One of the challenges with clothes shopping online is that it doesn’t mirror the real-world experience where you can try on items for fit. And even though a number of today’s retailers offer free returns, there’s nothing quite as disheartening as ordering a piece online, only to find it won’t work for your body type, size or shape after it arrives. A new startup called Fovo from shapewear line dMondaine’s founder, Kiana Anvaripour, wants to change that. Its recently launched e-commerce website lets customers shop by body shape instead of just size.
Anvaripour has extensive experience in the fashion industry, having worked with designers including Roland Mouret and PREEN before moving into senior positions with luxury lingerie brands like Madame V and Letters of Marque. She then launched her own shapewear lingerie, dMondaine, in 2011, which is sold at places like Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, and Net-a-Porter.
This background has given her a wealth of understanding about women’s bodies and how they prefer to shop.
The new startup is also advised by Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn, who, along with Anvaripour, invested a small amount of seed funding into the company to get it off the ground.
Explains Anvaripour, a big problem with shopping online is that it’s hard to really know what will work on your own body without trying things on.
“Brands cut differently – you can be a four in one brand, and an eight in another. Sizing is not uniform. And what’s missing at the top of the purchase funnel is shape. And it really dictates these other things. It’s this macro category that’s very much underserved,” she says.
When Anvaripour began to research the issue further, she discovered that 7 out of 10 women today still prefer to shop in store – and that’s often precisely because of this desire to try on items before buying.
On Fovo.com, the goal is to offer a personalized shopping experience for each customer.
That begins with having women answer five short questions about their body shape and style. However, instead of focusing on the negative – what body parts do you want to hide?, for example – Fovo asks you which parts you want to accentuate. Combined with an understanding about your taste in clothing, the site then offers you a feed of unique suggestions.
Fovo today features clothing from over 300 major retailers – both pricier and less so – including Nordstrom, Net-A-Porter, H&M, Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Forever 21, Nasty Gal, and others.
Notably, it also offers a wide variety of sizes – all the way up to size 32.
“It was our mission to have all women feel comfortable on Fovo,” says Anvaripour.
The brands’ inventory is manually annotated before being added to the site, so that women understand why garments are being selected for them. For example, a long v-neck top could elongate the body or a boat neck could balance out larger hips. It’s as if Anvaripour’s understanding of fabric and fit has been downloaded from her mind, then used by Fovo’s algorithm to automate a series of fashion recommendations.
As women shop the site, they can add items from different stores to a universal cart, then checkout directly on Fovo.com, which simplifies the experience. A majority of the brands Fovo works with also offer free shipping and free returns, the founder notes.
Fovo currently generates revenue through an affiliate model, but the eventual goal is to introduce other means of monetization, like advertising.
In the nearer future, the company is working to expand its community and social features, which today includes a forum for chatting with other shoppers, and will soon include other user-generated content – like photos of customers wearing the items in question, for instance.
Fovo launched into beta in April and then made its official public debut earlier this month. While it’s too soon to talk about users and sales, Anvaripour says they’re already seeing more customers than expected, and users are spending over an hour and 10 minutes on the site.
“It’s really resonating with users,” she says.
“Women just want to feel safe and comfortable and we want to serve them.”