Choosy marries AI and social tagging to disrupt fast fashion

Discussion
Photo: Choosy
May 22, 2018
Tom Ryan

Choosy, a start-up that just raised $5.4 million in seed funding, claims to have developed an AI-driven platform that brings the most talked-about styles worn by celebrities and social media influencers to doorsteps within weeks.

Officially launching in July, Choosy’s team of human Style Scouts coupled with advanced artificial intelligence technology will identify the hottest trends across platforms such as Instagram, seeking out such comments as “Where can I buy.” Consumers can also use the hashtag #GetChoosy on style photos to help Choosy’s algorithms spot trends.

The top 10 trending women’s apparel fashions are identified each week. Users then buy their favorites, which are manufactured in-house and delivered to doorsteps in as little as two weeks. A test run earlier this year that identified street looks inspired by supermodel sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid sold out within two hours.

“Being an active Instagram user myself, it was impossible to ignore the most frequently asked question posed time and time again on fashion posts: ‘Where can I buy this?,’” said Jessie Zeng, CEO and co-founder, in a statement. “I came to the realization that most influencer and celebrity outfits were curated by a team of stylists sourcing from global luxury brands and were completely unaffordable for most people.”

Manufacturing items to order reduces inventory risk for Choosy. Cost savings come from eliminating the middlemen in the supply chain and the founders’ deep relationships with manufacturers in China. The family of Ms. Zeng, a Hong Kong native and former Citigroup trader, own one of the largest textile manufacturing companies in China. Choosy’s agile supply chain allows it to produce garments within 48 hours of them trending online.

Fast fashion is becoming faster. A May 2017 report from Fung Global Retail & Technology found upstarts, including Boohoo.com, ASOS and Missguided, producing merchandise in two to four weeks, compared to five weeks for Zara and H&M and the six- to nine-month cycle for traditional retailers.

But Choosy is expected to stand out for its ability to quickly react to trends. Ms. Zeng told Racked.com, “The future of social commerce is about producing trends in real time, and it has to include users requesting the item too.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of an on-demand manufacturing model such as Choosy linked to style trends created overnight by celebrities or other social icons? Which aspects of Choosy’s model seem doable and which seem more challenging to deliver on?

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Braintrust
" The #GetChoosy Instagram algorithm is genius because it gives customers a say in the manufacturing process."
"This is a really interesting concept and perhaps a glimpse at the retail of the future. I think it’s a great application for AI..."
"My hope is that creating clothes based on actual real-time demand, versus predicted demand, ultimately creates less exploitation and waste."

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13 Comments on "Choosy marries AI and social tagging to disrupt fast fashion"


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Jasmine Glasheen
Staff

The #GetChoosy Instagram algorithm is genius because it gives customers a say in the manufacturing process. This is a great way for Choosy to make a name for itself with social selling.

This on-demand manufacturing model minimizes unsold inventory which is good for the environment and for Choosy’s sales margins. It’s exciting to see smarter, more responsive production methods like this one popping up in fashion. I hope to see more brands get on board!

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

On-demand production and fast turnaround can take sweat shops to new levels of value, or spawn new producers. The potential for the custom fitting of designs adds a new level of fashion service. This all sounds good, but Choosy seems to be stepping into the counterfeit apparel business. I would not place much hope in a business model based on envy, lust and greed but, then again, it has served others well.

Ed Dunn
Guest
9 months 27 days ago

I have to agree with the glorified sweatshop model. I did not read anything different about Choosy from any sweatshop in New York or Los Angeles quickly putting out “likeness” apparel after the Oscars or Fashion Week. Except a sweatshop in New York or Los Angeles can deliver faster to market than a plant in China.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

For Choosy and Ms. Zeng, this is a no-brainer! Evidenced by $5.4 million in seed funding. Instagram and Human Style Scouts know what styles to pick. It has no inventory, vast, low-cost manufacturing capabilities, small one-time runs using on-hand fabrication and owning the factory. And clout to boot! The perfect setup. Is this doable for others? It’s unlikely without the competitive advantages of Ms. Zeng.

