You may have heard of the old adage, “All men are created equal,” but apparently all women aren’t, especially with the way women dress. For many women, shopping for clothes and finding that perfect fit is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that needle in the haystack, the lost city of Atlantis, you get the picture. Cricket Lee is revolutionizing the way women buy clothes by launching revolutionary fashion sizing for women's clothing called Fitlogic in which apparel is designed to make clothes fit consistently by size and shape, and standardized across brands to make the shopping experience easier for women. Her website has provided an online tool for women to find their perfect fit.
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Cricket Lee of Fitlogic on Bringing an “Impossible” Dream to Life
Welcome, Cricket Lee. I am beyond excited to have you with us.
I'm so excited to be here.
Let's talk a little bit about NRF, about the Big Show. What did you find the most interesting or inspiring or exciting about the event?
I was there for the event itself and for my own stage presence. I didn't get to look around a lot because I'm busy, but it was a magnificent show. I hated losing that opportunity. There were so many cool things there. They had 36,500 people or something. It was crammed. Three days of crammed people.
The NRF did a wonderful job of taking care of the press. I wanted to see the key notes and Arianna Huffington, Tommy Hilfiger, and so many others. I have to give a big shout out to what Intel is doing in retail. Intel had this mind-blowing booth about what the technology that's coming into retail. They had this makeup mirror where the makeup artist can do a makeover for you after you choose your colors virtually. You touch the different colors and it puts it on your face. When you find some colors that are a perfect fit for you, they do this make-over while recording it. You get that video so you can be at home and be like, ”How did they create that?” So much innovation. What you do just go so much in line with that. However, you've been at this for a long time.
Tell us about what you're doing, what you have created, that is amazing for women. Women are knowing about it, it’s on its way, but it hasn’t quite reached everyone yet. Why isn't it everywhere? That's the curiosity. You have been pushing for that. Tell us about Fit Logic, how it works, how you came up with the idea. I would love to dig into the journey that you've taken Because to stick with something so long and so passionately is something that most entrepreneurs will never do. For those people who have this vision and have this burning desire to bring something alive, I would love to dissect your journey and how you kept going no matter what.
I started with the vision of creating clothing that you can buy online. I had this vision of a plasma screen and you could say, “I want a pair of white pants.” It would come up and you could buy it. When I had that vision, I didn't realize I was going to have to change everything about the way clothing was fit to make it work. I started my research, a major retailer let me research in their stores, Target. I watched women's buying habits. I saw them look at the younger styles. When they hit about 40 and they hit about a size ten, they would turn from the junior-looking clothing and go into the adult ladies clothing and they would walk out of the store. I learned that there's something about your body changes, it's not any specific age, it’s as you change you have different preferences. I had launched a woman, who is executive directors of Ford Models, with a book. She had written a book called Hoax about body types. I had launched her on HSN with an apparel program around body shapes and body types. I decided to add body types into a brand and merchandise it and create it for women. It kept moving and it evolved into a fit brand because I discovered that all women needed the same solution. What I started doing was trying to fix all the broken pieces of the industry. Everything from design, to merchandising, to how it's applied in the fit, to the way it's assorted in the stores to the consumer buying it.
The way Anne Klein, for instance, would approach designing her garments. She knew her customer, she knew the manufacturer, she knew the fabric, she created the marketing, she knew the retailer. She knew everything. It was holistic, look at her customer. That doesn't happen anymore. Everything's in big silos. All of designers now wanting to be on the runway, that's their aspiration. It’s discombobulated in a bit. There's this cutting-edge technology, but it's still a light on some antiquated pieces of fit development. Like using a fit model that's an hourglass shape and then padding or trying to do different shapes, but the grade rules are not the way the bodies change. I set out to do that. It took me about five years to finish the fit itself and patent it, get all that done. It took me about five years, then I came to New York. I tested with Macy's, Nordstrom, QVC and learned what I needed to learn about applying it to the industry. Unfortunately, I was too early for the industry because one of the brand attribute is fit. If a brand has fit as their attributes, they're not going to consider a universal fit system.
