Learning the Fundamentals of Fit with Carrie Parry and Alvanon
Designer Carrie Parry is a confident woman with a spark of warmth and a inquisitive smile. Sitting beside her in the boardroom at the Alvanon Group, a global company known in the fashion industry as the apparel fit experts, she talked about the progress she made with her business and the education, insight and tools she received as a participant in their two-year Global Mentorship Program for young designers. Joining her was Don Howard, Executive Director of AlvaInsight who was there for Carrie’s journey with fit.
It was clear that this experience was not only a strong partnership but a successful one. In an industry where aesthetic rises to the forefront, Parry acquired both the technical and business learnings from the program to help build her brand.
To understand her story, it’s important to understand Carrie’s path. Parry graduated from Central Saint Martins with an undergraduate degree in Fashion Design and Marketing and continued her education at the University of Delaware where she received a graduate degree in Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business. After working various jobs in the fashion industry, she started her New York-based namesake women’s wear menswear label Carrie Parry which included suits, dresses, tops and bottoms.
After her first season, she recognized the importance of fit, a problem that many emerging brands constantly face. She told us that the number one reason for returns industry wide was due to fit and less about the design.
Howard also noted that poor fit happens with both young brands and established companies for several reasons. More often than not, brands typically use one fit model to build collections. The problem with that strategy is that there are several body types and shapes for any given size. Brands also use fit models that aren’t reflective of their target’s age which may not translate to the actual customer.
Part of Alvanon’s expertise comes from their proprietary tools and their database which includes the largest number of body measurements in the world with intel on a variety of data points including both demographics such as adult, children’s, plus, petite and men’s.
For Parry, focusing on this type of data allowed the mentorship to take a hands on approach. She conducted fit trials at Alvanon with over 100 women ages 18-65 with sizes ranging from 0-14, learning about their body types and how consumers perceive fit. One learning was that 70% of online retailers weren’t communicating fit well. Now, she uses a fit group which is comprised of 10 fit models to determine sizing for every new piece and in turn, creates consistency and a more democratic fit for her consumer.
There were many other successes in the program. Parry talks about the increased efficiency with operations, spending less time on sampling and fittings. She’s also seen a more precise fit with her models and one testament was at a recent photo shoot where no pins were used to style clothes, which is often a merchandising trick used by brands to sell in a look, but not always reflective of fit.
For Parry, understanding fit was now a game changer for her business. She told us that prior to working with Alvanon, "we hadn’t thought about fit in terms of our target demographic and how that would translate into actual sales.” This is when she knew it was a competitive advantage and realized that this benefit should be shared with customers.
In March, she re-launched CarrieParry.com with a direct-to-customer business model allowing her to cut out the retailer which allows for better pricing because there isn’t a traditional markup applied to the cost of the garments.
With this approach, she’s only selling shirts, one of her best-selling silhouettes which she describes as seasonless, timeless and luxurious and will be launched throughout the year. Styles come in classic, fitted, relaxed and boyfriend to offer her consumer a breadth of options. You’ll see beautiful silks, color-blocked styles, patterns and plaids that are fresh and versatile.
The website also puts fit front and center. She’s developed an easily understandable size chart so consumers can measure themselves properly. Photos feature average size models and detail what size the model is wearing, as well as descriptions on how each garment should fit. There’s also the anatomy of a shirt guide which describes why the product is special by pointing out the features of the product along with the craftsmanship that goes into making it.
The other two components that are helping to define the brand are transparency and social responsibility; two cornerstones that she’s always found important, but now highlighted. Consumers can now learn more about the supply chain and see what stage the garment is in. Her website currently shows that her next batch of shirts are being cut and sewn in New York’s Garment Center.
For Carrie, these two years of learning have provided her with an invaluable amount of knowledge that’s impacted her business. And, in her words, the easiest way to think about the importance of the topic is that “fit takes a garment from like to love.”
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