Retail

Ex-Stitch Fix COO Says Yes To AI-Powered Fashion

fashion

Former Stitch Fix COO Julie Bornstein is behind a new startup announced earlier this week called The Yes. Launched with ex-Google technical guru Amit Aggarwal, the women’s fashion site is billed with no less an ambition than “a next gen shopping experience poised to redefine the architecture of e-commerce and the way people buy.”

“Past data has indicated that once habits shift, they shift for good,” Bornstein told PYMNTS. “We are now seeing women fashion shoppers get more comfortable buying online, and with The Yes and other new apps and services, it gets easier and more fun. The trend to buy online has continued to grow every year since 2000 but we are clearly seeing the acceleration of that trend. There is also the stark reality that many physical stores will close and reduce the options available which will also be a more permanent reality that will fuel eCommerce growth in fashion. That said, I don’t think stores will ever go away permanently, and I sure hope they don’t, shopping is my favorite form of entertainment. I do think the channel shift, however, will be notable.”

The Yes has already raised $30 million pre-launch. It will place artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) front and center. The company says it will use ML to encode fashion items and create a proprietary algorithm top create a unique experience for each user. It claims to build a store for each consumer that automatically adapts the shopping experience each time the user visits.

The algorithm is built by asking the user simple yes or no questions. It then responds with a personalized home feed with recommended brands, themes and trends. The app also features “smart search” which filters style and brand preferences. Other key features include a personal daily refreshed feed of new products, one-tap buying in-app, and automatic size recommendations. At launch, The Yes will carry more than 150 leading brands including Ralph Lauren Collection, Altuzarra, Erdem, Everlane, La Ligne, Rosie Assoulin, STAUD, Balenciaga, Acne Studios, Ganni, Tabitha Simmons, FRAME and Vince. When a brand integrates with the site its full catalog is automatically loaded for encoding by the ML algorithm.

Bornstein is acutely aware that the launch comes during uncertain times. Due to the pandemic the company postponed launch from earlier in the year to better understand the direction of the eCommerce landscape, the needs of brands and ultimately how consumers will interact with fashion.

“The initial opportunity to build The Yes resulted from the fact that shopping has become overwhelming,” she says. “There are so many websites with so many items and the onus is on the shopper to figure out how to find the needle in the haystack. Technology has made huge advancements and yet eCommerce has stayed relatively stagnant over the last 20 years. That is what The Yes solves — the search and discovery problem of shopping for fashion online. Then this pandemic hit. And the need to shop online became an imperative with stores closed. In addition, brands were losing their primary channel of distribution. While we would never choose to launch during a pandemic, the consumer and brand need only made our app more relevant.”

“With many retailers filing for bankruptcy, canceling orders and closing stores, The Yes is now a much-needed resource for brands and a new way to engage with consumers,” said the company in a statement. “The app allows brands to diversify their distribution channels at a time when physical retail is unable to operate and wholesale partners are uncertain. The Yes provides a unique platform that can keep brands’ existing customers shopping and acquire a new audience. As importantly, The Yes makes shopping online easier for consumers, as the value of shopping in person, selecting the right size and finding the right items for you, becomes harder to access.”

The Yes is donating a dollar per download to Good+Foundation during the first month of launch. Good+Foundation is a nonprofit that works to dismantle multi-generational poverty by “pairing tangible goods with innovative services for low-income fathers, mothers and caregivers, creating an upward trajectory for the whole family.” Good+ is partnering with frontline workers across the country to get donations to families in need.

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