It was a difficult period of time because I wasn't expecting it to be so hard to penetrate the industry. I went back to Dallas, which is where I was from, and a women network got me on stage and put me on stage. I had women just barraged me. They placed orders, they helped me raise money, they waited nine months for their pants. It was phenomenal. You can't believe the support I got from women. It was amazing. My daughter who's 25, she's a lovely young lady. She came up with the idea of Little Black Pant as a way to sell something very focused. We used what they call direct response advertising on Facebook. The last year and a half, we've sold about $10 million worth of little black pants on Facebook alone. I've proven the concept. I'm in New York and I'm starting my licensing journey. I’m my licensing The Little Black Pant out to a company to make the pants and distribute the pants so I can focus on the technology development. I'll be working on jeans and tops and dresses and then maybe gloves, and hats and shoes. What I want you to do is have your own body code so that when you shop in the future, either in a store or online, you don't have to think about your size anymore. It's embedded in the product and you only have to look at what is going to fit you. My vision is that a designer will pick a shape and design for that shape.
In my system, shape one is straight, and I coined that phrase in the industry. When you see it, it came from my presentations. Yoko Ono, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Heidi Klum, Cathy Bates, Martha Stewart were all women who have our fullness expand if we gain weight in the middle. Shape two is like Marilyn Monroe, Octavia Spencer. On the larger side, Sarah Jessica Parker, they are the hourglass. That's the shape that the industry uses to fit, but it's only 14 % of the global marketplace. Hence the problem because that's the standard in the industry. it came from the 1940’s. Shape three is on the smaller side like Beyoncé or J-Lo, or Oprah, Kirstie Alley. That shape, they gain their fullness in their thighs and their lower bottom. They usually have a small waist. You can imagine that each shape has to dress differently. Shape ones, usually I camouflage their middle and show off their legs as they gain weight. Shape three’s I want to belt their middle and show off their waist and camouflage their thighs. It's a whole different way of dressing. We want to train different brands to adopt a shape. They can do more than one shape, but that's essentially the idea. It's a phenomenal thing. We have thousands of comments every week from happy customers that are like, “How do you do this? It fits out of the box.”We're back in conversations with our test retailers and other companies to start integrating Fit Logic into their brand. It's an exciting time for me because I think the world is ready for it now.
I love what you were saying that you were ahead of time because people weren't ready. It's amazing that you had that vision before this online market was a big deal, before everybody was shopping online. Not only did you have that vision, but you had the clarity about all the different places that needed to be fixed or altered in order to make your vision come to fruition. A lot of business owners and entrepreneurs I work with who get into doing something, it's because they have that excitement about, ”This is my vision. I have all these ideas.” They see all the things, but sometimes they don't understand that each thing is going to have its own roadblocks and that it may take longer than anticipated. I wonder in the early stages, especially when you were met with resistance, before you were embraced, how did you deal with some of those experiences? I don't know what you went through, but I can only imagine that you had some enthusiasm about something and you knew what you were talking about. You did your research, you did all of the prototyping and they're like, “Not really.”
The word for that is resilience and I'm one of those people. They say it's a common characteristic of people like me, that we are eternal optimist, and that's the truth. You can get me down for a few minutes. It used to debilitate me for days but I’ve learned to raise my own personal energy. I'm into spiritual, uplifting, positive energy, and self-worth because I believe we all create our own reality and we attract to ourselves what it is we're up for. That's one piece. The other piece is discovery. I had the vision of Fit Logic in four hours. I had no idea what I would have to do Every time I would get a resistance, I would go, “I need to fix that piece. I need to fix that piece.”What ended up happening is it ended up touching every point that a garment touches all the way to the consumer I had to study everything, of trying to get up e-commerce and do direct to consumer, I had to study women's responses and customer service. Do they trust us and only buy one pant? It had to be a very controlled environment for me to learn because early in my tests with retailers, they wouldn't let me touch the customer.
I didn't have any idea what was happening. It is customary law that if you're on the telephone buying something, they'll say, “Let's try a size ten or size twelve to make sure you're covered, and all that return and all that issue.”We had to create a controlled environment where we tell them what they can buy. They could experience it and then return it. We would talk to them about getting their final size. It's been a really hard learning, a long learning experience, and interesting in that it's somewhat complicated. The main difference in us and what people might call competition is two things. It's patterns, the sizing rules, and all the application of the fit in a product. It's an online tool to find your fit. The difference in me and what's going on out there is there are people out there may be doing shapes or are doing their own fit. There's people out there doing some algorithm to point you to something that might fit. The difference in mine is that I'm leading you to a pattern. Over there, they're leading you to a brand that might fit you. That's the piece that I’ve figured out that makes it focused. Once you're in that fit, we can ask you a few more questions so we know your top size and so forth, so there's a lot of nuances to that.
