Robert Ahlborg is the CPO and co-founder of Looklet – a fashion tech scale up that provides automated on-model fashion imagery for e-commerce. Based in Stockholm but with offices in the United States, Looklet works with retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Fenwick, Hudson’s Bay and Holt Renfrew.
In the absence of physical store tangibles, online shoppers are largely guided by the images they see, and the perceptions thereby formed, directly influence their buying decisions. As they browse through e-commerce websites, they could feel excluded if they are not able to resonate with how the apparel is being showcased, especially body-type wise. An inclusive shopping space does not make the customer feel relegated to a special section for shopping.
A matter of resonance
In the context of e-commerce fashion imagery, resonance can mean how easy it is for shoppers to imagine wearing what they see. Attributes like the model’s nationality, complexion, hair color, and size have a considerable impact on how truly representative they appear to the audience. “There have been occasions, where the style of model photography and choice of models, have led to me leaving the site on those grounds. I want to see somebody that is representative of me — or at least a close match”, a shopper comments.
As much as it is challenging to appeal to consumers, given the innate limitations of e-commerce, fashion imagery is a tool that wields immense potential to get limitlessly creative with how brands showcase their products. The experience of browsing through online catalogs may not be the same as experiencing the touch and feel of clothing straight from the racks of an outlet, but fashion imagery breathes life into products with a personalized touch.
How can technology help?
The synergy of fashion and technology can do exceptionally well in the efforts toward inclusivity. For instance, Looklet, a technology innovator that specializes in producing automated on-model fashion imagery for e-commerce, equips retailers with capabilities to digitally style pieces of clothing and accessories on a wide range of diverse models to show the same products on different-sized models, including plus-size and maternity. This is a great way to give all customers a better idea of how a particular product would fit them.
Further, personalization is definitely something that makes products appear more compelling to the shoppers. Different audiences may have different preferences about how they would like to style their clothing and accessories. Technology makes it possible to optimize products and repurpose them by updating product imagery at any time without having to shoot multiple times. Items like accessories from previous collections could be easily restyled with newer clothing pieces to create brand new looks. It is also possible to update product imagery at any time by changing the styling, models, poses, backgrounds and more, to optimize the products to different markets, seasons or trends.
When representation is approached sensibly and thoughtfully, it makes it easier for shoppers to connect with the brand as they explore the products displayed. Additionally, this also contributes to building trust and brand loyalty.
More male representation in the body positivity movement
The body positivity movement has certainly helped a lot of women feel comfortable and confident in their bodies. To a large extent, media representation has propelled the movement to become as mainstream and universal as it is today. However, there is still untapped potential in making it more representative of the male population. As society continues to uphold unrealistic standards and celebrate a skewed body image to dictate what men should ideally look like, one way in which we can bring about a real, sustainable shift in perceptions is by consistently incorporating bits of significant changes in popular culture. Fashion, an unarguably dynamic medium of self-expression offers a lot of scope to effectively steer the movement forward, and fashion imagery, in particular, is an inevitable part of the toolkit.
It is promising to see several brands already investing time, effort and resources to make their imagery more inclusive to represent all male body types. Technology, in this exercise too, can augment these efforts to overcome challenges that come with sourcing models and other logistical constraints. Looklet recently introduced Henry, a model for big and tall menswear. Co-developed with an existing client, Henry represents sizes XL-XXL and aims to bridge the existing gap in the plus size market. With this latest addition to their repertoire, Looklet enables retailers to shoot a full assortment of stock using the same solution and create on-figure imagery without the inconveniences posed by traditional model shoots.