global body scans to align their dimensions with the scan that best matches their body shape. Once this brief process has concluded, the shopper will be recommended their best-fitting size not only for the product they were requesting sizing for but also for every product on the brand's eCommerce site! It's a simple but robust answer deemed sizeless commerce, and it nearly eliminates the possibility of size-related returns from shoppers.

It's also worth mentioning that when shoppers use WAIR for sizing guidance, their unique body dimensions are seamlessly captured in the background. WAIR leverages this data to deliver brands powerful insights into the body types of their core shopper base. These insights reveal optimization opportunities across other business units such as marketing, inventory management, and product design, empowering brands to address the sizing issue at its core by optimizing their eCommerce strategy around the bodies of their shoppers.

Modern sizing solutions are far from a niche technology used by a small fraction of apparel brands. The most prominent names in the industry, such as Nike, Vineyard Vines, Rhone, and CUTS Clothing, are leveraging these tools to enhance the eCommerce shopping experience and reduce their environmental impact. The results thus far have been stellar, as most brands have experienced a significant boost in conversion rates and AOV, but without a corresponding increase in environmentally harmful returns. With this technology, brands can have their cake and eat it too.

The Days of Complacency on Fashion Sustainability are Numbered

While fashion sustainability initially seemed like a passing trend perpetuated by the "snowflake" culture of Millennials and Gen Zers, stakeholders across all age cohorts are now actively supporting the vision of a greener tomorrow. When it comes down to it, the little things make the most significant impact, and modern sizing solutions empower all brands to become influential advocates in the fight toward a more sustainable apparel industry.  

Are you ready to unlock your brand's full potential with WAIR? Schedule a demo here, and be sure to follow us on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and Facebook for all your fashion content needs!

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