It was a day like any other. I got my daughter up. She was getting ready. I was getting ready. I peeked in on her as she was washing her hands, and I found her staring at herself in the mirror. Something struck me about the moment. She was gazing at herself with this look of pure love. It inspired me. Do I ever look at myself like that? Do ANY adults? For most adults, I’m guessing a gaze in the mirror comes with less adoration and more disappointment - or even outright criticism! So what happened?
As social beings, we can't help but try to recognize ourselves in others. But modern media, especially advertising, has long preferred models that represent a very narrow range of height, weight, age, and race. Even though 70% of women wear a size 14 or larger, that range only appears in 2% of media images! No wonder most people feel invisible.
Retailers lose out on $816 billion in returned goods because nearly 3 in 4 returns are due to size.
I thought: Let’s help brands finally get this right. Let’s show what happens to e-commerce when people actually see bodies that look like theirs, familiar skin tones, and hair textures that match their own.
We couldn’t even find stock photos featuring models over size 8 that also represented different age groups and backgrounds! We had to recruit our own. We found 250+ people willing to try on products and take pictures for other shoppers. We were so inclusive across the board that people asked us if we were a scam! We’re not, we’re just creating a world of online retail that reflects reality AND minimizes that feeling of being unworthy or unseen when you just want to buy an outfit for a night out.
Dr. Gerald Mitchell, my cofounder, built us a high-fidelity prototype that I used to rapid fire pitch to a room full of people at a founders’ pitch competition. The audience was asked to vote for their favorites.
Several women heard my pitch and audibly gasped. They said, “I have NEVER seen anyone my size when shopping online.” We won that competition in a landslide and took home $30K in software development services - enough to build the first working version of Reflekt Me.
At Black Women Talk Tech in 2019, I met Arlan Hamilton from Backstage Capital. Arlan identifies as Black, female, and is a member of the LGBTQ-IA community. During the inaugural meeting of her About Damn Time book club, I shared with her how Reflekt Me humanizes the dehumanized by giving diversity a reflection, and she asked me to pitch to her and her team.
With investment from Backstage and a friends and family round (because we are about building wealth for those we love, too), we raised enough to bring on a CTO and technologists from IBM and bring Reflekt Me to the next level. Through New York Fashion Tech Lab, we landed a deal with Levi’s and officially launched in the US and Ireland.
More than ever, brands now want to know who their niche actually is and how to appeal to them. Who are the “green millennial parents”? Who are the Black sports fans? Who are the double digit size label fashionista influencers? And how can we bring them onto our team?
By expanding brand reach into untapped communities, Reflekt Me ignites sales by personalizing product images with REAL PEOPLE wearing every size. We also provide access to an inclusive creator marketplace where brands can hire creators for cost-effective user-generated content. It’s about creating a more inclusive society, but it’s about sales, too. With Reflekt Me, fashion brands create space for their audience to show up, show off, and attract even more consumers like them.
A few years from now, e-commerce sites with limited and homogenous model images will seem painfully outdated, if they exist at all.
Reflekt Me is asking the gatekeepers to step aside and make room for what society actually looks like. We’re creating visibility - and success for the brands who embrace it.
Shouldn’t the digital world finally reflect reality?