Israel Museum uses app to bring old clothes alive at fashion exhibit

Tel Aviv startup Zeekit says its technology, used for online shopping, is a perfect fit for museum visitors curious to see how the fashion of yesteryear would suit them today

Close up of Yael Vizel "wearing" an article of clothing from the Decoding Israeli Dress exhibition, on the Zeekit app; July 31, 2018 (Ariella Gentin)
Close up of Yael Vizel "wearing" an article of clothing from the Decoding Israeli Dress exhibition, on the Zeekit app; July 31, 2018 (Ariella Gentin)

The Israel Museum’s fashion exhibit is bringing century-old clothing back to life with an app that allows users to virtually try on items featured in the gallery.

Zeekit, a Tel Aviv-based company founded in 2013 by Yael Vizel, Alon Kristal and Nir Appleboim, has developed an app for online shopping that allows users to see what various articles of clothing look like on their bodies.

Users take a picture of themselves, and once it’s been processed by the app, which takes about five minutes, they can “try on” clothing options and see how they look. If they like how a piece of clothing looks on the image, they can purchase it through the app.

On Tuesday, Zeekit installed its technology, freshly adapted, at the Israel Museum’s Decoding Israeli Dress exhibition in Jerusalem. The Decoding Israeli Dress exhibition explores how a century of Israeli fashion has been affected by religion, the land, and historical circumstance. It will be open until April 29, 2019.

The inverted runway of ‘Fashion Statement; Decoding Israeli Dress’ exhibit at the Israel Museum, which opened June 13, 2018 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

At the front of the exhibition, posters on the wall tell visitors to download Zeekit onto their phones and take a picture of themselves. Then at each section, QR codes can be scanned to reveal how any of the articles of clothing in that section would look on them.

“Fashion was not made to be shown on pedestals. It was meant to be shown on real people,” said Noga Eliash-Zalmanovich, one of the curators of the exhibition. The Zeekit app will be able to help “bridge this gap” within the exhibition, she said.

Israel Museum visitor Ezra Cohen ‘wearing’ an article of clothing from the at Decoding Israeli Dress exhibition on the Zeekit app; July 31, 2018 (Ariella Gentin)

Before founding Zeekit, CEO Vizel and vice president of research and development Appleboim worked in a company that developed technology for military-related systems. There, they spent time working on mapping and topography technologies.

The virtual dress-up technology works in a similar way. The app essentially “maps the topography” of the user’s body by taking each segment of the user’s image and calculating what each segment would look like in 3D. The same process is done for the articles of clothing. Then, the pieces of clothing are matched onto the equivalent parts of the user’s body and sized to the user’s dimensions, according to the Zeekit website.

“We got inspiration from looking at the human body as if it is a topography picture.” said Vizel.

Outside of the Israel Museum, Zeekit has partnered with big brands such as Amazon, H&M and Nordstrom, users have a full array of clothing options to choose from when shopping on the app.

Yael Vizel, left, testing out the Zeekit app with clothing in the Decoding Israeli Dress exhibition, on July 31, 2018 (Ariella Gentin)

The company promises to “revolutionize e-commerce,” said Vizel, because users won’t have to return clothing ordered online that doesn’t look right when they try it on in person.

Clothing companies around the world have begun to incorporate the technology for other purposes. ASOS, for example, uses Zeekit to spare itself the expense and effort of photo shoots.

“Catalog companies and retailers don’t have to create a photo shoot for all of the clothing items,” explained Vizel, because they can just send pictures of the items to Zeekit and the company can dress the models virtually.

“Many pictures that you see of models wearing clothing items, are actually models who were only wearing underwear, and we dressed them up virtually,” Vizel added.

Vizel, Kristal, and Appleboim were excited about adapting their technology for the needs of the museum.

“When the museum approached us with the idea to integrate our AR (augmented reality) technology into the exhibition, we thought it was a great idea, because it really connects the present, the past, and the future. You can see yourself — right now, here — virtually dressed up with items that represent periods from 40 or 60 or 100 years ago. And this futuristic technology is developed in Israel. So everything, including the technology, represents the road-map of fashion in Israel,” said Vizel.

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