Stitch Fix is changing the way that women shop for clothes.
Customers of the four-year-old startup never have to step foot inside a store or spend time browsing for clothes on the internet.
Instead, Stitch Fix stylists send them clothes and accessories each month according to their body types and style preferences.
Customers can try on the items at home, then decide whether to keep them or send them back.
Women rave about the service, so I decided to try it out.
Here’s how it works.
First, I filled out an extensive “Style Profile,” which is a survey of my body type, style preferences and budget. The questions involved everything from my height and weight to how often I go out on dates, which jewelry tones I like, and how I prefer my clothes to fit each part of my body.
I was also asked to rate clothing styles (like those pictured below) on a scale of love to hate and to select my favourite and least favourite colours and patterns.
The survey was so involved that it felt like I was filling out an online dating profile. But it made me feel pretty confident that my stylist would succeed in finding at least a few items that I would buy.
At the end of the survey, I was asked to share a Pinterest board of styles I like, as well as links to my social media profiles. (I opted out of this, even though it would have helped my stylist).
I picked a shipment date and paid a $US20 styling fee, which would be refunded if I kept at least one item from my “Fix.” One week later, my box of mysteries arrived.
Inside the box I found a pair of grey jeans ($US88), a crochet scarf ($US34), a slouchy red shirt ($US58), a light jacket ($US78) and a black v-neck dress ($US88). There was also a pre-paid mailing bag for returning unwanted items and a note from my stylist, along with photos of different ways to style each of the items she selected.
Right away, I knew I liked the style of all the items.
But after trying them on, I was a little disappointed. The shirt was too long for my petite frame and the dress was made of a thin material that felt cheap and poorly made.
But I loved the pants and the jacket (shown below), and decided to keep both of those.
Every “Fix” comes with five items and if you keep all five, you get a 25% discount on the entire order.
When I finished trying everything on, I logged on to the Stitch Fix website to check out. I selected the items that I would be returning and provided feedback for each item in my order.
The company uses that feedback to better inform an algorithm that helps stylists select items for me and customers similar to me, Stitch Fix founder and CEO Katrina Lake later told me.
“The algorithm will often be better than a stylist in determining what a customer will like,” Lake said.
The technology understands written feedback, in addition to rating systems.
“Our systems need to recommend the maternity line when she says she’s in her ‘third trimester,’ identify a medical professional when she writes that she ‘used to wear scrubs to work,’ and distill ‘taking a trip’ into a Fix for vacation clothing,” writes Stitch Fix’s Chris Moody in a blog post on how the technology works.
The amount of data that Stitch Fix collects on customers is the envy of the entire retail industry.
Stitch Fix’s buyers, who purchase the clothing wholesale from brands, also benefit from the algorithm.
“Buyers love working with us,” Lake said. “In traditional retail, stores know that some things sell and some things don’t, but they don’t know why. In our model we actually know why. If we have a sweater that doesn’t work, for example, we can isolate whether [the problem] was the colour, fit, or fabric.”
Stitch Fix sources its clothing and accessories from more then 200 brands, six of which are exclusive to the company. The average price point is $US55.
The company has more than 1,000 stylists who primarily work from home and the company’s average customer is between the ages of 25 and 40.
Stitch Fix divulges little information on its revenue, but a source told re/code in June of last year that the company was nearing a $US150 million annual revenue run rate. The company has raised more than $US46 million in funding so far.
The company hasn’t said how many customers it has, but women appear to love it.
Here’s a sampling of testimonials from Twitter:
Excited for my upcoming @stitchfix shipment!!! Looking forward to see what my stylist picks out next
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