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Three years ago, ex-investment banker Dipra Ray was speaking with a friend whose fiancée was on the hunt for a wedding dress. She didn’t want to traipse from shop to shop, hoping to find the right dress for her big day. She also didn’t want to buy online in case the dress didn’t fit. There had to be an easier way, Ray thought.
Inspired by that conversation, Ray founded a business called mPort and began a period of research and development. The result is an innovation called the mPod, and it is now in three major Australian shopping centres – Melbourne Central in Victoria, as well as Stockland Piccadilly and Stockland Shellharbour in New South Wales.
The mPod is a body scanner that is similar to a private phone booth, in which a user stands stripped to their underwear. In seconds they receive a 3D scan of their body, which they are able to use with participating retailers and e-tailers to ensure a perfect fit every time.
“In department stores, I see people taking four sizes of the same piece of clothing into a change room to find one that fits. It just wastes so much time and effort,” says Ray, who is now Managing Director of mPort. “I rarely buy clothes online because the arms and legs are always too long for me. We’re looking to empower customers to find a perfect fit every time.”
Ray hopes to have 25 mPods throughout Australian shopping centres by mid-2015.
One online retailer who has come on board is Amanda Watson, founder and Creative Director of The LBD ~ Little Black Dress. Watson is aware of the damage that can be done to an online fashion retailer when items don’t fit and have to be returned.
“I have tried to be very clever with this business, using high-quality stretch fabric and offering a range that is designed around women’s unique and differing body shapes,” she says.
“But if something doesn’t fit or flatter them then a returns process can be frustrating, no matter how efficient it is. And there is a cost connected to that customer frustration. I looked for technology to help people find the perfect fit, and there is nothing out there that comes close to mPort. It is not just about algorithms and best guesses and averaging; it is about reality and providing better options for the consumer.”
mPort’s offering, says Watson, helps to ensure all parts of a customer’s body are accounted for in a fitting, including bust, hips, waist and height to make the best size and product recommendations.
“Most fashion designers work from a sample size 10 and even women who are that size are not always perfectly proportioned. I’m in my late 40s and I know that women’s bodies change,” she says. “We’re never our twenty-something selves again and we’re learning to accept that. Instead of striving for the impossible, women are learning to optimise what they have, and our aim is to empower and enable them to look great and feel fabulous just as they are.”
“That is what my brand is all about and this technology just makes it possible,” she adds.
Watson explains that the mPort technology is available to all The LBD ~ Little Black Dress customers. They can either use the mPort body scanners at the physical shopping centre locations around Australia, or they can use the mPort integrated sizing calculator on The LBD ~ Little Black Dress’s website.
“While the integrated sizing calculator is not as accurate as the full scan, it still allows for a better fit option and recommendation for each garment design. It is better than a just a ‘best guesstimate’ by the customer utilising sizing charts alone. We recently surveyed online shoppers and they told us inconsistent sizing standards, confusing size charts and sizing variables between their favourite fashion labels often leads to frustration and disappointment – and returns. The mPort technology minimises that doubt and anxiety,” says Watson.
For users of the technology, mPort not only aids the quest for perfectly sized garments, says Ray, but it can also provide health and fitness benefits.
“Weight doesn’t tell us how our bodies are actually changing during a fitness program or over Christmas as we eat and drink more than usual, for instance,” Ray explains. “Now you can actually see the changes in your body and it is a great motivational tool. You can set goals according to body shape.
“This technology really does empower people, and that is very good for the businesses they deal with, whether online or bricks and mortar.”