For over a decade, the Indian government has been attempting to provide people of this country the convenience of walking into a mall and buying the right-fitting India-size shirt, trouser or dress rather than an ill-fitting garment which is a tweaked version of another country's standardised size.
While the textiles ministry is currently developing an India-specific standardised size chart for the textiles and garment industry with the help of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and 3D body scanners, the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT-Delhi) has signed an agreement with a New Delhi-based deeptech startup Mirrorsize to use an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered app to achieve a similar goal but with a different approach.
In March 2018, the textiles ministry announced that NIFT would undertake a study to come up with a size chart for Indians and complete the project in 2-3 years. The National Sizing Survey of India project cost was pegged at Rs.31 crore, with the textiles ministry contributing Rs.21 crore and NIFT Rs 9 crore. The chart was to be prepared with the help of 3D scanners that would take computerised body measurements of 25,000 men and women, aged 15 to 65, in six cities – New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Shillong and Hyderabad. The project remains a work in progress.
Mirrorsize will not be using the unwieldy and expensive 3D body scanners. Instead, it hopes to do the trick with the help of a 3D body measurement app that uses AI, advanced computer vision, deep learning models, and mesh processing to instantly provide precise body measurements. "Our patent-pending technology allows a user to wear skin tight or regular clothing while using the app by using a combination of image processing and data analytics to display body measurements," explains Arup Chakraborty, Founder and CEO, Mirrorsize.
The Mirrorsize app, available on iOS and Android devices, also shows users their 3D avatars. While the installation of 3D body scanners is typically restricted to shopping malls and other public spaces due to its size and cost, the app can be used by anyone in the comfort of their house by simply downloading it on their smartphones.
Once the Mirrorsize app captures the data, "IIT-Delhi will use data analytics and statistical modelling to come up with up to 60 standard sizes for all body types in India. The app is expected to be ready for use by the end of this year," Deepti Gupta, professor of the department of Textile and Fibre Engineering at IIT-Delhi, said.
We typically think of sizes as small, medium, large, and extra-large, explains Prof. Gupta. However, "our system will come up with 50-60 sizes that can provide very customised sizes for the textile and garment manufacturers", she adds. She explains the reasons for introducing so many sizes rather than four standard sizes. The first one is that a 'standardised size' would require approval from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Second, Indians who span across different geographical regions in India, have different body types. Third, production of garments can be made not only to cater to the different body types but also as per the size requirements of a specific industry.
Prof. Gupta admits that IIT-Delhi will require the support of the government and industries to popularise use of this app. "We currently have no external funding. We will be exhorting our own students to use the app to begin with," she says. Going forward, "we hope that the industry will come forward and also provide incentives to users to voluntarily use the app". IIT-Delhi won't make the app available to kids. "We will be starting with the 25-45 age group, but we will take care to ensure that the data of potential users will be protected even though they volunteer for this project," says Prof. Gupta.
Though the approaches may be different, the projects by NIFT and IIT-Delhi augur well for companies too that are associated with the textiles and garments industry.
For instance, ill-fitting or odd-size garments do not spell good news for e-commerce firms and malls, since users typically return such garments either in person or by courier, adding to the supply chain costs of these firms. Besides, designers are forced to take measurements of clients according to the US or UK size charts and convert them to the Indian scale before creating garments, adding to their cost and angst. The current projects hold the potential to reduce the need for alterations and returns due to ill-fitting sizes.
Countries that have successfully completed national sizing surveys include the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Korea, China and Australia. With the help of such projects, India may soon join this select band.