The “a-ha!” moment came during one of her many modeling shoots, when Rian Buckley often wore clothes that were pinned, clipped and altered to fit her body shape. She saw repeatedly how the same clothes — jeans in particular — can look drastically different on two models with the same clothing size. And she spent a lot of time listening to e-commerce retailers complain of lost revenue from returned clothing, especially denim, that didn’t fit.
Buckley had a solution. Why not help women find jeans they love by fitting their body shapes, instead of selling by numerical size? That was the genesis for Fitcode, a fashion-data technology startup launched in 2015 to help women of all shapes find denim that fits. Based in Kirkland, Washington, the company has found a lot of support and received $2.4 million in funding.
“One of our founding principles is that we get women into jeans that flatter by focusing on fit, not size,” says Buckley, co-founder and CEO of Fitcode. With Microsoft tools, Buckley and her team have built a smart algorithm and easy-to-use service that celebrates women of all sizes, helps brands better understand their customers, and makes online shopping productive and even fun.
“We really are all about empowering women,” says Buckley. “We want to get all women into jeans that fit, no matter what size they are.”
A University of Washington graduate who majored in political science, Buckley has become an inspiring figure as a young, successful, female leader in technology. She runs her business with a Surface Pro 4, which helps her reach her goals of empowering not just her consumers, but also her mostly female team and other women in business and technology. The Surface’s full-fledged computing power helps her get work done, whether she’s in her office, on the road, between modeling photo shoots or in a meeting with Fitcode partners.
“Bringing the Surface to partner meetings in L.A. and New York, and being able to do substantive work on the go with them is awesome,” she says. She loves the keyboard for efficiency and inking for creativity, which lets her handwrite on mockups, designs and all things related to jeans, from skinnies to flares to Fitcode’s popular online quiz.
Consumers answer a few simple questions about their body shape — their “curves,” “booty” and thighs — along with their usual denim size to determine what Fitcode number they are. The numbers correspond to different shapes, from 715 for “curvalicious” to 530 for “straight-laced” with a “proportionate booty.”
The algorithm then selects jeans curated for a consumer’s particular body shape. Recommendations come from Fitcode’s large online boutique, a helpful resource with 6,300 denim listings across 12 brands. Buckley understands the frustration when your favorite pair of jeans fits differently in a different wash (fabric treatment), and the boutique helps you be an informed consumer. On top of Fitcode’s curated suggestions, it gives you plenty of photos, videos, measurements, stretch and fabric details, and links to buy products.
“We want to be your best friend when you’re shopping,” says Stephanie Chacharon, Fitcode director of marketing.
The 12-person company is also integrating its technology with brand partners like Hudson Jeans, for which consumers can now take the Fitcode quiz on Hudson’s site to see Hudson jeans recommended for their shape. The integrations also help Hudson and other brands gain insight into who’s buying their jeans and what styles work for different body types.
“We’re feeding our partners data on women and their Fitcode, how they’re shopping, how their consumer base breaks out by Fitcode, and what styles and washes work for those women,” Chacharon says.
The magic behind Fitcode is a lot of data and research, which includes careful denim measurements, decoding fabric content and stretch factor, and inviting diverse groups of women to fit-test jeans and give honest feedback.
“They’re all different sizes and shapes, and we really look at how a pair of jeans looks on the body,” says Buckley. “We ask women how they feel in it. Is there a gap in the waist? Is it giving them a muffin top? That’s all part of being a hands-on, personal, female-focused business.”
To organize and analyze Fitcode’s massive database — 31,000 users, 5,000 jeans and 2,100 denim measurements for starters — Buckley uses Excel in Office 365. She distills the data for PowerPoint presentations, uses Skype to connect with partners and loves OneNote to collaborate. Fitcode’s documents and contracts are safely stored in the Microsoft cloud.
“Using OneNote on the Surface is awesome,” says Buckley. “Stephanie and I can mark things up, put screen shots right in OneNote, and say these are the changes we want to make. We don’t have to print it out and waste paper.”
Fitcode is expanding its boutique to include more brands and plus sizes, a key goal for inclusivity, and one of Buckley’s favorite pieces of feedback came recently from a plus-sized woman who came in for a fit session.
“She was telling us she had completely given up on jeans. She didn’t want to own jeans. She didn’t even shop for jeans,” Buckley says. “She was a little skeptical on the whole thing and was like, “’Good luck. You’re not going to get me in jeans that fit.’”
But the Fitcode team found a few pairs the woman loves, prompting her to email a thank you note. It was major validation for a company whose mission is to help all women feel confident in all parts of life, whether it’s technology, entrepreneurship or a great pair of jeans.
“She said she now has jeans for every day of the week,” Buckley says, smiling.
– By Vanessa Ho