Concept of value addition

One of the defining trends of the retail apparel chain over the few years has been the consistent decline in average retail prices. This trend can be explained by the phenomenal growth of the mass-merchant channel, which has gained share at the expense of department and national and international chain stores. Interestingly, another trend has also emerged on the consumer side of the market i.e. the value addition. To win over apparel consumers, manufacturers, brands and retailers are struggling hard to identify product value. Undoubtedly, fashion sells, but only to a point, beyond which many consumers are searching values in apparel. Traditionally, value is been defined as a function of price and quality. However, todays consumers are redefining value to include reliability of the product performance they are asking whether product is assured in shrinkage, colour fastness and durability or not.

Importance of apparel testing

Global quality standards of apparel are technology driven, benchmarked by the buyers and ultimately product oriented. Quality evaluation is not only to ensure a quality product but also to endorse product safety, prevent recalls, minimize customer complaints and promote repeat sales. When consumers buy apparels they suspect about the quality and expect some change in shape and colour after washing. But the degree, to which this happens, entails the difference between satisfaction and disappointment. Prediction of such performance is only possible through comprehensive testing services. Many garment properties are important to the final customer. Some are highly specialized in nature, but there is a core series of tests that are applicable depending on the end use of the product. There exist internationally recognized standards applicable for Europe and United States and broadly denoted as ISO, BS, EN, BSEN, DIN, ASTM, and AATCC. In addition, many retailers around the world have their own standards and test methods. Methodology and equipment vary but basic objectives remain the same.

In apparel testing, requirements of performance, safety, quality and labelled claims are enveloped in a package commonly called as testing protocol. Unfortunately, no single testing protocol is available in the apparel trade. Depending on the fibre and fabric type, weight, style, finish, accessories, country of export and end use of the product, testing protocol varies. It is important to note that all standards and regulations encapsulated in the protocol have one or both of the following aims : safety and quality. While quality is related more to general consumer satisfaction, safety is an important aspect as products not meeting regulations can jeopardize the health of the consumer.

Performance evaluation why so important in Value Addition?

There is no doubt that a common concern in apparel is the dimensional stability. Accelerated test methods are applied to wash and dry at the recommended conditions and careful measurement of any changes in dimensions determine the product ability to withstand the care label recommendations. Dont worry. Standards do exist to advise on the recommended values of your product.

Side seam twisting or garment torque for knitted goods is the most common problem which can be quantified by appropriate test method.

Controversy arises while marking and taking measurement. Experts in Garment testing can be approached for right solution.

Apparel products fade due to various actions. It can be a particular problem with lower cost materials and processes, where insufficient care is been taken during dyeing, or sometimes because of the limitations of technology. In general, the tests measure the degree to which the colour changes when treated in a way that simulates the conditions of use such as washing, drycleaning, water, perspiration, rubbing, chlorine and non-chlorine bleach, chlorinated water, light, gas fume fading, ozone fading and print durability. Many tests also measure the degree of colour transfer on uncoloured fibers in the same environment.

It is not uncommon that white underwear turns to coloured pink when washed with a red sweater.

Use of a multi-fiber strip which consists of sections of different fiber types, namely acetate, cotton, nylon, polyester, acrylic and wool is an essential part in certain tests to judge such staining behaviours.

Requirement of appropriate testing method and its proper application are of paramount importance in arriving at a conclusion of suitability of apparel intended for a specified end use.

Conditions require for testing fashion apparel fading when exposed to light being different with respect to testing the fading of upholstery in a car interior.

These different end uses need to be accounted for during testing, even though the fading of either product under their normal conditions of use will cause a problem.

Durability of a garment is another important criterion to predict its permanence in use.

How much durable is my garment?

Consumer often enquires this fact before final selection of the apparel product. It is basically the power of a garment to resist stress or force. Test procedure typically subject the material to stress of some kind, and measures the amount of force at which it fails. Most common tests measure tensile, tear, bursting strength and abrasion resistance.

Deterioration of surface appearance due to pilling is another area wherein customer dissatisfaction is quite common.

Why my shirt is so dull and fibrous?

This can not be ignored since often garments develop unsightly ball of fiber which are noticed to the surface of the fabric. Sometimes those are of a slightly different colour from the main fabric, and can ruin the wearability of the article. Pilling tests provide the valuable guidance of the pilling performance of fabrics.

Prediction of health and safety issues in garment a Value Addition

Customers of 21st Century are also safety and health conscious. Thus it is well accepted that they will not mind to pay extra for his health and safety. Specialised testing in apparel includes flammability, fibre composition, restricted harmful substances and performance tests such as water and oil repellence, stain resistance, bacterial resistance, or breathability, yellowing in storage etc.

Out of which consumer product testing of flammability and restricted substances are important from the point of view of safety and health. If risk involved in wearing of a garment is known beforehand by flammability performance testing or clothing is qualitatively and quantitatively analysed for potentially harmful substances such as formaldehyde, harmful azo dyes or carcinogenic and allergenic dyes, heavy metal content, phthalates, PCP or TeCP and organotin tin compounds, it is definitely a value addition which protects the interest of a consumer.

Fibre content labelling : protection against misbranding another way of Value Addition

Fiber composition test on the other hand is more of a protective regulation against dishonesty with respect to misbranding and false advertising.

Consumer paying a high price for a silk garment would be most unhappy to discover it was made of polyester.

Protection of the consumer interest surely supplements value to the product by determining the fiber composition as per international standard methods of testing. Fibre content label should be securely affixed to the garment where they will be conspicuous to the consumer at the time of sale, entailing generic name, percentage of all fibres in amounts of 5% or more, name of manufacturer or registered identification number and country of origin.

Testing: an appropriate concept of Value Addition to Garment

Testing provides an objective framework to indicate acceptance or rejection of apparel consignment. It can be considered as a noble concept of value addition in the perspective of ensuring the right quality, confidence of wearing and protecting the health and safety aspects. Sometimes controversy arises due to commercial decision. Whether tests are to be performed or not? Is it not an additional expenditure? From a sales point of view, testing the quality of a garment can be a value added service to the customer. It may also be the edge to stand out above the competition, reduce the number of quality surprises and maintain profit.

About the Author:

Dr. Subrata Das
E-mail :