REPOST: How Stitch Fix Is Using Algorithmic Design To Become The Netflix Of Fashion

Algorithm-based technologies are rapidly dominating many aspects of life–from Internet searches and social networking activities to music streaming and watching movies. They have become so ubiquitous that even in ‘traditional’ and highly creative industries—such as fashion—they have proven to very useful. Algorithms and data science could be the future of designing garments. Here are some interesting insights from FastCo Design:

 

Data science is baked into the online fashion brand.

Algorithms control many elements of our lives: the music we hear, the shows we watch, the stories we read, and even how we vote. They’ve been used most commonly to uncover consumers’ preferences and make recommendations, but now brands are starting to integrate them into the products themselves.

Stitch Fix, an online apparel retailer, thinks algorithms are the future of designing garments and has begun to bring these items to market. (In her 2017 report, trend forecaster Mary Meeker of the venture capital company Kleiner Perkins mentioned Stitch Fix’s algorithmic design approach as an e-commerce “aha.”) But will this strategy yield better things, or will it just lead to the normcorization of design?

“[Our customers] come to us because they don’t want to go shopping,” Eric Colson, Stitch Fix’s chief algorithm officer and head of the company’s 75-person data team, says. “Five years from now, people will say, ‘Remember when we had to wander malls and find our own things? That’s crazy!’”

Since its founding in 2011, Stitch Fix has slowly been gaining steam and has grown to over 5,700 employees, has been profitable since 2014, and generated $730 million in revenue last year.

Here’s how Stitch Fix normally works: Customers join the site, fill out a detailed questionnaire about their size, how they like their clothing to fit, what their style is like, what colors they love and loathe, and how often they dress for certain occasions (like work, events, dates, etc.). Last year, the company introduced a Pinterest integration that lets the company learn more about what customers want. Users can create boards of images they like–which can come from any source–and algorithms analyze the assortment and feed that information into a customer’s profile. Using all that data, an algorithm then mines Stitch Fix’s inventory to find pieces that match their profile.

 

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