'Cleopatra's Jeans.' An Icon of the Past Models the Future of Fashion

Can a tech solution lead to zero waste?

Ever feel like the stuff you buy wasn't designed for your body?

Objectively, that's simply true (unless you buy couture or tailored goods). Sizing in fashion works in a weird way. There aren't really any sizing standards between brands; H&M's "small" isn't Lululemon's. Also, sizes change. From an industrial perspective, textiles that can be cut into a "medium" tend to maximize the number of viable garments that can be produced per bolt. So as buyers' bodies change with time, so does a roughly standard "medium," and all the corresponding sizes around it.

Some 85 percent of textiles are thrown out. Most are returned purchases that were made online (which consists of 69 percent of fashion spending, per Wunderman Thompson), usually because of poor fit. More than half of ecommerce customers intentionally over-order, and over the 2018 holidays, 72 percent of American shoppers returned badly fitting items.

All this yields 2.3 billion kilograms of waste and 15 million tons of carbon annually for the U.S. alone. Then there's the tally of energy, carbon and water used to make, then process, all of this waste.

This is the thinking that led to Cleopatra's jeans.

Cleopatra's Jeans

"What if we could use technology to create a perfect fit for anyone in the world?" the video asks.

The campaign, led by Wunderman Thompson, promotes Taiwan-based TG3D's perfect-fit technology—achieved through 3-D scans of a customer's body. To make a splash, they went for one of the biggest figures of legend: Cleopatra, who probably never met a good pair of jeans in her life.

To do this, the company used measurements of Coptic Egyptian women who roughly resemble Cleopatra's form, based on archival genetic data. (She was born in 69 B.C.) Coptic Egyptians were chosen because their community has remained ethnically homogenous for 2,000 years; in terms of body average, they likely haven't changed much. This information was combined with what researchers were able to deduce of Cleopatra's body type, based on art and statues of her.

(OK. The world has changed, and so have diets, even in relatively small communities. Non-antique art depicting antique figures is usually more representative of fantasies and biases of the artist than of reality. There's also a complicated race controversy related to the possibility that Cleopatra wasn't ethnically Egyptian at all. But let's not nitpick. None of us were there, and the vampires aren't talking. They worked with everything they had.)

Denim was chosen because it's among the most popular and democratic garments in the world. Perhaps for that same reason, it's also among the most polluting. 

"Cleopatra's jeans is not just a garment," the video voiceover tells us. "It's an invitation from TG3D, asking the most popular and favored fashion brands to join a data-driven revolution. They're an important reminder that the perfect fit is not some unattainable ideal, but an achievable reality that forces us to rethink the current fashion industry and its impact on our planet for millenia to come."

The jeans were presented at Amsterdam's museum for sustainable fashion, Fashion for Good, with House of Denim Foundation founder Mariette Hoitink. "Fashion has a challenge with waste, we all know that. We should buy less and more consciously," Hoitink says. "The fashion and denim industries are working hard to address this—but technology will be the crucial factor that makes the difference in the race against waste."

Here's the launch video:

Cleopatra's Jeans Launch at Fashion For Good, Amsterdam

Alongside the jeans, an immersive website explains the technology. The hope is that fashion brands, especially high-producing ones, will work with companies like TG3D to rethink their approach to sizing, resulting in fewer returns and less waste. (It might also help if they rethought the whole concept of fast-fashion, but here is as good a place to start as any.)

"As an innovative creative agency, our mission is to bring creativity, technology and humanity together," says Bas Korsten, Wunderman Thompson's global chief creative officer. "And we're interested in creating campaigns or statements that explore the intersection of those three domains. Cleopatra's Jeans is just that: a provocative statement and an inspiring conversation starter—a symbol for how technology can drive us towards a zero-waste future."


Bas Korsten/ Global CCO
Daniel Bonner/ Global CCO
Sheung Yan Lo/ APAC CCO

Carlos Camacho/ ECD WT Amsterdam
Tunchan Kalkan/ Head of Art WT Amsterdam
Martijn van Hees/ Producer
Jasper Korpershoek/ Senior Creative
Khlaus Feldhaus/ Senior Creative
Nando Correa/ Web Designer
Charlotte Lilly/ Project Manager

Matt Parry/ MD WT Hong Kong
Kiefer McKenzie/ ACD WT Hong Kong
Paddy O'Mahoney/ Senior Creative WT Hong Kong
Nicole Hedemann/ Digital Creative WT Hong Kong
Sandra Gin/ Account Head WT Hong Kong
James Yong / Web Developer
Tim Arnolds/ Motion Graphic Designer
PR director: Jessica Hartley
Production House/Post Production: Macarena Films
Sound Studio: Canja Audio Culture
Photographer: Ale Burset

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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