HUMAN VS. MACHINE

This week we take a look at how robots are taking over fashion advice as machine learning comes of age – or has it?

Hint: it’s not blue. Ever wondered how your realistic avatar would look? You can go to Fits.me and find out! But beware – it’s not for the fainthearted. The 3D modelling bot allows thrill-seeking fashion customers to create realistic avatars and has just been rescued from an uncertain future by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten. A supplier to Hugo Boss, Fits.me provides avatars based on 9 body shapes, with a realistic body image, so it is not for those of a nervous disposition and anyone above a UK size 8 needs to brace themselves. Men are more accepting of the ‘real you’ approach, whilst women-oriented QVC had the Fits.me bot on its shopping site but then had to remove it swiftly as the female customers were not quite ready for the naked truth. A Fits.me automated fashion adviser also appears on MichaelaJedinak.com, with 7 dresses for 7 body shapes, inviting you to input your own measurements into the template. Alas, anything above size 10 leads to the grumpy response of “Unfortunately we don’t have a good fit for these measurements”.

Warning – Fits.me elicits data from women and men, possibly to sell them to other retailers – the T&Cs on the site are vague, which is worrying if you consider that you are entrusting them with your body measurements, surely the most intimate data in the world. Fits.me has just been sold to Rakuten for an undisclosed amount. Have customers’ personal body data been included in the sale as ‘assets’?

Real deal or pretend PR? If you want to see yourself in an actual dress or shirt, MeTail offers a different personal fashion advice bot. More convenient than Fits.me, it asks for only 3 body measurements and infers the rest from their big data patterns. At House of Holland you can create a virtual body and see what one of the dresses or tops would look like on you. As the sizes go up, the dress stretches and drapes on the body, in a fairly accurate way, and again the emphasis is on truthfulness rather than inspiration – so be prepared! Despite raising $19.5 million the company is known mainly from its PR stunts (like CherWears.com for 20 years of Clueless) rather than real retail – another piece of data bait or a dormant genius application?

Save time (or don’t) Do you log in to a website while you shop? Well, a whacking 75% of us do most of the time, with 21% always logging in. What do we get in return? Mainly the time-saving fact that the retailer remembers our address and bank details (40%) or gives us access to a personal wish list (37%). Monsoon has gone beyond the basics, testing the 2D Virtusize.com fashion bot to see if asking us for body measurements will help the brand to filter their collection and only show you what’s in stock for your size and preferences. However, the brand has recently and quietly dropped the virtual fitting room, putting the time into creating Shop By Type (Day Dress, Occasion Dress etc.) as the additional preparation work needed to service the bots wasn’t justified. Although 2D dress modelling was easier to implement on the retailer side than the 3D version, the attraction for shoppers was that you could also upload your own dress or shirt and compare with the one on the site. Alas, it seems that shoppers still prefer to use the good old ‘order 3 sizes and return 2 of them’ or, as we call it, a ‘remote fitting room’, ignoring the Virtusize.com automated (and well-meaning) but ultimately clunky advice.

False fit True Fit attempts to marry up your measurements with products from many retailers and present you with options based on thousands of garments. However, profile creation is frustratingly slow, and when you eventually complete it it turns out that none of the retail partners have anything that would vaguely fit you. OK, I may be a fussy shopper, but finding no top to fit me amongst supposedly a wide range of participating retailers shows that the start-up has raised finance but not its game in terms of real product choices. Any fashion bot is only as good as the data that feeds it. Back to the drawing board then…

Are you a fruit? L.K.Bennett has simply had their stylist draw up 6 basic body shapes that most women would recognise in an instant. One glance at the hand-drawn diagrams and a helpful indication of suitable fit next to the products on offer does the job! Are you an Apple? Go for empire dresses to emphasise your top half and visually minimise hips. Got it. Simple but practical. However, best practice for personalised fashion advice is still found at lingerie shops – at Hunkemöller (the leading European lingerie brand) every staff member can take your measurements in-store and solve your bra anxieties in a heartbeat. Once you know your best shape, the website provides clear signposts for that bra shape to be found easily. In the UK, the Topman Google Hangout Personal Shopper offers streetwise advice from real guys while you’re sitting at home on your own sofa, then you can just use the e-com bot to select the items that suit you to be delivered the next day.

Ever since 2000, when we launched the first realistic body avatar for Evans’ first web shop, I have learned the hard way that in fashion retail the accuracy of body shape presentation online does not lead to sales. Inspiration, and helping women and men to look their best whatever their shape, does, so our verdict is – Humans: 1 / Fashion Bots: 0.