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AI. It’s the buzzword on everyone’s lips. Whatever industry you operate in, there’s intense speculation about how it will affect your life and your business  and retail is no exception. Lucy Mowatt speaks to Intelistyle’s Head of Business Development, Sophie Burrowes, about how the company’s technology will revolutionise fashion – and our wardrobes.

Billing itself as ‘passionate about the intersection of fashion and Artificial Intelligence’, Intelistyle is only a year-and-a-half old, but it has already seen rapid growth.

That’s hardly surprising, given how compelling the nature of its offering is.

In a nutshell, the start-up has built an app that allows users to access personalised style advice from AI stylist, Jamie. She recommends items and outfits based on user profiles, image uploads and preferences – and the AI also learns the user’s tastes and style over time. 

“The app launched in December and it’s been a growth period for us ever since,” says Sophie. “The core team is based in London with people working with us in the US and eastern Europe. It’s quite global. The founders are actually in Canada right now for Techstars, one of the top accelerators in the world. It’s really exciting – it’s the first AI accelerator in Montreal.” 

Sophie herself joined the business in February 2018. Hailing from New Zealand, she has a degree in fashion design and launched her own fashion label, which was stocked by Topshop. 

“My role initially came about because I noticed they didn’t have anyone with a fashion history in the start-up,” she says. “I was brought on as a business development and fashion consultant. Initially, my role was to work with the Machine Learning tea to provide styling expertise and human input to the process to produce results that outperform academic research.” 

How does AI provide fashion advice? 

Intelistyle Fashion AI profile builderWhen you sign up to the Intelistyle app you create a profile, which is a record of your hair colour, eye colour and your body shape. From there the AI, Jamie, takes over. 

Intelistyle creates a profile and filters out anything that won’t work for you. The AI distils the essence of style by looking at fashion photography and then blends that knowledge with what it knows about you to provide personal recommendations. When you start browsing items in the app, it has picked colours and items that suit you.” 

The app also allows you to buy directly from retailers for a seamless experience, so you can keep track of your wardrobe. 

“It doesn’t just consider the products, but how they go together to create outfits. For instance, skinny jeans may not suit you, but you can wear skinny jeans if you wear a loose, longer-line top over them. Or high-waisted jeans may look good on you, so you’d wear them with a crop-top.”  Sophie is keen to point out that the app can go much further than this too, taking into account items that you already own.  

 

Wardrobe revolution 

“One of the advantages we have is that you can upload your own wardrobe to the app. You can then receive outfit recommendations for your own clothes. Our technology works with user-generated photography, various lighting conditions and backgrounds helping bridge the gap between your existing and new clothes.”

Our technology works with user-generated photography 

She goes on to describe a situation that many of us are familiar with: thinking you have nothing to wear, even though you have a wardrobe full of clothes.  

“If you take pictures of your own clothes it makes you think: ‘Oh yeah, I could wear this. That would work’. But if you get to the point where you don’t want to take a photo of something then you’re probably not going to wear it at all.” 

As a result, there is a sustainability benefit for the fashion sector, which is a key driver for Intelistyle.  

“I saw a lot of waste during my time working with the high street,” Sophie states. “One of the great things about Intelistyle is that we focus on sustainability, helping people make better decisions about what they’re purchasing. It makes you think about whether you need an item, whether it will suit you and whether you would wear it. Every little bit helps with sustainability.” 

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Talking tech 

Without getting too technical, the development of Jamie, the AI, is key to Intelistyle’s offering – which Sophie was a key part of. 

“Training the AI took a few months,” Sophie laughs. “It also gets regularly updated following the latest trends. We had to work and test through a lot of details to customise results to different body types. 

“Basically, it’s like Spotify for fashion, so the more that you interact with outfits or garments, the more it learns your style; it will be able to suggest more outfits for you the more you interact with it.    

It’s like Spotify for fashion, so the more that you interact with outfits or garments, the more it learns your style

“It’s a constant process. And it’s always getting smarter. We’re always working on the latest version of the AI. We recently launched a calendar so you can plan your outfits. If you have a holiday coming up, or fashion week, or a weekend away, you can go into your outfits and edit them, create new outfits if you want, and plot them on the calendar. From there, you can see how many times you’ve worn it and you can get access to stats on the outfits. It can tell you what occasion you were wearing it for, as well as the weather, so you can also search via occasion and weather as well. 

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International appeal 

Intelistyle’s users so far are split between the UK and US, which is an expanding market for the company.  

“We have naturally grown there,” Sophie explains. “One of the reasons we started the company is that one in two people don’t know what to wear and are looking for styling advice. However, that’s really expensive, so people are searching the app store for advice and we pop up.  

“An element of it is also a numbers game. There are so many people in the US; it’s such a large country and style varies between the states. The AI gives personalised results, so if someone else’s style is different from yours, it doesn’t matter – you’ve got your own styling advice.” 

The AI gives personalised results, so if someone else’s style is different from yours, it doesn’t matter

Which is all great from an end-user’s perspective, but what about retailers?  

There are a lot of benefits, says Sophie: “We work with retailers allowing customers who visit their own website to receive a styling advice. So, if you go onto a fashion retailer’s website and you’re looking at a top, you can see what you can wear it with. This is currently done by a human stylist. It takes retailers a long time to put outfits together for their entire stock, but Intelistyle can scale this process.” 

But the benefits are not exclusive to the digital space. While the app is naturally suited to online businesses, there are real-world applications, with huge potential benefits for the high street. For example, a user can walk into a store, take a photo of their top and instantly receive outfit recommendations from items in stock.  

There are also data benefits, allowing for deeper analysis into sales trends and shopping habits. It may show that customers are combining items in ways that the company hadn’t considered.   

“If you’re putting together mannequins, you can reflect how shoppers want to wear your product. 

“Bricks and mortar retailers are really struggling to find out more about their customers. Surveys and time-consuming market research is all they have. Online it’s a lot easier to see these things; you get demographics and you get repeat visits where you can track a lot of this, but in store, it’s difficult for retailers to do that successfully. Intelistyle bridges the gap.” 

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The future of fashion retailers 

Working for such an innovative start-up, Sophie has clear ideas about the future of retail.  

“Online is king right now, but bricks and mortar will change with the focus shifting more towards distinctive retail experiences,” she says. “I don’t think physical stores should be worried – on the contrary, this is creating huge opportunities in the offline space.  

“They need to act faster and be more innovative. It’s always the innovators that come out on top. If you’re not searching for the next big thing, then you will be left behind.”  

 

Over to you

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