For this episode, I’m actually sponsoring it myself. With that, I want to share with you about my one-day business breakthrough intensive. Let’s face it, no matter what stage of business that we’re at, there are always areas that could use a little bit of outside perspective. Without which, they hold us back from our goals. That’s why the most successful people in the world have people that they turn to in order to optimize their resources and get unstuck fast. I’m Nicole Holland, host of the Business Building Rockstars Show. This is one of the things I love doing for clients is helping them get really clear on the underlying issue that is manifesting all kinds of funky stuff in their life so that they can get more productive, more profitable and more joyful as quickly as possible so they don’t have to spend time trying to figure it all out. I have a unique way of honing in really fast on what’s going on, and spitting out a complete road map, step by step to get out of that sticky stuff. That gum that’s just holding them back. Whether it’s processes or lead generation or conversion or any number of things, that is one of my innate gifts and how I serve my clients at my highest and best.
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I would love to talk a little bit more about digging into some of the challenges that you've overcome. You had a situation where it was one of these awareness that we all go through where it's like, “I know what I don't know and I know what I don't want to learn. I'm going to find somebody to hire to help take care of this part of my business, so that I can focus on my zone of genius.”I believe you had a situation like that and brought somebody in. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
It happens over and over again. I had a guy that I was talking to about being president, big guy in the industry. I picked up the phone and called a couple of his friends like, “We’re never going to do that. We're never going to happen.” They believe the people in the industry that's never going to happen. My vision is consumer centric. It has nothing to do with industry opinion. Change never comes from within an industry. When I left New York, I was on the cover of Wall Street Journal, I had licenses with some big companies. On the day I was on the cover, Bear Stearns went under. The writing was on the Wall and I couldn't raise money to own my brand. I had learned in my retail test that I couldn't go out there with an intel inside without a marketing budget because these big companies, they just copy. That's what they do. I came back, I found a great guy that was going to license us early on. He got excited, he quit his job, he spent six months doing a business plan, getting all ready, he goes back to New York. He talks to three or four people. He calls me one day and he says, ” I quit. I'm done.”
This is somebody you hired to be your CEO.
A big shot in New York City from big industry experience from top brands. He comes up here and talks to his friends and he calls me and says, “I'm done. I quit. You're never going to have your dream.”I said, “Watch me.” He's like, “You're unbelievable.”I said, “Yes, I am. I'm doing it for the women, not for your buddies. They're never going to get it.”I still have that same resistance in the industry. They're like, ”We have to do triple those skews.”They think because I used one style and three shapes to educate the world about Fit Logic, they think that's what it is. They don't understand that it's a further segmentation of how to do fit for every brand. My vision is for every brand to adopt a shape and make that. It was a really hard journey at that time. I decided to go direct to consumer, direct to the women. It's interesting because I know myself. l'm really frustrated with shopping. I'm a plus size woman, but Neiman's and Saks, they both closed on their plus size departments. Nordstrom is trying, but they really don't know who to target. If their average customer is 60, the designers are making clothes for 30-year-old or 20-year-olds. It's all over the place because the information isn't readily available for the designer.
Everything that I saw that was broken in the industry, I started trying to fix. I created an easy system where a woman can answer six questions and get a pant that fits out of the box. About 15% of those women are going to have to try a second pant, but at the end of the day, we do away with about 80% of return. It does make a difference in women's shopping. The whole idea of Little Black Pant is to get a woman in her fit, so that now as I license other brands, she doesn't have to try anything on anymore. That's the whole crux of it.
This shouldn't be not only Fit Logic, but brain logic. It should be this simple for people to live their life, but it’s not. It makes you such a disruptor.
