shopping fashion online can be incredibly convenient — shipping is fast, the options are endless, all we’re missing is that ‘dressing room experience’. Whether that was something you dreaded or delighted in at a boutique or department store, an IRL fit session is incredibly helpful to ensure the perfect fit so that we walk away with only the pieces that we really love.
For many style-conscious online shoppers, replicating the dressing room experience at home now means an extraordinary amount of return shipping. While all that extra shipping is often free for the shopper, it can add up to needless costs for the planet.
Christine Marzano is the CEO and founder of BODS, a ground-breaking 3D technology that utilizes custom avatars to emulate the perfect fitting room experience online — and majorly reduce your fashion-related carbon footprint. As a former fit model, Christine also believes that custom fashion avatars could eliminate the clothes sizing model altogether. Sound like a fashion future you’re interested in?
Cult-status womenswear brand, Khaite is already using a beta version of the tech and we caught up with Christine to hear more about her vision for fashion’s body-positive and eco-friendly future…
TCM: Can you start by explaining the Bods experience for us in a nutshell?
CM: BODS is using groundbreaking technologies in computer graphics, gaming and AI, to transform online shopping into an immersive experience that is personalized, inclusive, and fun. We believe the future of fashion is fit, not an outdated or arbitrary size printed on a label.
Poor-fitting clothes lead to billions of pounds of waste and millions of disappointed customers. If you can fix fit, while making it enjoyable and beautiful, you can fix everything. Our solution bridges two distinct and powerful worlds—it’s deep tech, but make it fashion.
TCM: You’re a Princeton grad with a unique background in tech, but also 15 years experience as a runway and fit model. Tell us how you got into this space…
As co-founder and CEO of BODS, I lead a world-class team of engineers, 3D artists, and technical fashion designers drawing upon my background in fashion, technology, and entertainment industries. Before BODS, I co-founded a SoftBank-funded avatar creation and animation software company and was the first fashion model to create a photorealistic avatar of myself.
Funnily enough, I was introduced to the computer graphics and avatar space through voiceover. I was doing voiceovers for many things, one of which was games. Along with the voiceover, I began getting requests for motion capture as well. One thing led to another until I got deep into the avatar world and became completely obsessed. I was convinced that the technology could be used beyond games and knew that fashion was a perfect medium.
So many of us shop online, buying multiple sizes, then shipping back those that don’t fit. Talk to us about the sustainability issue there:
It’s no surprise that e-comm has been steadily growing for years, taking a larger piece of the apparel retail pie each year. As a result of COVID, that chunk of the pie has grown astronomically and doesn’t show any signs of reverting.
With increased online sales, comes the inevitable uptick in returns. According to a recent Grazia Magazine body diversity study, 56% of women do not feel confident in the size that they are buying during online purchases, 73% of women say they are more likely to by from a brand that uses a model with a body that is similar to theirs, and 64% of women buy multiple sizes of the same garment to try on at home, with the knowledge that they will return some or all of the pieces.
Recent numbers put online apparel returns at an average of 40% with some categories even higher, and the top reason cited for returns is always poor fit.
The latest statistics put apparel return waste at 5 billion pounds dumped in US landfills annually. This is returned garments that for various reasons cannot be resold or repurposed and must be thrown out. This, in addition to the carbon emissions from unnecessary back and forth shipping, is a massive problem for our planet.
Bods was designed with the sustainability issue in mind, but you also have a mission toward a more body-positive shopping experience. Would you talk to us about your unique perspective on that?
I worked as a runway model for brands like Dior and Saint Laurent, but also as a fit model for brands like Victoria Beckham and Rachel Zoe. I got the insider’s view into the process of fit and realized that there was a desperate need for innovation and improvement in the space.
I believe that rather than comparing oneself to a model — I know firsthand how damaging that can be — each and every customer could be their own model, celebrating their own size, skin color, and individual beauty. That’s possible with BODS.
We want to alleviate the massive sustainability problem that fashion returns create, but also revolutionize the try-on experience so that it’s exciting, and helpful, rather than defeating.
No matter the shape or the size, I don’t think anyone can say they have ever had an amazing experience in a fitting room. Often people are too embarrassed to ask for different sizes, get frustrated when one garment doesn’t fit or get tired of looking at themselves in that terrible dressing room lighting. I want people to feel comfortable experimenting and trying new looks and styles. BODS introduces consumers who might not consider themselves “digital natives” or gamers to the digital avatar world.
We’re such big fans of one of your first partners, Khaite. How did the partnership come about?
Khaite is a luxury womenswear company that has always been a few steps ahead, not only because of its elevated and innovative approach to design, but also because of its reputation for 21st-century thinking. They had already been dipping their toe in digital experiences with AR and other technologies when I was introduced, and were actively looking to take the next step of immersion for their customers, so BODS really was a perfect match.
Khaite also pride themselves on the quality of their materials and craftsmanship, so we knew this was a perfect challenge for our 3D garments. The beta launch was such a success that we were covered in Business of Fashion, Wallpaper and V magazine, amongst others!
What do you hope for consumers and the fashion industry to experience with BODS?
I also hope BODS will help brands learn more about their customers, their bodies and their true desired fit, influencing their design and manufacturing processes. Our goal at BODS is to do our part in helping to heal our planet by allowing customers to make better purchases the first time and keep garments that they love.
My greatest hope is that people stop attaching an idea of self-worth to a random size number, but instead start to shop purely for what “fits” them and their way of presenting in the world.
Finally, what are some of your favorite sustainable fashion brands to shop online lately?
During Covid, I became obsessed with Pangaia! Their pieces are so fun and their science-backed efforts to create and use new sustainable materials is ground-breaking. I also recently made my first online Gabriela Hearst purchase and am in love. She is a leader in sustainability within luxury fashion, and the example that she is setting within that space has been inspiring.