China is the latest country to jump on the better-fit bandwagon. A size survey is currently underway in the country, starting in southern China and spreading to the north over the next few months. Body data is captured by 3D laser scanner and transformed into real-size models.

Within Hong Kong and southern China the survey is being carried out by the recently opened Apparel Cyber Tech Center (ACTC) at the College of Textile & Garment of Guangzhou University.

Along with a 3D-Scanner from Human Solutions in Kaiserslautern (Germany), there are 110 CAD/CAM workstations equipped with the latest Accumark software package from Gerber Technology Ltd in Hong Kong, a Gerber cutter and plotter, and a full range of Alvaform size models for men and women by Alva USA/Hong Kong.

The students will be trained by Professor Alexandre Kung and his team from Institut TPC Hong Kong/Paris to provide consumers with well-fitting garments. Top end sewing quality will be achieved with the support of Duerkopp Adler Far East Ltd in Hong Kong.

The project provides a showcase of future textile and garment education in China. And it is supported by the central government in Beijing which is keeping a watchful eye on the apparel industry and has declared the profession of fashion designers to be important for the future economy.

China is known for many things, but high quality garments are not among them. When quotas are dropped at the beginning of 2005, the appeal of China as the world's biggest consumer market will be overshadowed by its role as the largest supplier of cheap textile goods.

But whereas western manufacturers fear an import tidal wave, China is embarking on quite a different offensive.

Until now the Chinese apparel industry has simply had to work to the requirements of its global customers, with no creative input expected or required.

Colleges and universities offering faculties in textiles and garments - there are currently between 40 and 50 in China - are experiencing strong support from the related machinery industry so that they are extremely well-equipped, mainly with western technology.

3D-pattern making is fairly well developed and already more common than in most western countries. Experts within the garment industry claim that China is now shifting from OEM supply to ODM (Original Design Manufacture).

By Brigitte Methner-Opel.