The onus shouldn't be on us to have to try things on. It shouldn't be our problem and it still is. Even with all this technology out there, it's still our problem to answer questions and try on a bunch of stuff. That's still going on. It's my dream to do away with all that, do away with your size. Early on I didn't realize this. I did a little video when I was doing field trials early on. I was watching the video and I pieced it together. What I noticed was women thought it was their problem, that there was something wrong with their body. It was an a-ha moment for me. That video got me my retail test partners. They still weren't ready for it but they got excited because they could see women think there's something wrong with them.
I can speak from my own personal experience. I have a small frame. I always was “thin” but I always felt good in my body. I always felt healthy. There came a point in time in my life where my metabolism changed or my lifestyle changed or some thing’s changed. Talking about body positivity, I never felt bad per se. I never felt bad as a person. What I did find was I didn't like the way I looked in clothes anymore. I'm a one but I was a small one. Before I got to plus size, there are less things that I felt looked good on me. I would put things on and then I would feel okay. I'd see a picture and I'm like, “What was I thinking?”I didn't like the way I looked in clothes. I still liked myself, but I didn’t like the way I looked in clothes. That was a big challenge. I have so many clothes because I would buy things to try and make myself look good.
They like that you do that. After my retail test, I woke up on Sunday morning and I was on the cover of the business section of the New York Times. They had two stories. One story, a woman was trying on, she was like, “This works, but I wouldn't wear these pants because they're for my mother.”That was okay with me because it's not about the style, it's about the fit. The story said, “Clothes that fit the woman, not the store.”The story said that the industry likes to keep women confused so that they'll buy more clothes, that they were never going to do Fit Logic. I woke up on a Sunday morning, that's how I found out they weren't rolling my product out. On the newspaper. It was devastating for me.
How did you overcome that? Because you did. You bounced back and it’s like, “Here's what I'm going to do.”
Through the years, I had to let go of every material thing that I held dear. They said to me, “You're not looking after your daughter properly. She needs to go live with her daddy.”Everything that I held dear was taken away from me in one way or the other. I had to sell it or I slept on my friend's couches. I had a partner and she's a great woman. We were doing it together and she said, ”This is too hard. This is never going to happen. It's too much.”She was my investor, “You have my permission to quit and look after your daughter because that's what I'm going to do.” At that moment, I had to think, “What do I want to teach my daughter? Giving up and mediocrity or greatness?” To me greatness was going for my dream and teaching her that you can have whatever you want if you go for it. You have to put blinders on and you have to ignore the naysayers. What do they say about Steve Jobs? It took him two decades to become an overnight billionaire. He had the focus and the determination to live his dream and you have to do that.
What does Walt Whitman say? “Men and women lead lives of quiet desperation.” It's because they're selling out every day. They’re doing what they don't love. It's like the parable in the Bible about the lilies of the field. You're going to be clothed and you're going to be able to eat. Anything beyond that, you don't need to worry about because it's all going to be okay. I've learned that's true. I'm always taken care of somehow. I can’t tell you what it's been like. I have many investors who've helped me get here. They support me and stay with me. I know it's been difficult for them to wait. For optimists, we don't see time. We see it all right now. I would have never guessed it would take me this long to get here. I will say that it does work to stay, to have a vision, and to dedicate yourself to it, for it to become your life's work. At some point, I’ll probably sell it. I’ll be able to retire and take care of myself because I sure haven't put anything back, so I'm good with that. I wanted for women to feel good about themselves and watch how they feel when they feel good about themselves, when they don't have to think about, “There’s something wrong with me.”
It’s like, “I will sleep once I have changed the world.”Once this is implemented and women don't have to wonder and they can go get whatever brand. They are a two and whatever brand focuses on sizing for a two. Is that what I'm hearing?
I need them to adopt a shape and use my system to make clothing. I tried to do it through the government affiliate for the sizing. I couldn't affect anything. It's a licensed model, so the brand would pay me a little bit of everything that sells. They're spending about the same amount making product using fit models. All the returns, the wastes, the global carbon footprint, the dressing rooms, the hang back racks at the end of the sale or so forth. It saves time, it streamlines everything, it makes women feel good about themselves. It makes it easier for the brands because they're not always trying to separate out and solve the problem if a fit model gets sick or gets pregnant and they have to change the fit. How many times have you had something you love, then all of a sudden, the fit was different? That's what happens because nobody can hold the fit.
