With a focus on incorporating technology into the design process, one YPOer has disrupted the apparel industry
Inside the Palais Garnier, the home of the Paris Opera Ballet, is a labyrinth of workshops devoted to the creation of the troupe’s costumes. When Janice Wang (YPO Pearl River Delta), CEO of Alvanon, a global apparel business consultancy, toured the 19th-century theater in 2014, she appreciated the craftsmanship, technical skill and professional passion of the seamstresses, embroiderers, milliners and designers who create exquisite pieces for the dancers to wear.
“Each one of these people was passionate about what they do,” Wang says. “In an age where everything is digital, it’s very difficult to understand and capture the beauty of making something. It’s rare to be able to go into an atelier and see that craftsmanship.”
Wang also noted some inefficiencies in the process, such as how costuming requires multiple fittings. Rounds of alterations often might last until mere hours before a performance begins. The fit-and-refit is because dancers’ bodies are not standard bodies, she explains. And the time-worn mannequins the costume artisans used as a reference point when building pieces did not accommodate typical dancer builds, which are characterized by small chests, large underbusts, muscular legs and defined posteriors.
In that moment at Palais Garnier, Wang realized the fit challenge being experienced by the ballet could be resolved using Alvanon’s pioneering garment technology.
Integrating science into fashion
A third-generation member of her family’s garment manufacturing company, Wang has led Alvanon in many ventures, including embracing technology to improve apparel industry processes related to shaping products with form-specific mannequins. Using the same technology employed in airport security systems, Alvanon scans the fit models of different companies and compiles data on the body shapes of target customers to produce mannequins that are more accurate.
“We don’t look at the single customer,” Wang says. “We take the data in aggregate and formulate it back for the industry. We look and see which type actually is more applicable to the particular population set that the retailer is trying to dress.”
Alvanon always has embraced innovation since its founding by Wang’s late father, Kenneth Wang, a former YPO Hong Kong member. Following his passing in 2010, Wang and her brothers took over the business operations.
Reshaping the model
To honor Kenneth Wang’s legacy, every two years, Alvanon selects an extraordinary consultancy and fit project that will greatly affect a specific arena. This program provided the platform for Alvanon to partner with the Paris Opera Ballet.
Wang explains that part of the challenge with the ballet project was Alvanon had no existing data set specific to ballet dancers. Wang’s team scanned more than 100 adult and child dancers from the troupe and ballet school, and then used that data to create small, medium and large mannequins for use by the Paris Opera Ballet as well as other ballet companies around the world.
All in all, Alvanon donated more than USD280,000 to the project, including 30 forms and pattern block solutions for Paris Opera Ballet as well as the production of a documentary video, “The Business of Creating Magical Costumes at the Atelier.”
“Now, they have something they can use that really reflects a dancer’s body. They can make a costume properly the first time instead of having to adjust the shoulder blades and things like that,” Wang says. “In terms of what they do, it’s bettered their process significantly. In terms of what we do, we’ve been able to demonstrate the true beauty in their craftsmanship.”
Read the full interview on YPO