A 2016 survey of 1,000 online shoppers by British consumer analysis firm Savvy Marketing showed around 63 per cent of women buyers returned their clothes. Most of these clothes were bought online and buyers were in the age group 18-24 years. Students in this age group bought a lot of clothes as they did not wish to be seen with the same clothes on Facebook every day. They ordered different sizes as it was impossible to know which would fit. As a result, they ended up sending back half of what they bought.
Women’s fashion sees most returns
Earlier, street fashion accommodated 3 billion plus women, and an equal number of men in around a dozen sizes. In India, it is less than half a dozen for most brands - XXL, XL, L, M and S. Anyone, who wanted branded clothing but could not afford customised haute couture, would get themselves lumped in sizes that actually did not fit them.
The returns in the fashion segment alone accounts for a quarter of the total returns of online sales. Women’s fashion has the most returns and sixty percent of the returns are due to size. One in four loose fitting dresses like T shirts and loungewear are returned by online shoppers due to size misfit while for body hugging apparel like jeans and tops the returns are as high as 50 per cent.
AI based solution for accurate garment sizing
Usually, sizes differ every two inches except between size 36 to 40 where the clothing could be with variations for every inch. A New Jersey based startup, founded by CA and businessman Arup Chakraborty, along with two professors from IIT Delhi, has created an AI based solution for sizing with accuracy up to half an inch. This AI solution will help merchandisers and retailers attain garment sizing accuracy below half an inch (around 1 cm) which is unprecedented. The technology is based on the development of a model mesh based on two photos of the individual from an ordinary mobile phone of any consumer.
Micheal Black, a global expert on computer vision based in Germany, in 2013, cofounded Body Labs Inc. a startup that developed advanced machine uses advanced machine learning and graphics to solve problems in the clothing industry and is called the guru of the vision and optical flow estimation for 3D human shape and motion analysis. The company perfected estimation of body shape to the accuracy of four inches (10 cms) as per a paper published by Professor Black. Body Shape was bought by Amazon in 2017. Amazon has also reportedly taken a patent on the back end processing of Professor Black’s work.
Combining AI with conventional solutions
Black along with Professor Sudipto Mukherjee, a renowned computer scientist, combined the deep learning of artificial intelligence with conventional classical solutions. The entire work was broken down into around 16 to 17 modules. While Professor Mukherjee wrote the algorithms for each module at IIT Delhi, the programming and the extensive backend coding was done by Prof. Chakraborti and his young band of engineers. The coding work was an amalgamation of each of the processes, some solved by classical methods and some by AI that were cascaded to create the total solution.
These instances denote the success of commercial application in the garment industry. How much these solutions will sustain remains to be seen.