Sarah Krasley is working to shape the future of the apparel industry, and she’s putting women at the forefront. A creative technologist and entrepreneur based in New York, she is passionate about using digital tools for good. Krasley’s company X Swimwear uses 3D modeling to create custom swimsuits that conform to women’s bodies, not arbitrary standards of beauty.
Eighty-eight percent of women report that trying on bathing suits is a traumatic experience. Krasley developed X Swimwear because she believes it’s not women’s bodies that are the problem, it’s the way bathing suits are made. Manufacturers make swimwear in just a few sizes to keep costs and production time low. A model with a 34B bra size and small bottom size is typically the basis for fit testing, and the pattern is sized up and down from there. For most women, this leads to ill-fitting bathing suits.
Krasley takes the opposite approach with X Swimwear, working one-on-one with each client so they feel confident and comfortable. A mobile application allows customers to input their measurements, and the team creates a suit tailored precisely to their body. X Swimwear is a test case for Shimmy Technologies, a suite of apps for technical designers. Krasley founded Shimmy in 2016 to make apparel customization a reality through technology such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality.
“My mission as an entrepreneur is to empower women by putting them in clothing that fits them and celebrates their unique bodies, while empowering the millions of workers across the predominantly female apparel industry,” Sarah says. We spoke to Sarah from her studio in Brooklyn to learn all about how she’s reimagining the swimwear experience.
How did the idea for X Swimwear first come about?
It was springtime, I was in the market for a bathing suit, and I had been talking to a lot of other women about their swimwear buying experiences.
When you’re in a dressing room trying on a swimsuit, you have three selves that collide—you have what you think you look like, you have what the media is telling you you should look like, and then you have what you actually look like. And this is happening in a dressing room that has lousy lighting with a salesperson that’s telling you everything you put on looks great.
X Swimwear was born from a desire to help women demand more from the sizing of the garments that they wear. We so often think that it’s our bodies that are the problem, when really it’s sloppy sizing. The moment when you are wearing a bathing suit is when you’re most naked in public, so in that moment you should be enjoying really precise sizing and as much tailoring as possible.
How did you decide to structure X Swimwear through an app?
Since it launched in 2015, X Swimwear has been helping us test technology that is necessary for the future of the apparel industry. We are moving towards a model where it will be easier and less expensive for people to enjoy custom clothing. There are various technologies coming into play that will allow manufacturers to give consumers more personalization, and we chose the hardest possible category to test that technology.
We built the app because we needed to get customers’ accurate points of measure. There are no effective body scanners out there yet, and experiences where you measure yourself on your phone are a little bit weird. We wanted to make that experience into something as fun as possible, so we created a guided measuring experience for customers to use with a neighborhood tailor. We’ve heard from customers that it is exactly the opposite of the typical experience of trying on a swimsuit.
X Swimwear specializes in products that fit the customer perfectly. What kind of technical expertise does it require on your part to make this happen?
We start by looking at the body shape of our customers. Points of measure help us understand the circumferences of the human body, but so many other things also go into fit. There is expertise involved in 3D modeling and using CAD software, but it also requires technical apparel designers, which are some of the unsung heroes of our most beloved clothes. These are the people who are really looking at the physics of the body that they’re dressing and doing the math necessary to make a garment fit well.
What does the process of creating each individual swimsuit look like?
We get the measurements through the app and input them into CAD software. Then we make a unique digital avatar, which is like a video game version of the customer, so we can assess fit without them being next to us in the studio. Then a unique pattern is generated and we send it to the factory to be cut and sewn.
Tell me about Shimmy Technologies, Inc. How does X Swimwear fit in?
Shimmy is a company looking at the future of work in the apparel space—what types of jobs will people need to have? How can we automate manual, time-intensive work that designers do? We want to free them up to use their brains and innovate in a way that gets us to where we need to go, which is custom products and local manufacturing. X Swimwear is a way for us to start exploring those questions.
What makes you excited to go to work every day?
I work in an incredible space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It’s an 84,000-square-foot, old shipbuilding factory and the ceilings are as tall as a cathedral. There is beautiful natural light and plants everywhere. The space is inhabited by emerging technology companies like mine who are exploring ways to manufacture and make things in smarter ways, so I’m excited to walk in there every day. And I love my team. They have amazing subject-matter expertise but they are also totally resilient, tenacious people, and I’m lucky that I get to work with them.
What is the project you are most excited about working on right now?
One project I’m super excited about is a video game that we are building to upskill garment workers. There are new sewing robots coming online all over Asia that will displace millions of female sewing machine operators, and we wanted to do something about it. So we are upskilling garment workers to become the workforce of the future using video game technology.
What are some other companies or designers that you think are making a positive difference in the industry?
Malia Mills makes bra-sized swimwear that has been at the forefront of body positivity and swimwear for a long time.
Fold it is using video-game technology to determine ways to fold protein cells and help us overcome barriers to innovation in curing disease.