American clothing fit expert Ed Gribbin says online shopping could lead to the 'holy grail' of one universal sizing standard. Photo: Simon Schluter
Australian clothing brands offer some of the poorest fits in the world, a leading sizing expert says.
US apparel fit expert Ed Gribbin, president of clothing size and fit consultancy Alvanon, says Australia's sizing practices are outdated and are leaving many consumers with ill-fitting clothes.
Mr Gribbin, whose company boasts the biggest global database of body measurements and is the world's largest manufacturer of mannequins, says the Australian clothing industry ''is very set in its ways'' when it comes to dressing Australian men and women.
He says clothing brands here are reluctant to adopt the ''more progressive'' fit grading practices being embraced by clothing manufacturers in other countries and as a result many local shoppers are missing out on the opportunity to buy clothes that fit them properly.
''One of the biggest problems is the industry in Australia has certain outdated notions about how to grade between sizes … and they're not ready to take significant steps to change.
''Our theory, which has been adopted by clients worldwide, is that grading between sizes should be proportional to the size of the body.
''So the difference between a size 6 and 8 shouldn't be the same as the difference between a size 18 and 20. But in Australia it is.''
He says the biggest losers are consumers at either end of the size range.
''It might not affect the average person who is a size 10 or 12 too much, but it significantly limits the number of large people and the number of smaller people who are going to find a good fit when they go shopping.''
Mr Gribbin, who is in Melbourne to deliver a public lecture on clothing fit at Holmesglen College on Tuesday night, says ''there is no logical reason'' for Australian brands to continue to use the antiquated model ''except that's the way it's always been done''.
However, Mr Gribbin, who provides fitting advice to hundreds of clothing brands, using body shape data collected from more than 300,000 people in 24 countries, does not believe all brands should be obligated to cater to all sizes.
''When a brand focuses on a particular look or aesthetic and then goes out to achieve that, almost by definition they're legislating who can buy their product and who can't … I don't think it's in the brand's best interest to cater to everybody.''
While Australia might still be playing catch-up with the rest of the world, Mr Gribbin says the boom in online shopping is leading to better fit across the board.
''One of the primary reasons people call us is because they are launching a website, or they are growing their e-commerce business, or launching in a new market.''
He says this growth has provided retailers with a ''huge incentive to get clothing fit right and get it consistent to limit the number of (product) returns.''
''The No.1 reason for returns is the product didn't fit,'' says Mr Gribbin. ''If the product arrives at home and it doesn't fit, a shopper will generally make an assumption that 'the brand doesn't fit me'. That's very dangerous for an e-commerce retailer.''
Mr Gribbin says online shopping and the opening up of a global market could also lead to universal sizing and reduce confusion when shopping on overseas websites.
''Having one single universal sizing is kind of a holy grail that no one has ever been able to find, but I think we're gradually inching closer.''
''Technical Fit versus Aesthetic Fit'' with Ed Gribbin. Free. Holmesglen Institute, Level 4, 332 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne, Tuesday, 5.30pm. Call 8199 6623 to register.