Can a shape-shifting mannequin make the fashion industry more sustainable?
Image credit: Euveka
E&T spoke to French start-up Euveka about its robotic mannequin, which they believe could help make the fashion industry become greener while simultaneously aiding styling and sampling demand.
It is undeniable that emerging technologies are changing the world of fashion, ranging from personal recommendation engines using artificial intelligence (AI) to fitting rooms based in augmented reality done remotely from a smartphone.
However, there is a sustainability crisis that still looms over the industry and advocates are doing all that they can to raise awareness of the importance of innovation for sustainability across the sector.
For some time, technologies such as AI have been fine-tuning fashion business models, with AI being used to predict fashion trends as well as aiding the design process. It has also been effective in providing insights into how designers can tweak their designs to better resonate with the behaviours of consumers. Although AI and robotics have already proven effective in this area of the industry, it raises a question of whether such technologies can help in the quest toward a greener future within the fashion industry.
Audrey-Laure Bergenthal, CEO and founder of robotics company Euveka said there are already significant innovations in the sector, such as 3D body scans; data analysis; online recommendations, and apps that encourage people to shop in a more responsible way. Some players also propose photosynthesising fabrics; the use of AI to manage the stocks of clothes, or to create paper garments, she adds. The problem for the industry is the missing links between what designers and manufacturers do, what customers want, and what retailers know.
“All parts of the [fashion] industry chain are disconnected,” Bergenthal explains. “AI and robotics could help to connect these parts and bring changes in production that would impact the environment. Actors must also understand that by being sustainable they can be more efficient in terms of cost and economic benefit.”
At a young age, Bergenthal saw that wooden mannequins did not represent the morphological reality of the human body. She also wasn’t surprised that – under these conditions – so many people have difficulty finding clothes with their morphologies, especially in small and large sizes, even with the growth of fast fashion. Bergenthal decided it was time to make the textile industry more inclusive, to be more ethical and sustainable.
To tackle this, Bergenthal’s Euveka developed scalable robot mannequins that integrate a unique morphological variation algorithm. Its 'phygital' technology – a portmanteau word of 'physical' and 'digital' to describe the use of technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world with the purpose of providing unique interactive experiences for the user – enables the industry to be more ethical and inclusive, from production to sales, and in all sizes, the company said. “We want to reconnect two worlds: manufacturing and retail, to guarantee a ‘perfect match’ between the customer and the garment and solving the problems of returns and unsold products.”
The mannequin robots combine several technologies, such as mechatronics, new textile materials and computer processes (notably AI) to drive it. With Euveka’s unique algorithm that calculates different morphologies, the robot-mannequin can also adapt to sizes and shapes harmoniously without sacrificing any of the two paradigms, says Bergenthal. “We can pilot each measurement and keys areas of clothing manufacturing with perfect precision; we can capture and reproduce data from each customer, and brands can match this data with their garment measurement to offer an optimal recommendation.”
According to Euveka, e-retailers can use the solution to make photo shoots for clothes sizes 36 to 46 (8 to 18 in UK sizes) and morph into the desired shape in under two minutes: this allows personal shoppers to pre-select garments tailored to the customer’s needs and facilitate remote sales.
At a store, professionals can use it to offer a new shopping experience without fittings in person. This has proven to be a more sanitary solution during the pandemic, they said. “Each brand has its own size scale: you just enter the data into the software and the mannequin changes shape,” a Euveka spokesperson explains. “A person’s measurements are registered in a computer, so the robot can reshape remotely, without the need for a physical presence.”
Meanwhile, for brands, this solution presents the possibility to collect real data and the robot is also used to make some alterations for VIP clients. “This improves customer satisfaction, who want to stop worrying about whether a garment will fit,” Bergenthal explains. “We accompany the retailers in this strategic way with dedicated solutions and we try to inspire them to be more inclusive, mainly with small and large sizes.”
Bergenthal adds that the technology is a global solution that could help build a new supply chain. “If brands know their market better and produce garments accordingly to their market, this helps decimate the risk of return from consumers,” she explains. “If companies enrich this with other innovations seen throughout the value chain, designers can redesign the supply chain in a more efficient and performing way and fashion artists will change their way of working.”
According to Bergenthal, the robot mannequin allows for a better understanding of the market as it allows us to create and visualise the fit of a garment with data of real customers. “Designers or fashion brands could change their ‘standard models’ and create pieces or collections that would be more accurate to fit and sizing,” she adds. “This supports the diversity of morphologies but also impacts the environment because a collection that fits better yields fewer unsold items, which would otherwise end up in landfills or incinerators.”
Bergenthal hopes Euveka’s mannequin can improve the efficiency of the textile industry, linking production, retail and customers through implementing phygital solutions. She also believes that the solution will not take professionals and their expertise out of this equation, but rather provide them with new tools to work better and greener.
“The future of fashion will be based on linking between craftsmanship and technology,” she says. “This will help to magnify the craftsman’s gesture and preserve and perpetuate the know-how of these professionals.”
The robot mannequin – which Euveka have called Eminéo – features a smart light, a scalable bust, a control box, and a telescopic foot on a wheel. And in terms of accessories supplied, the mannequin consists of a half arm, breast prostheses (cups A-B-C-D-E), work bodies, a USB key, and a carrying case.
Eminéo can connect to different technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but also comes with dedicated software packages to control the robot: Miméo HC and Miméo PAP. Its more advanced software, Miméo PAP, allows designers and brands to control the robot. It also features creation and edition of product references, collection management, access to a specific product reference, and a data library to help clients use the mannequin.
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