If Cher’s “Clueless” closet, fashion bloggers’ shoppable posts and the long-defunct Lucky magazine all got together on one platform for fashionistas to find their fodder, the result would likely be Fashmates.
The AI-powered start-up platform is aiming to shift brands from selling products to selling looks, empowering virtual stylists to make their outfits shoppable and ramping up discovery for consumers.
The result, according to the San Francisco Bay Area-based company that secured $3 million from Indian media conglomerate The Times Group to launch in the country earlier this year, is a fourfold increase in product discovery for brands and retailers, a threefold increase in engagement, 32 percent bigger basket size and a 46 percent decrease in shipping costs thanks to more products arriving to the customer at once.
Already, Nordstrom, Gap and Uniqlo are among those retailers employing Fashmates technology.
“We are creating value for all players in the ecosystem,” Fashmates founder and chief executive officer Harish Ramchandani told WWD. “We have been playing as a startup until now, but this year it’s hockey stick growth we’re expecting.”
Here’s how Fashmates — whose name is a play on fashion plus mates, capitalizing on the social aspect of fashion that has been lost over the years as mall trips morphed into site scrolling — works on the stylist to consumer side. Essentially, it’s a social fashion app, or an Instagram of sorts that’s only focused on fashion, according to the founder.
“Every piece of content there is shoppable,” Ramchandani explained. “We believe your unique style has the power to transform other people so we are connecting you to the person who has a similar style around the world so you can inspire each other through your looks and style. And then through the process, you can shop.”
Fashmates’ pool of more than 200,000 human stylists around the world create magazine spread-like looks, or fancied-up flatlays that appear more like mood boards, and users who follow them can shop the looks. (For now, clicking on an item redirects the shopper to the respective brand or retailer, but Fashmates has plans to launch its own checkout process “this year” to further facilitate a seamless experience.)
“Personalized styling is disrupting the fashion industry. You can see brands and retailers are adopting this look-based approach,” Ramchandani said. “Today’s e-commerce is mostly product-driven: you search for a product, you buy a product. What we are going after is look-based commerce: instead of buying one product, you buy an entire look.”
Stylists on the platform — who are paid affiliate commissions for sales they help drive — create a new look every minute, pulling from their favorite brands around the world, according to Ramchandani, and they’re creating for upcoming occasions (summer nuptials, holiday parties, etc.).
“So we already have insights about what’s coming next, what’s happening in the market, what’s trending and so on,” Ramchandani said.
On the consumer side, the company has data on what shoppers are clicking on the most, what categories are most popular and what price points they’re spending at. “And through that process we are collecting a lot of style data, over 100 million style data points that we have which are original to Fashmates….And with that we have developed a very advanced AI stylist that can auto-create the looks, the styled outfits and also personalize…from the data that we already have generated on this platform.”
Where the Cher’s closet parallel comes in is with Fashmates’ pro-styling service, where consumers can hire a stylist to create outfits for them based on what’s for sale around the world, or they can create looks for clients based on flatlays of the clothes those clients have in their own closets and save them to their profiles to return to at will (possibly even an upgrade from what the lead character had in “Clueless,” since she had digital visibility of everything in her closet but still had to do the work of matching and choosing an outfit).
For brands and retailers, Fashmates functions in two ways: either as an affiliate program or like a styling service that can be incorporated into their existing websites to turn their own products into shoppable looks.
“We have affiliate programs for them so they can come and join our program and we take all their inventories, all their products, all categories and put it on Fashmates. So we are sending them traffic and sending them transactions,” Ramchandani explained. “But the more exciting thing is being able to provide styling services to their customers on their own website.”
With the latter, Fashmates takes a brand’s products through what the founder calls “a styling engine,” essentially, a combo of human stylist plus AI stylist plus amassed data to create thousands of shoppable looks they can add to their own sites. Fashmates can also create style profiles for customers who take a quiz to outline their style preferences and serve up looks accordingly.
“We have a lot of partnerships and integrations so that brands and retailers don’t have to do anything. We are automatically integrated,” Ramchandani said. “If any brand or retailer wants looks to be shown on their own website, we can give them a single piece of code that will allow it to show all the outfits on their platforms so their technical team doesn’t need to be involved. It’s just one to three days and we can go to market with them.”
Clicking on a dress at Nordstrom, for example, shows the standard product info and images, and beneath that, a “Style Ideas for This Item” section features seven looks for that dress — including shoes, jewelry, handbags and a cardigan to consider changing seasons — and some of the retailer’s in-house stylists are using Fashmates’ Style Creator software to create the looks.
And brands are using the platform to suit their individual needs.
Uniqlo, which has been working with Fashmates, wanted just the technology for the style editor to incorporate into its site, but had its own in-house styling team create the looks rather than having Fashmates do it.
“Some brands are asking, ‘can you provide the styling services similar to Stitch Fix, like box subscription services to my customers so anybody can come to my website…and you the stylist will put together five items for the box and we will send it from our website?’ I said, ‘why not?’” Ramchandani noted. “Our core is the expertise around the styling and we can put it into many different ways.”
The aim is to bring back the experiential side of shopping while helping brands gain the discovery that’s still not quite the same as physical shopping. Fashion, as Ramchandani noted, is an industry that can still be much more challenging to shop virtually than others. Often people don’t know what they want, which can make searching for it a near-impossible feat.
“I want a red dress, for example, but if I search ‘red dress’ on Amazon, I’ll see literally thousands of red dresses, I don’t know which one is good for me. But if I want a Bluetooth speaker, I can just get 10 or 15 results and say ‘OK, this is what I exactly want.’ So fashion is a place where you cannot really describe what you want until you see or stumble upon it and that’s the discovery experience we’re trying to create for fashion,” the founder said. “Think of this as a platform, not a product.”