As fashion evolves at an increasingly rapid pace, brands are finding new ways to leverage data to stay competitive and meet customer needs.
From market research and trend analysis to product development and customer feedback on fit and comfort, brands have a bevy of data sources to stay up-to-date with shopper preferences and adapt their designs and lines accordingly. Getting specific feedback from retail partners and customers — including sales, return rates, fit and comfort ratings — is instrumental for brands to improve their designs.
By extension, this emphasis on iterative design allows fashion brands to establish credibility and build customer loyalty.
“We want our brand to always be able to seamlessly fit into our customers’ lifestyle,” said Kelly Conklin, senior account executive at Kellwood Company, whose apparel portfolio includes brands such as Democracy, Jolt and Wit & Wisdom. “With the feedback provided, we are closer aligned with our customer than we ever have been.”
How Democracy built a stronger brand through Stitch Fix
For iterative design to be effective, brands need a continuous feedback loop to refine and improve their product offerings over time. This was the challenge for Kellwood Company’s Democracy, a casual lifestyle brand that focuses on women — particularly moms — and aims to provide comfortable and stylish clothing.
Democracy sells denim, pants, knitwear and outerwear through its e-commerce site and several partners. Since its inception, the brand’s key differentiator has been its fit and quality, including a construction method called “ab-solution” fit technology.
“We knew we had a product that all women would feel comfortable and confident wearing, and we were growing rapidly,” Conklin said. “The access to customers who may find shopping online or in-store overwhelming was a whole new category of customer that we had yet to tap into.”
In 2016, about four years into the brand’s existence, Democracy began selling on Stitch Fix with a particular focus on bottoms, including jeans and pants, to reach — and get feedback from — customers that may have been inaccessible to the brand through other retail channels.
According to Henry Thervil, division head of Democracy and Wit & Wisdom, the partnership was a natural fit because of the brands’ similar target demographics. Additionally, Stitch Fix offers clients convenient discovery with labels they may not otherwise seek out independently.
“Stitch Fix is doing the job of cutting through the noise and curating clothing so a busy woman can wardrobe herself in her own bedroom,” Thervil said. “For a brand that was still growing and getting brand awareness, that was an appealing opportunity to get to customers we would otherwise not have been able to get to.”
Expert insights bring nuance to customer data, unlocking more opportunities for Democracy
The partnership with Stitch Fix also equipped Democracy with in-depth insights fundamental to understanding trends and improving designs.
On Stitch Fix, customers are incentivized to provide detailed feedback on their items to receive better Fixes, the five pieces of clothing, hand-picked by their stylist, sent to their door. This feedback can be as specific as a pair of jeans fitting too tightly across the hips or being too skinny.
“When we’re viewing customer data, we’re often looking at it from a sizing standpoint, but Stitch Fix is able to provide insight on the stylist perspective or the customer perspective,” Conklin said. “That’s a layer of information that is always helpful for us to better understand.”
For instance, some items may sell less through Fixes than Freestyle, Stitch Fix’s direct buy offering, and vice versa. Clients’ Freestyle purchases can reveal more about their preferences — whether by purchasing their favorite items in updated colors, buying different pieces from a brand they tried in a previous Fix or ordering an item that complements a Fix piece.
“To be able to, at any given moment, pull comments, feedback, fit information, selling information — that is extremely important on our end to be able to have that at our fingertips,” said Conklin.
From linen to cargo pants: iterating designs with data to grow sales
Customer insights and other data are invaluable for Democracy to identify its design missteps and improve future products.
For instance, in spring 2022, Democracy launched a linen program for the first time with Stitch Fix. However, the immediate feedback from clients was that the pieces were too big and too long. Democracy then worked with its production team and Stitch Fix to revise and relaunch the linen line for spring 2023 after incorporating customer feedback. According to the team, this second iteration was more successful than the first.
In another instance, Democracy introduced a cargo pant on Stitch Fix. After the design initially struggled, the team reviewed the data and launched it in pink, which proved more popular with buyers.
“Data helps us navigate the trends and put the right product with the right partner in the right location,” Thervil said. “That gives an opportunity to improve the performance of a product and the overall performance of the brand.”
Looking ahead, Democracy plans to use customer data and insights — including data from Stitch Fix — to refine its approach to tops to continue growing the brand. According to Conklin, the brand is seeking specific feedback on tops’ print, color and style, and when a majority of feedback is aligned, the team can make minor adjustments and move forward.
“Feedback is necessary for us to be able to make real-time decisions and take action to ensure that our customer feels heard and is given styles that make her feel confident and comfortable,” Conklin said. “Each piece of feedback — about the fit, the length, the fabric, etc. — is used to continue to improve our designs to make them work for the customer.”
Sponsored by Stitch Fix