Why are we shopping by size online when we could shop by body shape?
That’s the question entrepreneur Kiana Anvaripour set out to explore with Fovo, a personalized e-commerce platform that uses a proprietary algorithm to send shoppers clothes tailored to their body shapes.
Other e-commerce startups have tried similar "shop by shape" approaches in the past, like Sizeable or Bird’s Nest in Australia or Canada’s Smithery, and now Fovo is live. It's been in the works for a year and a half, and was launched quietly in April thanks to Anvaripour and Nick Swinmurn, the founder of Zappos and a Fovo investor. Anvaripour’s no stranger to the fashion world, either; she worked with designers like Roland Mouret and launched a shapewear line called dMondaine in 2010, an experience which inspired her to create Fovo.
"When I was touring the country showing women how to dress with the shapewear, I ended up spending hours in the fitting room," Anvaripour told Racked, and passed along wardrobe tips for clients’ specific body shape, like how a V-neck top can elongate a torso.
With Fovo, she said, "I set out to automate that, so that more women could have these tips."
You might have heard those comparisons between apples and pear shapes in women's magazines for decades, but Fovo is trying to modernize that idea — because after all, not all women like to be compared to fruit. There’s a five-question quiz that begins by asking what body part you’d like to show off between cleavage, legs, back, arms, or bum. "‘Highlight, not hide,’ is our motto," Anvaripour said.
Next, you pick the celebrity who most resembles your body shape, from Beyonce to Scarlett Johansson to Mindy Kaling. Then you answer a few questions about your workday and weekend style. The site pulls in clothes that fit your profile from brands like Forever 21, H&M, Dillard's, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, which all have an affiliate relationship with Fovo.
Fovo shopper Jaela Nuovo, an Los Angeles-based attorney and mom to twin three-year-old girls, tells Racked she found the process of shopping not by numerical size alone, but with body type in mind, incredibly useful.
"It's a quick way to shop for yourself," she said, noting that the quiz drew her into the site. "As a background, I am more of a pear shape, so they had a picture of Beyoncé and I think it was J.Lo on there, and I said 'OK, well I'll definitely check that one.' Right off the bat, that sparked my interest. Being the shape that I am, it's a little bit more difficult to shop for clothes that really fit you without having to tear apart the whole department store and who has time for that?"
Fovo serves up clothes for women sizes 00 to 32, and aside from one question in the quiz and during the universal cart checkout process, sizes are de-emphasized. Fovo launches at a time when more and more retailers and brands are dropping the term "plus size," spurred by body positive activists along with a movement to replace the term "plus size" with the word "curve," or nothing at all. After all, two people who both wear a size 4 — or a size 14 — may have dramatically different bodies, and dividing women by numbers helps no one.
"I love the idea. I've been thinking of how we could get rid of sizes for a long time because they're so arbitrary and so shaming for so many people," Connie Sobczak, the co-founder of The Body Positive and author of Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body told Racked. But Sobczak wished Fovo's landing page showed more diversity in both body type and skintone. "If I were coming to the site and it said tell us about your shape and style, I would want to see a whole bunch of different types of bodies."
But Anvaripour told Racked her goal with the site was to serve all women, and to get out of the label game. "Our message is very simple, it's empowering women with confidence," Anvaripour she said. "When you quiz, you get served up with the feed that is right for you. [...] That could be any size. We really wanted to eliminate all labels. We've been thinking of this for a very long time."