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Interview with Shivang Desai & Chandralika Hazarika

Shivang Desai & Chandralika Hazarika
Shivang Desai & Chandralika Hazarika

Retailers have not embraced technology so far
Bigthinx is a deep-tech start-up specialising in AI for fashion and retail. Its software carries out a body scan using only two photos from a smartphone to calculate 44 precise body measurements and body composition ratios with over 95 per cent accuracy. Bigthinx's neural networks create a personalised virtual avatar from these photos and also use AI to digitally recreate 3D clothing from any 2D image instantly to show how it would look, fit and drape as if in reality. Founders Shivang Desai and Chandralika Hazarika share their views on how things are going to play out.

Could you specify a few brands interested in virtual photo-shoots and fashion shows (this is for the credibility of the context)? What are they looking for? Why?

The pandemic has adversely affected the fashion industry, from supply chains to photoshoots and fashion weeks. The industry is headed for a massive upheaval, and since it was already poised for disruption, the pandemic has caused retailers to rapidly adopt strategies that were only distant options until very recently.

During the COVID-19 crisis, retailers are not able to carry out photo-shoots and fashion shows. For many retailers, this inability has been a huge setback as runway shows and product shoots are necessary for them to showcase collections to distributors, wholesalers and customers worldwide, who are unable to travel at this time. Traditionally, such customers travel for fashion weeks from all over the world where they experience the designs of fashion houses on the ramp and place bulk orders thereafter. In order to help such retailers, we have adapted our Lyflike avatar technology to create digital fashion models which brands, especially in luxury fashion, can use for completely virtual photo-shoots and runway shows; all for a fraction of the cost of traditional practices, and with far greater opportunity for creativity and flexibility. These shows are recorded as videos which can be displayed over the internet and allow the brands to conduct business uninterrupted.

For example, one of the world's largest fashion retailers in Paris has approached us to digitise their clothing on the avatars of supermodels and display these in a virtual catwalk.

What were the solutions that you have been working on in addressing the situation that the ongoing pandemic seems to have created or aggravated? Could you elaborate?

Bigthinx's solutions have already been helping retailers improve some aspects of their business that are sources of losses. The company's Lyfsize software, which carries out a 3D body scan with just a smartphone, can be used to find out one's clothing size in any brand, anywhere in the world. Sixty per cent of e-commerce returns are due to incorrect sizing, and this can be brought down significantly with our solution, enabling massive cost savings for online retailers. As the fashion industry is racing to adopt a digital-first approach, this solution is integral for online retailers to minimise costs related to product returns.

Bigthinx's Lyflike software allows consumers to create a 3D avatar that looks, moves, and measures exactly like them, and virtually try on any clothing to see how it looks and fits, in-store or online. This technology helps retailers to offer visual solutions for look, size and fit for their entire catalogues. This has now been extended to provide digital models, virtual photoshoots, and virtual runway shows to brands affected by the pandemic.

How do you look at the future (say, the next one year)? The pandemic itself is not going away any time soon, and the economic devastation left behind will linger on still longer. What are the prospects for your kind of solutions? What other solutions might be needed? Are brands asking for new solutions that you might not even have thought of?

More consumers and brands alike have been pushed towards online shopping due to the coronavirus; businesses are running out of cash to invest in stores. Over the foreseeable future, brands have to explore new avenues of customer engagement beyond experiential stores. Retailers should use this time as an opportunity to focus on adoption of new tools which will allow them to cut all avoidable costs while at the same time incorporating methods that will boost their revenues, consumer engagement, and brand loyalty. Today, there exist a plethora of technological solutions to help retailers make hugely effective changes to their business models with relatively little effort, but the retailers have not embraced such technology so far.

Tech to help brands sell more, while lowering costs and leaving customers happier, are the need of the hour for retailers affected by the crisis. This will not only enable normalcy post-pandemic but also significant improvements as compared to the pre-pandemic stage. Retailers with mostly in-store sales face no option but to accelerate online selling and rapidly scale e-commerce operations. Disruptive technology for fashion was never widely accepted but now with social distancing becoming a major concern, technology like ours which allows customers to try on virtual clothing, create digital photoshoots and virtual fashion shows are soon going to become mainstream.

Virtual fashion shows, livestream commerce and 3D design tools had seen low adoption, but are now a necessity for brands unable to carry out operations in-person, and will change how retailers drive business, both in the short and long term. Brands right now are struggling and are willing to consider any solutions that help them boost their digital footprints, reduce carbon footprints, and preserve customer engagement.
A portion of this interview was first published in the June 2020 edition of the print magazine.
Published on: 07/07/2020

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

This interview was first published in the Jun 2020 edition of the print magazine