How This App is Building Body Confidence Through Fashion Intel


How many times have you been shopping, and let your mood or feelings get in the way of what, retrospectively, would have been a good buy?

Women are their own worst enemies when it comes to deciding what to wear - whether it's formal wear or gym gear, and this is mostly an issue of letting body confidence in between you and a good outfit.

With intimate knowledge of these decisions, and a lifetime's worth of research, Purva Gupta came up with an idea for an app that would help women utilize their emotions when buying. It would build an algorithm based on body positivity rather than body issues in order to promote body confidence and a happier shopping experience.

Gupta finalized her decision to build the app after interviewing tonnes of women (in over 10,000 hours worth of interview) on the street about their bodies and what makes the decision for them when buying clothes - and it was mostly, their faults, rather than their assets.

And therein, Lily was born.

Gupta's innovation coupled with her knowledge of women's insecurities have proved a winning combination, and since its launch, Lily has made waves in the tech and fashion worlds. Techies are heralding it as an app that "drives behavior never seen in the offline world" because Lily never stops working. It logs all searches and items clicked on to collate a broad view of what the user wants or likes, and forms opinions based on these results. It's like the best friend that comes shopping with you every time, but remembers exactly the shapes, colors, lengths and all other specifications you like.

Lily won Startup Conference's Best Startup award in Silicon Vally back in May and may well be 2017's most interesting invention for women, simply for its mission to promote self-esteem and body confidence above all else. It's currently working with a few curated retailers, ASOS among them, and hopes to keep expanding and adding different sources for all the lovely ladies of the Lily world. SWAAY spoke with Gupta about how her app can affect change for women's body confidence in a positive and empowering way.

Purva Gupta at Startup Conference

How does the app work?

To begin with, the app asks users a few quick questions about body type, style preferences and how they perceive their body- one example of a question Lily asks: “How would you describe your décolleté (that's French for chest — I'm very worldly!)?" Then it recommends clothes, as per what the user is looking for, from their favorite stores that will flatter their body & perceptions. With every like/dislike of the user, Lily learns and makes the next set of recommendations better. The level of detail that Lily understands, is almost impossible for a human stylist to understand from hundreds and thousands of products people browse on Lily. Lily is able to do so because our technology enables us to understand attributes in depth about every single item of clothing available on Lily.

Yet, Lily prides herself in making the woman understand how every single item of clothing recommended to her by Lily flatters her individual body type and minute details she shared with Lily, just like how a great human stylist would do. Yes, every single item, in real-time.

How is your app enabling women to feel better about themselves, more empowered?

Girls start recognizing themselves in the mirror at the age of two and from that time on, they start disliking parts of their body. In their teen years, they start developing perceptions about their body and making judgments about it (thighs, tummy etc.) -- usually negative -- relative to the physical appearance of their moms, friends and celebrities. As young adults, these translate into serious insecurities like, “I'm fat," “I'm not good enough," or “I'm less than others." To the effect that women in the US have 13 negative thoughts about their body every single day! Think about that. That's nearly 1 negative thought for every waking hour. Recent study by Dove & UN shows that 8 out of 10 girls with low-self esteem choose not to do something because they feel they don't look good enough.

It doesn't matter how these girls actually look -- because it's all about how they THINK they look! Their perception becomes their reality because their mind has been cultivating and reinforcing these negative self-images since a very young age.

At Lily, the definition of emotion we use is the perception gap between reality & expectation. When the gap is positive, there is confidence and when the gap is negative, there is insecurity. In the first few minutes of a user's interaction with Lily, we try to understand where the perception gaps lie for every part of the user's body. Lily asks how the user feels about her body — what parts she likes to accentuate and which ones she'd prefer to minimize — and then uses a complex matching algorithm to make recommendations.

"The power of this idea lies in the mix of science and organically ingraining positivity in their mindset every day."

-Purva Gupta

How is Lily empowering women with trends this summer?

Lily understands everybody type, every minute detail she learns from the user and uses it to find clothes that will truly flatter the user's unique body and perceptions about her.

Ruffles, a (romantic summer) trend that adds volume and shape by highlighting specific parts of the body to create balanced proportions.

Oversized sleeves and romantic statement sleeves are very on trend for summer allowing women to de-emphasize their arms without wearing too much fabric.

Off-the-shoulder tops are one of the hottest trends too for someone de-emphasizing their arms and shoulders.

The relaxed fit is also very on trend which helps in camouflaging any extra pounds. Crochet/embroidered fabrics are on trend for summer with thicker fabric which is not as revealing.

And if you're still (inexplicably) unsure about downloading the app, head on over to their Twitter for some expert advice about body shapes, and what to wear for you this fine summer.


7min read

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.

A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization ( publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.