Targeting Fit with Kismet

A gap between consumers and manufacturers, clothing fit is the bane of ready-to-wear, but internet technology could be the solution to this age-old dilemma. Kismet was a web and mobile application designed and built to close the gap by helping consumers find brands that fit.

Two years ago, while doing consumer research for my thesis project, I got my body measurements taken. That was an unusual experience.  It was performed on the shopping floor in the midst of total strangers. The teen-aged sales representative used something that looked like two measuring tapes accidentally stuck to a piece of leather.

The sales rep asked me to lift my shirt to my navel, and a few awkward seconds later, proclaimed, “You’re in-between two fits.” I laughed and asked her what I should do now. “Try on one of each and see which one works better,” she said earnestly.

Rather a polite way of saying this brand isn’t for you.  

That’s what I learned in my research. You see clothing fit is a matter of proportions, and every brand has its proportional muse. No, I’m not referring to the tall and slender beings that saunter down expertly lit runways. I’m talking about the fit models - normal looking people - who physically represent a brand’s target customer.

You never see the fit model as a consumer, but you can find her outline, specifically her measurements hidden in the fit chart.

The insight that the solution to the fit problem was in the fit chart itself ignited my thesis project. The thesis was a business venture, and my partner and I had two months left to turn it into a business, or not. We named our project Kismet because that’s what it feels like when you find a piece of clothing that's meant for you. The catch line, a place to find brands that fit.

The idea was simple, take consumer body measurements and match them against fit chart information. This was relatively easy to build and fit chart information is widely available online. Our vision was to make Kismet the preliminary fashion resource for consumers and brands.

Then we killed Kismet – intentionally.  Albeit less enthusiastically, we imagined Kismet’s possible failure and worked backwards to determine the cause. This exercise is called a pre-mortem, and it’s often used in strategic planning.  In our pre-mortem, Kismet died many deaths revealing some threats that surprisingly turned into opportunities.

One of those threats came from our affiliate marketing revenue mode. Affiliate marketing is industry speak for paid referrals. Through our website, we planned to direct traffic to other sites. Many brands acknowledge the help and reward those generating traffic with a cut of the sale.

But, not every brand is so generous.

Because of that we needed a stronger sales hook. For brands, we developed a partnership plan with different incentives. There was no fee to be listed on Kismet, but control of the brand page and access to aggregate consumer data was only available to paid members.

Serendipitously, our membership system solved another problem, brand bias.

Kismet had to be an authoritative, unbiased source of information to be successful. Not only was this one of our concept's key differentiators, it was also the missing link in the style advice market. Our competitors, both stylists and recommendation sites, were assumed to, or openly placed commissions before the customer's best interests. We wanted Kismet users to know that they were getting the best possible match regardless who paid us.

Moreover, Kismet was about transparency between designers and end-users, and it was fitting that transparency be a tenet of our brand.

At the end of the semester, my partner and I presented our prototype to an enthusiastic crowd. We opted to put Kismet on hold, while we pursue other opportunities. But, people keep asking me to make Kismet a reality.