Inside a fitting room in an H&M store in Stockholm, there’s a new way to try on jeans: A body scanner takes your measurements, creates your digital avatar, and then lets you select a few options in terms of fabric, style, and fit. Then it sends your unique pattern to a clothing factory, where they make you a custom pair of jeans, perfectly designed to fit your body.
The retailer, which will begin taking appointments to use the tech on November 5, partnered on the pilot with Unspun, a startup based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, which created its tech platform to help fight the problem of overproduction in fashion. “What ends up happening is that a lot of the goods that are produced in the industry have to be discarded or incinerated,” says Unspun cofounder Walden Lam. Making clothing to order can help reduce that waste and help companies such as H&M—which has a goal of a “climate positive” value chain by 2040—shrink their carbon footprints. Making jeans that fit perfectly may also reduce waste because customers will be less likely to throw them out. It’s also a solution for customers who don’t fit in standard sizes.
The infrared body scanner is made by a company called TG3D. “It picks up anything that has a surface temperature, and the body scan takes about 10 seconds to complete,” Lam says. “And once you have done the body scan, an avatar is generated.” Customers can choose from two styles, four fabric selections, and options for the hem, waist, and trim. “Essentially, we create a three-dimensional piece of garment in the virtual world, create the seam lines, and then have the pattern pieces cut out [at factories],” he says. “And then we send the pieces to assembly manufacturers to create them on demand.” The startup also has scanners in its own zero-inventory stores in San Francisco and Hong Kong and sells its own jeans through a mobile app, though this is its first collaboration with a mainstream retailer.
It’s a little less efficient to make jeans this way, since manufacturers might typically cut out the pattern for 30 or 40 pairs of jeans at the same time. But since jeans are always sewn individually, the overall process isn’t substantially different. The jeans sell for a premium, though, and unlike a standard trip to a retail store, you can’t bring the product home right when you buy them: The custom jeans arrive in two to three weeks.