Joanna Rutter
BrainTrust
9 months 27 days ago

I’m most interested in how using user requests to quickly generate product on-demand can be done ethically and create less waste than the process I usually associate with the term “fast fashion.” Yes, this reduces inventory risk. But does creating smaller batches of custom pieces responding to immediate trends create less waste by actually responding to consumer interests in real time (versus mass-production in quick batches and leftovers go to the landfill)? Or will this manufacturing process be just as rife with labor and environmental ethical issues as other fast fashion practices? How fast will fast fashion have to go before its practices cause it to break down? My hope is that creating clothes based on actual real-time demand, versus predicted demand, ultimately creates less exploitation and waste. Time will tell.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

This is a fantastic way for consumers to capture the very latest fashion trends and have them in their closets in a quick manner. I’d bet there will be other categories that can be leveraged by a similar shortening of the production pipeline to speed up the availability of on-trend merchandise.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

This is a really interesting concept and perhaps a glimpse at the retail of the future. I think it’s a great application for AI, but also combining it with human input via hashtags helps to keep the AI on the right path and helps it learn more about what customers want. For customers the idea of seeing something they like on Instagram and having it delivered to their door, made-to-order, in just a few weeks is a very attractive prospect. The nature of trends is that people don’t want to wait a long time for pieces that tap into them — Choosy might be one of the most fully rounded ideas for reducing that gap.

Kevin Simonson
Guest

Good for them! It’s no surprise this model is getting press. The direct-to-consumer model provides more engagement, more control, more margin and more data.

D2C-first companies have blazed the path for success. More companies will follow suit I imagine.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

Brilliant. Secrets-shhh employs a similar model in jewelry to replicate jewelry that stars wear on the red carpet. With CAD technology and the future of 3D printing, these possibilities are endless in apparel as well.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Great idea, because it is based on customer interest and has a very quick response. The industry was rocked by Zara and H&M’s five week response and Choosy is now raising the bar for them. Responding to customer preferences and having an agreement with some retailers to purchase a specific amount of that inventory reduces risk for Choosy and increases the image of the retailer as being fashion forward and on trend.

Thomas Andersson
Guest
9 months 27 days ago

The strength of Boohoo and Missguided are that they employ a large domestic production operation. As with Choosy, the founders of Boohoo and Missguided have existing strong relationships in the rag trade from having worked as producers for other brands such as Topshop, etc. in the past.

Despite its connections, Choosy may struggle with MOQs and at what point they elect to manufacture a piece and in what colour/size specs.

Mike Osorio
BrainTrust

StitchFix became a huge success by being the first to commercialize on a large scale the concept of marrying AI with human stylists. Their genius is in sourcing brands (and creating their own) which the stylists can match with the AI data analytics, creating a very sticky customer relationship by giving them items that they’ll likely love.

Choosy now takes this into the fast fashion category by producing looks that once again are matched using the combination of AI and human Style Scouts. Brilliant.

I don’t see this creating a worsening “sweat shop” scenario or fraudulent copies as some suggest. And I agree with the potential for this to reduce waste and exploitation. It will be fun to watch!

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Choosy is taking the Zara business model to the next level by designing and producing garments (in as little as two weeks) that are inspired by styles worn by celebrities. Zara responds quickly to feedback from its store managers around the world, who feed daily updates to a 600-strong design team in Spain on what is selling and what isn’t, which drives new style designs that are refreshed every two weeks.

What is unique with Choosy’s model is that everyday consumers can now wear the same styles as their favorite celebrities as soon as a couple weeks after they spot a garment they admire. The on-demand production approach eliminates some of the biggest costs for apparel retailers: markdowns and inventory write-offs. The most challenging aspect for Choosy to execute will be to design and produce each new style within 48 hours. This is a tall order. If they can keep up with demand and execute within the promised delivery times, they could be wildly successful.

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Braintrust
" The #GetChoosy Instagram algorithm is genius because it gives customers a say in the manufacturing process."
"This is a really interesting concept and perhaps a glimpse at the retail of the future. I think it’s a great application for AI..."
"My hope is that creating clothes based on actual real-time demand, versus predicted demand, ultimately creates less exploitation and waste."

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