Sarada Muraleedharan took over as the director general of NIFT, the country’s premier fashion technology institute, in 2016 and is now spearheading the National Sizing Survey. She tells Smitha Verma about the plan of action, challenges and road ahead. Edited excerpts:
What took the NIFT so long to come up with a National Sizing Survey?
The NIFT had originally proposed the idea in 2006. But it was a gigantic proposal and there was no scheme available to fund the cost. However, with the revised R&D scheme, we took the project once again to the current textile minister, Smriti Irani, and she realised that it was a critical issue. So now we have been able to get on with the ‘India Size’ project. Since it involves applied research and is industry-oriented, the ministry assured us 70% funding of the total `31 crore that is required. For the rest 30%, it was decided that the NIFT board will fund it.
How can the industry benefit from a national size?
It’s not just about one-size prototype that will be available. Rather, there will be a lot of customisation that will be possible. This kind of data will be a goldmine for people looking to provide customised solutions to specific age brackets, specific regions and also specific kind of attires. Because of our ethnicity and variations in body type, we have taken a sample size of 25,000 people, which happens to be one of the largest sample sizes ever undertaken by any country.
What is the significance of such a survey?
Alteration has become so ingrained in our system that we don’t realise the need for an India size. Most women either get their clothes altered or wear baggy or tight clothes. When you look at Indian men… how many of them have you seen wearing closed-neck shirts, even in winter? Sleeve length is another issue. So statistically, we would be coming to a weighted average. We are going to find a standard shape in which 60-70% of the population will find the right fit from the current 30-40%. The counter-question often asked is: everyone comes in multiple shapes, so how are you going to find a standard size to fix all? We are not going to. We are going to find a standard shape through which a much greater proportion of people will find the right fit.
What are your concerns/challenges?
We are looking at management of high-end equipment. We are hoping it doesn’t break down, so that operations don’t get halted. Also, for measurements, people have to get into bodysuits… this might be a challenge for us to execute, considering the cultural constraints. Identity has to be secured at every given point of time. If we see a problem in the sample, we will reassess the survey and take it to regions we may have missed out.
And once the national size is out, what next?
Once we get past this sizing survey, we would be interested in looking at the footwear size chart as well. We could also look at size charts for children. People on the margins… we would be covering them also. Every 10 years, we will be revisiting the size chart to look at what variations have happened in a decade.