Finding jeans that fit is a challenge for both men and women. But for the past five years, ZipFit, a Chicago startup that developed proprietary tech for fitting jeans, only offered fitting services for men. Though the designer jean markets are comparable for men and women, said co-founder and chief marketing officer Alex Batdorf, there was less competition on the men’s side.
But after growing 3x year over year since they launched in 2011, they’ve proven out their concept with men’s jeans and pants and are ready to take on the women’s market. The startup is developing algorithms to fit women’s jeans through their online platform, expected to roll out in 2017, and already they’re doing fittings for women at their West Loop showroom.
“We always intended to go into women’s, even when we started out,” said Batdorf. “We jumped into men’s to start with because it was a great starting point from a market perspective… It was a great testing [ground] for us, to test our algorithms and the effectiveness of our technology.”
ZipFit helps customers find the designer jeans best suited for their body type through an online tool called “Fit Finder.” Customers input their waist and inseam, along with the relative size of their torso, butt, thighs and calves and jean fit preference. From there, the tech combs through their inventory to find jeans that are likely to provide a customer’s body type, and they can purchase clothes straight from the website. If the fit still isn’t perfect, they offer free tailoring.
There’s also a “Quick Match” tool, where customers can search for a pair of jeans similar to ones they already own. Currently, they offer the service for men’s jeans and pants, and also sell shirts, shorts and other accessories as add-ons to the order. They have over 20 designer jean brands, including J Brand, Paige and Hudson.
Batdorf said it’s equally tough to develop algorithms for men and women, but women’s jeans do require a different focus, specifically more attention to rising and waist size to fit curves, as well as material properly. To research the women’s algorithm, they’ve been doing hundreds of fittings across the country over the past year. Their target market is upwardly mobile professional women, likely to be in their late 20s and older.
“The working busy professional that doesn’t have time to shop, but they want to look good,” Batdorf said, describing their customers.
Batdorf cofounded the startup when she was an undergrad at the University of Chicago, along with UChicago Booth MBA student Liz Kammel Tilatti and Seth Pychewicz. They were a finalist in the UChicago New Venture Challenge in 2012.
Since then Batdorf said they’ve consistently seen growth, and currently have 5,000 customers with an excellent repeat purchase rate. Previously they experimented with pop-up shops at malls, but now their focus is e-commerce, with a Chicago showroom where they host fittings and events. In the next few years, they hope to open showrooms in their key markets.
“We see that [e-commerce] is where retail is growing overall, but we also understand there is the need for a consumer to touch their product,” she said.
They’re also hiring in sales and tech to accommodate the new product. Looking ahead, their focus is scaling their team and product offerings.
“The goal for us, long term, is to be able to outfit you head to toe,” said Batdorf. “You’ll be able to find your perfect fit online, then everything will be delivered to your door, perfectly tailored to fit you.”
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