Lingerie leaders consider national 'fit' standard at ASBCI seminar
Over 120 delegates from the lingerie and swimwear sectors attended the recent The Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry (ASBCI) seminar, organised in partnership with De Montfort University and Lingerie Buyer magazine, to hear some of the most influential retailers and brands unite in a bid to improve bra 'fit' standards.
For the first time, the seminar entitled 'Shaping up for lingerie & swimwear – defining the challenges, exploring the solutions', brought together ten eminent speakers and an expert panel from the medical, contour fashion, sizing, design, brand, retail and technology sectors to share their expertise with the wider industry.
Speakers were responding to a recent Which Report? on bra fit that found less than one in three consumers received the correct sizing and fit advice when purchasing a bra. In response to the report's findings ASDA's George Clothing used the seminar to launch a new Bra Retailers' Association, BRA, aimed at getting retailers and brands to share their expertise in a bid to create a consistent UK bra size and fit standard.
Laura Savery, senior lecturer at De Montfort University within its contour department, detailed the findings of the Which? bra fit report on which she was involved as an expert. The report 'Bra Fitting? No it isn't' (published Feb 2010) focused on the in-store service and advice given to larger breasted women. Which? sent 11 fieldworkers with bust sizes ranging from a DD to a 40GG cup size, aged 25 to 75 into six high street stores Bravissimo, Debenhams, House of Fraser, John Lewis, La Senza and Marks & Spencer. A total of 70 fittings were assessed against a set of measured criteria, for example correct underband fit and cup capacity, of which 18 scored zero. For one fieldworker the advice she received on correct bra size varied from a 34FF to a 40D; a variation of seven sizes. Laura Savery concluded with the words of the Which? report: “If stores offer this service it needs to be taken seriously: do it properly or don't do it at all.”
Responding to the report's findings Karen Flude, ladies' garment technologist lingerie & swimwear with George Clothing, explained: “women are at best confused and at worst angry with the conflicting sizing and fit advice they receive when purchasing a bra in a high street store.
The result is customer complaints, customer returns and lost business.” It is time she told delegates to “work together to turn our reputations around.” To this end she put forward the UK's first standardised bra initiative and launched the Bra Retailers' Association, BRA in which suppliers can pool their expertise and create a “fit assured bra” standard for UK cup-sized apparel.
She stressed that brand individuality could be achieved through colour, style, fabric and trim variations. She proposed that BRA should offer members a “starter pack” containing base shapes and patterns, fabric advice and a “sourcing bible” of suppliers who share BRA's commitment to a fit standard. Consumer focus groups, information packs for schools and customers, a BRA kitemark in addition to a PR campaign would be driven by BRA and its members.
She concluded: “We need to standardise our base-sized models…share our innovations and customer information. Communication is critical..but we owe it to our customers to get off our high horses and give them what they want.”
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Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry