Israeli app virtually puts the clothes on your back

Yael Vizel has a track record as a trailblazer. The 32-year-old was the first female commander of the Israel Air Force telecommunications crews. She graduated as the valedictorian of her class at the Technion in Haifa, and was one of only a few women in the electrical engineering program. And most recently, she launched her own company, Zeekit (www.zeekit.co) a revolutionary app and web platform that allows users to virtually “try on” clothing before purchasing online.

“I feel that when you know what you do may have a huge impact on your country and the people you love, you’re 100 percent motivated to do big things and take large risks,” says Vizel, who was named a 2014 Ramon Breakthrough winner for Israeli entrepreneurship, earning her a spot in the summer Excellence Program at Stanford University’s business school.

Yael Vizel has fun using her app’s virtual fitting-room technology. photo/courtesy israel21c

Sophisticated deep-image processing enables Zeekit to map the topography of a shopper’s body, but the app (for Android and soon iOS) is easy to use. Upload a regular 2D picture of yourself, answer a questionnaire about the kind of clothes you’re seeking and receive relevant merchant links to click.

A future feature will allow users to switch out any part of an outfit so that, for example, you could try on many different tops with the same pair of jeans.

On the web platform side, Zeekit’s “TRY IT ON!” button can be incorporated into ecommerce sites as well as fashion e-zines and blogs.

“We want to be the Google of fashion and boost the conversion ratio from 6 percent of fashion site users who make purchases to 50 percent,” Vizel says.

Born to a lawyer mother and electrical engineer father in Ramat Gan, Vizel was a gifted student and excelled in ballet, jujitsu and swimming. She wanted to be a combat soldier but the army assessed her talents and assigned her to a programming course. She started her military service as an IAF fighter-jet flight-simulator programmer.

In 2003, Vizel completed the technical track of the IAF officer-training course and then won a position normally off-limits to female cadets: leading special-forces tech missions on the ground.

When it was time to rotate out, Vizel chose to command aircraft missions and became the first female commander of the telecommunications technical officers’ course.

Zeekit co-founders (from left) Alon Kristal, Yael Vizel and Nir Appleboim photo/courtesy israel21c

After four-and-a-half years of service, Vizel again blazed a trail as one of only seven female students in the 150-student electrical engineering program at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. She was active in campus entrepreneur clubs, wrote a student-life column in the campus magazine, taught entrepreneurship at Leo Baeck High School in Haifa and became chief guide in the Haifa Scouts. And she graduated as valedictorian in 2010.

Even before graduating, she began designing engineering hardware at a local firm.

“After a while I started my master’s degree and kept thinking of new ideas. I had so much energy, and I wanted to try starting my own company.”

In early 2013, she and her friends Alon Kristal and Nir Appleboim founded Zeekit in Tel Aviv. At first, they planned to use image processing to help online customers visualize home furnishings and renovations.

“When we did deep research on the home design field, we found there are many solutions available, whereas when buying clothing online you don’t have experts to help you, and that’s something you do much more frequently,”  Vizel says. “We also realized we could reach a younger crowd this way.”

Ultimately, “We chose to develop something really simple, really comfortable to use and very scalable,” she says.

Zeekit’s 10 employees worked closely with about 400 beta testers to get opinions and insights as they perfected the technology.

“We do all the image processing and human-body estimation of sizing and reconstruction of clothing on your body,”  Vizel says. “The moment 3D cameras are put into telephones, we’ll integrate them, too.”

Despite running her own business and wooing investors and partners worldwide, Vizel regularly stays up till the wee hours of the morning pursuing personal projects, like building her own 3D printer and co-writing a book about the life of her 94-year-old grandfather.

“Those are amazing hours to think and create with nobody interrupting,” she says.  “And creation makes me happy.”

Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is associate editor of ISRAEL21c.