Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

N Brown's 3D avatars redefine the buying process

As the influence of artificial intelligence and machine learning is being felt across the retail industry, technology is becoming “essential” to the buying process, N Brown Group chief product and supply officer Ralph Tucker has said. 

Speaking at Drapers Fashion Forum 2018, Tucker said businesses seeking to use technology to transform their operations should ensure they put the customer “at the heart” of their plans while staying true to their brand: “It’s easy to try to play catch-up with Amazon and the big retailers out there, but you’ve got to make it right for your brand.” 

As a multi-brand retailer, both merchandising and the fit of clothing are essential areas of focus for N Brown. Machine learning is now being used throughout the group’s buying process, from in-season SKU forecasting to allowing artificial intelligence to drive some of its core buys and promotional optimisation.  

He stressed that N Brown has not simply replaced its merchandising team with robots, but the use of this technology has instead caused current teams’ skillsets to fundamentally change: “There’s a brand new skillset we’re seeing arise, which is interpreting the models that we’re building, and making sure we can embed them within the business.”

One of the areas in which the group has invested in technology is scanning machines. N Brown serves an inclusive population and provides sizes from 8 to 32 in womenswear, and around 108 different sizes in lingerie. Fit is an “obsession” for the business, Tucker said. 

But when the retailer scanned its customers, the teams found that body shapes fundamentally change between sizes and even within the same size.

“Adding two inches on to each size is not good enough for our customers any more,” he said. “They want a product that fits absolutely beautifully, and they deserve it.”

It meant that N Brown’s sizing had to change quite radically, Tucker said. “And the only way to do that was through understanding our customer through technology.”

The group jumped from using around 12 different fitting points on its mannequins to 256 different measurements for every size provided for its customers as a starting point, and it is now beginning to use this data to form 3D avatars to fit garments for the first time. 

“What we realised very quickly was that this doesn’t just change how we’re approaching quality, it changes the whole buying process,” Tucker said.

It means designers need to be working in 3D and N Brown will need to build programmes within its supplier base, but the benefits include reduced lead times and a reduction in returns, he added.

Tucker said retailers have to “embrace the change” being created by technology, which he believes is now “coming to the back end processes and the work of how we produce beautiful products”.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.