10/15/12 | Uncategorized

Bow & Drape: Customize Off-The-Rack Clothing With Technology

Finally, tech can help you get the perfect dress.

By Amy-Willard Cross (Editor, Vitamin W)

Sometimes you find a great piece of clothing, but the sleeves are too short, or the hem is too long, or you don’t love the collar.

New e-commerce company Bow & Drape uses technology to customize off-the-rack clothing. The “photorealistic dynamic configurator” crates exactly what you want. Six different clothing models can be customized with trim, fabrics, sleeves, and lengths into a total of 3,000 different combinations. The pieces start at $200, and some designs include sequin trim.

This fall, the company is taking its first orders and raising $30,000 on Kickstarter to help fund its first production runs.

Founder Aubrie Pagano says, “Our technology is the most advanced. You can see dresses transform in front of you [as] you click through different hemlines and trims.” So you design your own dress. Eventually, the company will allow users to upload an avatar and use their exact shape while browsing. That means you can avoid changing room and bad lighting.

Pagano recruited designer Sarah Parrot from NBC’s Fashion Star, who was keen to work with the new company. “I have the same issues shopping that anyone else has,” says Parrot. “I never see exactly what I want. I see something, and I want to change it.”

Parrot has the ability to do what she calls “reconstructing” a garment, but the rest of us either pay big alteration bills or just let the less-than-perfect dress feed the moths in our closets. Parrot says, “it gives you the opportunity to be your own designer.” Who wouldn’t love that?

In addition to making online shopping more creative and fun, the company takes on a major pain point: fit.

Some 60% of online clothing returns are made because of bad fit. Bow & Drape will send customers a special “fit kit”, or muslin samples, so they can test their size. (Their earlier research showed that women didn’t like entering their measurements.) Once you know you’re an eight pants and ten dress, what you order from Bow & Drape will fit. Every time.

Pagano didn’t mean to go into the fashion business. A recent Harvard grad, she worked at Fidelity investments. “Before that I hadn’t allowed myself to be involved in fashion,” she says. “Personally, I thought it was not a valid thing to go into. It took me a few years to realize I love this industry.” She kept on leafing through Vogue, so after learning a lot in the investment business, she finally plunged in.

Basing her concept on technology, she needed a tech co-founder. Pagano put out a call saying what she wanted to build, and in what time period, and asked those who were interested how they would build it and how much it would cost. From those questions, she got a sense of the respondents’ capabilities and their resourcefulness. She found a match, and they went to work.

Pagano made her “fit kit” with a starter-business, Zoora, which was a marketplace for custom clothing. It required no expenditure beyond $3,000 for a site, but it proved the concept. Within months, they had 30,000 visitors and were named to a top 10 fashion site. The next step is getting starter cash. The garments will all be sewn in New York and Boston.

This post originally appeared on Vitamin W.

About the guest blogger: Amy-Willard Cross is the editor of Vitamin W, a platform for news, business and philanthropy. A former editor at national magazines, she authored books, written countless articles, features, op-eds and book reviews. Once while working on a documentary, she found an American who had fought with Fidel. She wants her daughter to learn how to code as the pay gap is only 6% for women programmers. Follow her on Twitter at @VitaminWomen.

Anne-Gail Moreland

Anne-Gail Moreland

Anne-Gail Moreland, an intern with Women 2.0, was on the StartupBus. She studies neuroscience at Mount Holyoke College, where she is trying to merge a passion for tech and the brain into a new wave of cognition-based technology

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