COVID-19 has affected every segment of the suit and tailoring market, causing bankruptcy risks for some middle segment players.
Tailoring and suit brands have demonstrated difficulty adapting their business models (still significantly linked to brick-and-mortar distribution) to a newer and more digital consumer, demanding the same in-store and online experience.
Reacting to this revolution, Istituto Marangoni Firenze Fashion Business alumnus Niccolò Caperoni introduces the readers of I’M Firenze Digest to the brand-new world of digital tailoring.
by Niccolò Caperoni. Images by Roberto Corti and Lorenzo La Commare.
People’s ability to transform raw materials into finished products of incredible grace and quality has always fascinated me.
I honestly believe that the quality of goods reflects the quality of the work behind them.
At the same time, I think that the enormous growth of digital software and augmented intelligence allows tailors to blend the physical customer experience (CX in short) with the digital one, creating a whole new omnichannel experience. Although digital and fast delivery processes have always been in contrast with the craftsmanship and slow fashion values behind tailoring, I think the digital world and virtual and augmented reality are an opportunity to maintain a compelling value proposition and a high level of interaction with customers.
The pandemic has generated a global market recession due to the reduced use of occasion dresses and workwear during lockdowns.
US market, the most performing market in the western region, has seen a contraction of its value, from $2.1 billion in 2014 to $1.9 billion in 2019.1 McKinsey highlights a post-pandemic market rebound, with a specific product category that will reach and overtake pre-covid volumes.2
During a recession, the middle class typically start looking more for more value for money when purchasing products, while the upper classes can still buy pricier products. This consequence causes a big piece of market shares to disappear.3 “There is no need for a mass option at all anymore because it’s not how people dress,” Lawrence Schlossman, brand consultant, explains.4
Digital transition during the pandemic has highlighted the industry’s need for renovation, transforming a totally physical customer experience into a phygital and omnichannel CX.
Most players, strictly linked with their historicity and heritage, couldn’t adapt their business model to digital value distribution channels.
Instead, the bigger market players, with their well-developed digital structure, could switch their CX online, launching virtual shopping projects and providing an incredible option to customers. However, according to experts, they could not replace the benefits of a physical experience.
All digital strategies focus on partially digitalising the user experience, allowing customers to pre-choose items and personalisation, reducing the number of people visiting the stores and the time they spend there.
The main focus was to find a solution for the temporary situation, promoting an omnichannel and phygital CX to develop a real value for customers, but failing to provide a long-term solution on how to integrate digital and physical experiences.
The second focus of key market players was speed. A bespoke suit can take up to eight months to reach a customer in another country or continent. One of the opportunities of digitalisation is the reduction of delivery time, delivering a faster and more efficient CX.5
Suitsupply CEO Fokke De Jong believes that “Anytime you are making a purchasing decision for something as personal as clothing, the best-in-class brands need to combine a streamlined digital offer with an experiential space and knowledgeable in-store teams”.6
Brands’ primary focus should be wise and balanced management of the digital touchpoint in their CX so that the technology can help the interaction without diluting the brand’s values.7
North Carolina State University has developed a technique called MonoCon, which relates to AI to recreate precise 3D objects from 2D images.8
This technology could allow brands to recreate a 3D avatar of a client, starting from simple photos or videos.
Once the avatar has been created, brands can develop a whole new digital bespoke experience, thanks to the support of digital software like Clo3D and Procreate.
Creativity phases could be handled internally, personalised for each customer by a tailor, and supported by a designer.
The Clo3D software allows tailors to realise a digital fitting of the suit, adjusting it directly on the customer’s avatar while producing the samples. At the same time, the designer can sketch some handmade drawings on Procreate, contextualising the garment and giving styling advice to the customer.
All the steps of this process can be easily shared through a computer or any digital device that can support video call software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, making it possible to create an immediate, immersive, interactive digital experience.
Digital support also reduces production timing since Clo3D allows the tailor to do all the fittings in a 3D reality, avoiding intermediate fittings (usually three to six), which can take up to eight months to complete.
Digital support is essential for the patternmaking phase, allowing the client to view the final product’s characteristics instantly.
Last but not least, the 3D rendering of the product reduces the fuel required to transport all the products for intermediate fittings.
The tailoring market has always been strictly linked to artisanal and handcraft tradition, without considering the new opportunities created by digital technology.
A pandemic and new generations could be the right occasion to combine physical and digital experiences, bringing the best of this marvellous world into the future.
Niccolò Caperoni is an Alumnus of Istituto Marangoni Firenze. He graduated in Fashion Business in 2022.
Roberto Corti and Lorenzo La Commare are undergraduate students in Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.
1. Maida J. (2021) “$ 20.34 Billion Growth in Global Men’s Coats, Jackets, and Suits Market During 2020-2024”, Businesswire, February 2nd. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210202006010/en/20.34-Billion-Growth-in-Global-Men’s-Coats-Jackets-and- Suits-Market-During-2020-2024-Featuring-Key-Vendors-Including-Authentic-Brands-Group-LLC-H-M-Hennes-Mauritz-AB- and-HUGO-BOSS-Group-Technavio].
2. LaBerge L., O’Toole C., Schneider J., Smaje K. (2020) “How Covid-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point and transformed business forever”, McKinsey & Company, October 5th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-covid-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the-technology-tipping-point-and-transformed-business-forever].
3. Reuters (2022) “The fate of formal fashion hangs by a thread”, Business of Fashion, October 15th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/retail/the-fate-of-formal-fashion-hangs-by-a-thread/].
4.Nanda, M.C. (2020) “Where does the suit fit into the modern wardrobe?”, Business of Fashion, June 18th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022, https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/retail/menswear-suits-todd-snyder-suitsupply/].
5. Davidson J. (2021) “The outside view: long live the suit”, WWD, March 1st. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022,https://wwd.com/menswear-news/mens-retail-business/outside-view-strong-suit-long-live-jamie-davidson-1234737960/].
6. For more info about the opportunities of digital for tailoring brands, see: Rabimov S. (2020) “Suited for safety: Suitsupply is braving new retail realities”, Forbes, January 24th. Online [last accessed on 06.06.2022,https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephanrabimov/2020/06/24/suited-for-safety-suitsupply-is-braving-new-retail-realities/?sh=1c6f621719d6].
7. For more information on digital and omnichannel CX, see: Kotler P., Pozzoli R., Stigliano G. (2021) Onlife fashion: 10 regole per un mondo senza regole, Milano, Ulrico Hoepli Editore S.p.A.
8. North Carolina State University (2022) “Technique improves AI ability to understand 3D space using 2D images”, Science Daily, January 26th. Online [last accessed on 6/6/2022, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220126122501.htm].