Fashion Briefing: Did the pandemic spur an era of smarter fashion?

This week, a look at the emerging ways brands are elevating their approach to personalization and production.

‘Never hate your outfit again’: Psykhe wants shoppers to make psychology-driven buying decisions

With personalization emerging as fashion retailers’ primary battleground, a new company is rethinking the process of giving shoppers what they want. 

Psykhe, an AI-powered fashion aggregator that came out of beta in April, gives its users a curated product assortment based on more than shopping behavior, feedback and a style-based quiz. Its core basis is a condensed, 25-question version of The Big Five, a researcher-derived personality test that rose to prominence in the ’80s. 

“The framework lends itself to [fashion] personalization,” said Anabel Maldonado, founder and CEO of Psykhe. Maldonado studied psychology and neuroscience before working in the fashion media and PR for 11 years. “We have such a visceral pull toward clothing and strong, gut-level emotional reactions to it. You can look at something and immediately say, ‘That’s me.’ But no one [using quizzes] was doing fashion justice by going beyond ‘Do you like polka dots?’ and asking, ‘Why?’” 

Maldonado said she had noticed patterns within her social circle backing the notion that personality and style are linked. “Friends that might score high in neuroticism all loved that head-to-toe black [look that’s] really directional, like a Rick Owens [style],” she said.  

The web-based platform features a shop-by-mood filter, so users can fine-tune their recommendations based on how they’re feeling, from happy to confident to romantic. In addition, users can save styles they like to self-named lists and can “zap” styles they don’t like to train the algorithm. Factors including a shopper’s budget and location climate are also considered. 

Psykhe operates on an affiliate model, with retail partners including Net-a-Porter, MatchesFashion and MyTheresa, among others. To get off the ground, it’s relied heavily on Instagram ads featuring the tagline, “Never hate your outfit again.” 

Already, three distinct customer demos have emerged, said Maldonado: the fashionista, who gravitates toward brands like Bottega Veneta and Loewe; the conservative, who shops Loro Piana; and the Gen-Z customer, who goes for streetwear.

Next steps for the company include pursuing a patent for the technology, as well as building out a B2B arm to offer this tech to retailers in other industries based on aesthetic preferences. A New York-based engineer was recently hired to lead the charge, and the furniture, interiors and beauty industries will be prioritized. “We consider ourselves a technology company whose first product is a fashion b2c platform,” Maldonado said.

In addition, Psykhe is “close to” securing a round of growth-dedicated financing, Maldonado said. Its first supporter was Carmen Busquets, whose investments also include Net-a-Porter, Lyst and Farfetch, among other tech-focused fashion companies. And in September, Psykhe received a $1.7 million seed round led by the investment arm of MadaLuxe Group, SLS Journey.

According to Maldonado, Psykhe is a fit for consumers’ post-pandemic mindset. “People have become more mindful, and they’re ready to absorb our mission and the purpose of what we do and connect with it,” she said. “Even before the pandemic, there was the Marie Kondo [craze] and this idea of prioritizing what sparks joy. The same goes for your wardrobe, and this is a tool for helping to navigate that.”

The Gen-Z effect: Fast-fashion brands are modernizing their approach

Currently listed on DTC fashion brand Cider’s e-commerce site are a knit top selling for $7 and a dress selling for $18 — but don’t write the company off as a typical fast-fashion brand, said co-founder Fenco Lin. 

“Traditionally, in a fast-fashion environment, the elements of affordability, a wide breadth of choices and limited production don’t fit together,” she said. “But we’re using the pre-order model, allowing us to make the impossible possible.”

Cider launched in October 2020, with a goal of being a “community-first, social [media]-first” brand catering to Gen-Z consumers, Lin said. Currently, 60-70% of its shoppers fall within the demo. 

According to Lin, Cider’s operations are largely data-driven. For example, the styles it produces are informed by on-staff data scientists. They scan the web and social platforms — with a heavy focus on TikTok — to see what trends are gaining buzz. In addition, the company sources feedback on pre-production styles from its followers. 

“Our merchandising strategy is to make what’s popular more popular, with the help of our community,” she said. Cider often seeks alternative color requests for styles that have sold well.

That feedback is communicated via Instagram DMs, Discord instant messages and emails. Cider has more than 1 million followers on Instagram and 625,000 on TikTok. 

“We’re a company run by young people for young people,” said Lin. “When we communicate with customers, it’s always coming from a real person who resonates.”

Part of clicking with young shoppers is reflecting their values. Lin called Cider “environmentally conscious,” in that, “We only produce small batches of inventory when we launch a style.”

The company then goes into “agile production mode” to produce what’s needed, based on pre-orders. Production takes place in China, and pre-orders often take “a few weeks” to reach customers. 

To date, Cider has relied heavily on Instagram ads and influencers (via gifted product) to drive awareness. On TikTok, the hashtag #shopcider has 34 million views, and #cidergang has 15 million. The brand’s marketing has primarily focused on user-generated content. “You won’t see [us post] a lot of model photos or polished content,” Lin said. “Our customers are the face of the brand. Gen Z doesn’t want to be told what to wear.”

In late May, Cider received a $22 million infusion from VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, an investor in Facebook, Airbnb and Affirm. 

Its plans moving forward include launching a customer quiz to build on its data; establishing a more efficient, data-driven supply chain; and, potentially, expanding to categories beyond women’s apparel. 

Though “smart brand” is Lin’s preferred label for the brand, she said the hope is that it will eventually move fast: “We want to improve our restock model so that it can predict replenishment in real-time and shoppers [placing pre-orders] won’t even feel the lag.”

NY Fashion Tech Lab Demo Day recap: Fashion retail is going 3D

On Wednesday, New York Fashion Tech Lab hosted its annual Demo Day, virtually. Six female founders presented to press and industry executives their company’s retail tech solution. Facilitating on-site livestream shopping, inclusive product pages and post-purchase guidance on wearing and extending the life of styles were among their focuses. The founders were chosen from among applicants by NYFTL, as well as its fashion and retail partners, its advisors, and its co-founder and producer, Springboard Enterprises. Their company’s potential to advance the industry was the primary consideration. Each took part in a 12-week program, granting them access to mentorship by top retail executives and collaboration opportunities with their companies. 

Noteworthy is that three of the six companies represented this year are centered on 3D technology. That includes Xesto, which enables accurate sizing recommendations based on a shopper’s uploaded 3D image. There’s also Vntana, a SaaS platform that converts brands’ 3D design files to web-ready 3D images for product pages. 

Finally, there’s 3D Robe, which specializes in facilitating photo-realistic renderings of products, thus eliminating waste via samples and expediting products’ speed-to-market. The digital assets can also be sold as art via the company’s NFT marketplace, Neuno. 3D Robe has partnerships with platforms including Snapchat, allowing purchasers to wear their owned digital styles via a filter on the platform. 

According to Roshan Varma, Tapestry’s vp of digital, “Tapestry has been exploring opportunities to partner with 3D Robe to support sustainability initiatives, as well as to deliver innovative marketing content to customers.” 

Five luxury brands will launch with the company within the next few months, said Natalie Johnson, 3D Robe’s co-founder. 

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