Last April, Stephanie Clifford’s New York Times story, “One Size Fits Nobody,” went viral. (Or at least as viral as a non-Linsane animal-based memes can possibly go.) That’s probably because Ms. Clifford’s confession–that she varies anywhere from a size 4 to size 8 without gaining a pound–is a near-universal dilemma. Clothes Horse, a New York-based startup that launched publicly today, thinks it can solve that.
Brands like Bonobos, one of Clothes Horse’s beta test cases, use the startup’s software to embed a widget on their e-commerce site. After 30-seconds of questions like “What brand’s shirt fits you best?” or “Is it tight around the chest?” the widget spits out information on how that retailer’s items are likely to fit.
To do that, Clothes Horse uses an algorithm that combines a database of human measurements, sizing specifics from about 50 brands, and some kind of “secret sauce,” which cofounder Vik Venkatraman declined to describe.
We first heard of Clothes Horse over cocktails a few weeks ago when Dave Whittemore, another Clothes Horse cofounder, described the process of going into stores to surreptitiously measure one of every size of a particular garment. “Hahaha. We don’t usually measure IN the store, but we have been known to buy/return some stuff,” Mr. Venkatraman told Betabeat over gChat.
Early beta tests with Bonobos showed a 13 percent boost in sales. But there’s also the matter of bringing down shopping cart abandonment and reducing the rate of return for ill-fitting garments you totally thought were your size.
Besides Bonobos, Clothes Horse is already embedded in sites like Modus Man, Duke & Winston, Five Four Jeans, and Frank & Oak. Women’s clothes, the Rubik’s cube of sizing, are also tap. “We have some terrific brand partners that we’re at different stages of a discussion with,” said Mr. Venkatraman. As a SaaS business, retailers pay a monthly flat-fee based on their online traffic and revenue. Clothes Horse, which was incubated in DreamIt’s inaugural New York City class, has raised an undisclosed seed round led by Contour Ventures.
Mr. Venkatraman thinks the potential of the software is “massive” and didn’t seem worried retailers muscling into his newfound niche. “Fashion is just on the cusp of tipping to the future, which could see the industry moving from 8% online to 40%+. The network effects we build through users and brands will be tough for any individual retailer to replicate,” he said, adding, “I mean: for the “same” size 32 jeans in Old Navy, BR and Gap will be all different–and that’s the same company!”
A fashion tech startup in New York that isn’t an e-commerce site or purely social play and provides a clearly monetizable public utility? Well, will wonders never cease.