Once I find a brand of jeans that fits my body, I'm like, ”That's my brand.”
I know fit models that have tummy tucks. That's not a real body. The fit is only going to work if it's on a real body. Kim Kardashian and some of these girls have butt implants. They have a shape too, but they've added that big booty. They probably couldn't wear Fit Logic because they’ve added unnatural things. I'm not criticizing. I'm saying it's all about how the human body changes. We all change very methodically by shape.
Where can women go online to find out what their fit size is, what their Fit Logic size is, and to learn about Little Black Pant and order their own?
You go to LittleBlackPant.com, you pick your height, you pick a style, you answer five questions, and then we send you a pant.
Is this available outside of the United States?
We tested in Canada but it wasn't done properly so we had to pull back. I'm sure we'll be back there someday.
This is US only. What about APO? Can folks over in the military get theirs?
Not yet. I had to get Little Black Pant up and going. Now that it's licensed out, I can keep going and put that in different places.
Not only did you face people who didn't have your vision, there were objections to overcome. You say, “It doesn't matter what you say. I'm going keep on going because this is my dream, and this is my purpose.” In your industry, and probably in lots of industries, people do make judgment on physicality. You were met with a lot of resistance because you didn't look the part that was expected in the retail industry, is that right?
I will have to say yes. Maybe in the view of things here, fat, old, and from Texas. I had nothing going for me. I got to a place where I would walk into a meeting and I'd be sitting in a room of all size zero women and men, all dressed, and I would say, “I want you to not look at me as a fashionista. I want you to look at me as a scientist because what I’ve created is going to change everything about how retail works in the future around apparel.” They would listen to me then. It didn't help me that much because they didn't adopt it, but I got used to saying that. There's very much a stigma around it. I did have a meeting at Vogue and I had these little tiny things sitting around a conference table with me. At first, it was very distant. I got to have them stand up and turn around and I said, ”You're a shape one, you’re a shape two.” They were like, ”This is so personal.” I said, ”It is personal.” Your demos have nothing to do with your shapes. People think my demo is a woman who shops at Walmart and she lives in a trailer or she shops at Neiman's and she has a Mercedes. That's the way they develop clothes and it has nothing to do with our shapes.
As we gain weight, our shape changes according to how we gain weight or how we age. It's that scientific application that nobody's ever done before that further segments how people can look at. You'd be like having bras with just an A cup. What would you do? Or shoes in one size. The military men have a little bit of a standard because in civil war, they standardized fit to make military uniforms. You can see the neck width and the sleeve length. Women, we were all seamstresses. Either we can afford to have our clothes made or we made them at home. It wasn't until the ’30s when we were starting to work, that women had to address ready to wear. It was at that time that they started trying to standardize it. The standards were made on the hourglass shape, and that's only 14% of us. They had to let those go in 1983 and lift those and vanity sizing was born. From there, it's all over the place now.
I love what you're doing. I love who you are, bad-ass CEO, like, “I'm not taking anything and I'm not stopping until I reached the end, and then I'm going to retire.” Thank you so much for joining us.
- Fit Logic
- Little Black Pant
- Neiman Marcus
- NRF 2018
- Cricket’s LinkedIn
- Cricket’s Facebook
- @FitLogic Twitter
About Cricket Lee
Cricket Lee is an entrepreneur and inventor, particularly noted for creating Fitlogic, a world patented clothes fitting standard that includes size and shape applications. The technology was developed with more than 60,000 women's bodies and measurements. It was then refined through brick and mortar tests with big box retail (Nordstrom, QVC, Macys), online and designer boutiques. Consumer direct programs, customer service and global applications were then studied. Proof of concept was completed this past year with over 125,000 pants sold through direct to consumer house brand LittleBlackPant.
During her career, Lee has done research, product development and created marketing campaigns for British Airways, PriceWaterhouse, JCPenney, Ralph Lauren, Ford Models, Hanes, Warner Brothers, Ford Models, HSN and others. She created the first all natural bath, hair and skincare line and invented pet jewelry (mentored by Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus).
Lee holds 72 awards for creative excellence in advertising including a National Addy Award.
Thanks to Cardiff D. Hall, author of Tide Turners for supporting the Business Building Rockstars Show.