ENFASHION SIZES UP ITEMS FOR ONLINE APPAREL BUYERS

Byline: Evan Clark

NEW YORK — Stepping beyond basic needs such as shopping carts and store locators, the e-tail sector is now seeing the need to fine-tune its merchandise presentation. EnFashion Inc., a Silicon Valley-based software company that recently went live with its 3D virtual try-on software, is gearing up to help them.
EnFashion’s three-dimensional virtual try-on simulation system, dubbed VtryOn, is now being used by 1by2.com, the e-commerce site of San Francisco-based apparel retailer 1by2.
The system uses a designer’s or manufacturer’s precise garment pattern and more than 20 body measurements, to project how various apparel items are likely to fit. People using the system provide four of their own measurements, and then the system does the rest of the work.
Aspects of apparel measured by enFashion’s system include cut, drape, size and texture. The technology also factors in real-world elements such as shadow and gravity, in order to predict how clothes will fit and look. A see-through option color-coats parts of a garment that are too tight or too loose for the user, and a zoom option allows the would-be e-buyer to view an item’s texture.
Sheree Waterson, enFashion’s newly appointed president and chief executive officer, said the software is designed to not only approximate real-life try-ons, but to use the Internet’s flexibility to improve upon the real-world experience with features like side-by-side size comparisons.
Although this is Waterson’s first foray with a software firm, she is returning to the familiar territory of apparel retailing. She founded and was acting president of Gymboree’s Zutopia, a 19-store subsidiary catering to the seven- to 12-year-old set. She also worked on the Limbo Lounge startup for Wet Seal. Waterson succeeded co-founder Eugene Lee, who is now chief operating officer.
Part of VtryOn’s goal is to help break down the try-on-to-buy obstacle, which has hindered the growth of the e-commerce apparel industry. “We are creating an experience that simulates real life and increases functionality on the Web so [the customer] can make intelligent purchases,” said Waterson.
Indeed, Internet consultant Jupiter Research advised in a report issued this summer that it is time for e-commerce sites to stop catering to the lowest common technological denominator and start sacrificing some consumers who lack technology to keep up with more experienced online shoppers. “Competitive pressure will make support for advanced technologies a must-have for sites operating in the complex product market,” stated Lydia Loizides, digital commerce analyst at Jupiter. “Retailers will have to offer more to their consumers than just basic textual representation, search and price comparison.”
In addition to the intrinsic Internet benefit of being able to shop around the clock, VtryOn will enable customers to use one body ID at other retailers using an enFashion fitting room. Once customers have a body ID, they also can give it to would-be gift bearers without revealing their measurements, hopefully loosening up the hesitant wallets of some significant others.
“With online sales projected to explode into a $20 billion business by the year 2003,” Waterson said, “apparel merchants have a great opportunity to prosper if they can address consumers buying concerns quickly and completely.”

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