There's a new competitor on the horizon to My Virtual Model, and her name is LuuLuu.
Executives at LuuLuu, a three-dimensional graphics software developer, think they have developed an apparel-fitting application that solves what they perceive are the shortcomings of Canada-based My Virtual Model Inc.'s technology and that of other rival firms whose offerings allow online apparel shoppers to put clothing on a virtual model to see how they'll look.
“Eighty-five percent of consumers are not shopping [for apparel] online because they can't try things on and see how something fits on them,” said Jody Raida, co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing, LuuLuu, New York. “So we're addressing the actual fit issue. It's about the actual consumer's body and putting real-life clothing on that body. And it's more than seeing a paper doll and mixing and matching outfits, which is what My Virtual Model is.” My Virtual Model is in use at Landsend.com.
Other virtual-fitting-room competitors include Yourfit, Wexford, PA, and Israeli firm Browzwear.
Raida claims two well-known retailers are testing LuuLuu but that they are not ready to go public. The service will debut on those sites in October, she said.
LuuLuu executives think their application will help apparel merchants limit returns.
“Catalogers and e-commerce sites have return rates of about 30 percent on average, which is extremely high,” Raida said. “We are setting out to solve the problem of 'how can you buy online or through a catalog if you can't see how a garment fits you?'”
While LuuLuu currently is focused on Web merchants, executives envision a day when offline catalogers and retailers also offer the technology.
“Everybody would have their fit information on a universal apparel ID,” she said, adding that it possibly could be stored on a smart card or in a bar code.
“It would be everything about your body,” she said. “Then you could see it on the Internet in a virtual dressing room, or call up J. Crew's phone operator and say, 'this is my universal ID number,' and they would be able to tell you, 'oh, that's going to fit you,' or 'that's not going to fit you.'”
To create a basic LuuLuu model, women — male models also are available — enter their height, shoulders (wide, medium, narrow), bust, waist, seat and hip measurements.
“Most women know these things off the tops of their heads,” Raida said. “But to be really accurate, you'll want to take out a measuring tape.”
For those who want an even more accurate rendition, an advanced version of LuuLuu records 24 measurements — inseam, arm length and calf circumference, for example.
LuuLuu also offers 12 hairstyles, five face shapes, eight skin shades and eight hair colors. What's more, the technology offers a choice of six ethnicities: Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Latin, African American, Asian Indian and East Asian. LuuLuu plans to offer 12 ethnicities by the end of the year.
Once the model is made, the user can clothe her in various combinations and spin her around, checking the outfit from various angles. The shopper also can try different sizes to check for fit. During a demonstration, a size up showed that a dress fit just a little loosely. A lower size showed a tight fit across the virtual model's stomach.
“If you just have a flat, two-dimensional photo, you have no idea what the cut is or how it will look on your body,” Raida said.
So how painfully accurate is LuuLuu?
“I think that people don't want to see every little fold of the body, so our technology is a little glossed over,” Raida said. “The model that you create is not going to create every little piece of fat and cellulite.”
As an additional shopping aid, LuuLuu offers a virtual closet where customers can store clothing they have purchased and clothing they are thinking of buying so they can see how the various combinations look together.
Raida said the catalog industry is LuuLuu's No. 1 target.
“Most of them have worked out the kinks of e-commerce in terms of fulfillment,” she said.