Representation lessons vital to fashion futures, survey shows

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By Published On: October 3, 20220 Comments

As many as 81 percent of women report feeling that they don’t see themselves represented in fashion advertising, according to an Australian fashion app’s new survey, a problem Mys Tyler co-founder and CEO Sarah Neill identifies as a distinct problem impacting fashion retailers’ bottom lines.

Representation is a key point of interest and concern for a high number of women when shopping or browsing fashion, as only one in four Australian women report feeling body confident, with more than 90 percent of women actively wanting to see greater diversity and representation in fashion. 

More than just a matter of preference, however, the diversity problem in Australian fashion retail is causing considerable harm to the bottom line of fashion retailers everywhere. 

“Without relevant references, it’s hard to know if an item will fit a body, an age, a lifestyle,” says Sarah Neill, who co-founded and acts as CEO of fashion app Mys Tyler, “In our research, 91% of women wanted to see more diversity in fashion advertising. And this is not just a matter of size, women want to see diversity in shape, height, colouring, age, and abilities, too.”

Founded in 2020, and now understood to be downloaded by a new user globally every two minutes, Mys Tyler is a social-shopping app available exclusively to women and aimed at connecting these women to the representation that matters most to them. Utilising a combination of AI and human-centric recommendations, Mys Tyler pairs women with “like-bodied” content creators in order for these women to experience a better informed shopping experience.

The Australian born Mys Tyler app, described as “revolutionary” for female fashionistas.

“Finding clothes that fit is a process of trial and often demoralising error,” Neill tells Power Retail, “In [our] recent study of Aussie women, 82% said they have struggled to find clothes that fit. In the case of e-commerce when the changeroom is your bedroom, 85% admitted to buying clothes online that didn’t fit well.”

“This flows through to retailers with high and costly exchange rates and takes a toll on the environment as well.”

A large part of the problem, Neill identifies, is that existing attempts to fix the problems of representation in fashion retail fail to fully realise the extent of the issues women face when shopping for clothes.

“As women we know fit is more than just size, it’s shape, colouring and style. While current solutions have fallen short on solving fit, we believe that real women and a little bit of innovation can,” says Neill, ““Our FIT Algorithm creates a match score between users and each content creator, so they can discover like-bodied women who show how clothes look, how they are styled and where to buy them, improving fit confidence and reducing returns. This allows us to create a hyper-personalized shopping experience that learns as users engage with the platform.” 

The value of increased representation to consumers is obvious, with 89 percent of women reporting feeling that their confidence improves when wearing an outfit that they feel good in but only 15 percent suggesting that they wear outfits every day which positively contribute to their confidence.

But for retailers, too, the value of addressing representation concerns in fashion retail is no less considerable. In the United States, data suggests that return delivery costs exceeded US$500 billion in 2020, with similar numbers in Australia not unlikely. Return rates, too, are high, as the most recent Trajectory Report from Power Retail demonstrates. Of consumers surveyed, over 30 percent reported having returned an item in the last six months, with a whopping 64 percent of these returns being fashion items.

“We’re fixing a critical flaw in the world of fashion that has meant women have had to buy clothes off models or influencers who look nothing like them,” says Neill, “Until now women have had to imagine what clothes would look like on themselves, only to try them on with a shockingly low success rate.”

That low success rate corresponds to as many as 82 percent of women having reported recent issues finding clothes that fit them, according to results from the recent Mys Tyler survey, and half of women suggest that the clothing they purchased failed to meet expectations in looking different on them than on models in advertising or retailers’ websites. But for retailers hoping to address the 28 percent of women who say that shopping for clothing is typically a negative experience for them, Neill offers five items of advice.

Co-founder and CEO of Mys Tyler, Sarah Neill

“Number one, add diversity to your advertising campaigns, showing outfits on different bodies really helps consumers imagine how it will fit them, increasing fit confidence and propensity to buy. [Secondly}, think about diversity beyond just size. While we know size diversity is incredibly important, retailers also need to consider age, abilities, ethnicity, shape, and height when looking for diverse models.”

“Three, leverage user-generated content to show your clothing on a much wider range of heights, shapes, sizes, ages and colours. Four, cater to more women in-store by carrying your full range of sizes, many retailers only stock their sizes 18+ online [which] makes it very difficult for a large segment of women to shop in retail. If you advertise that you carry these sizes in store, signage, advertising, etc, then the women will come!”

“[Finally], bring in stylists during peak periods to help customers put together outfits, so much of fit is the styling – which pieces go together, does it need a tuck or a belt? There’s lots of evidence that stylists in-store can really boost sales. Or invest in offering style training to your staff.”

All things considered, the answer for fashion retailers hoping to reach more consumers – and lower rates of returned products – can be reasonably assumed to be these seem retailers seeking to better represent them. Perhaps even, it might be suggested, fashion retailers hoping to see improvements to their bottom line would do well to learn from Mys Tyler’s own mission statement.

“We want all women to feel good in the clothes they wear,” Neill says, “and for fashion to be enjoyable and accessible to everyone.”

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