TECH KNOW

Stitch Fix uses al­go­rithms to dress its cus­tomers

The Denver Post - - TECH KNOW - By Marisa Ken­dall

The next time you see a well-dressed in­di­vid­ual walk­ing down the street, con­sider that the spiffy out­fit might be the work of a com­puter al­go­rithm.

Sev­eral com­pa­nies in­clud­ing one called Stitch Fix (stitch­fix.com) of­fer fash­ion de­liv­ered on de­mand us­ing data anal­y­sis soft­ware and ma­chine learn­ing to match users with per­son­al­ized cloth­ing choices.

The first time users try the 5-year-old ser­vice, they an­swer a few dozen ques­tions about their size, style

Eand the body parts they like to flaunt. Stitch Fix takes that data and plugs it into its al­go­rithms, which come up with a list of cloth­ing op­tions. Then a hu­man stylist re­views those choices, se­lects five items, and ships them. The cus­tomer has the op­tion to buy the items or re­turn them, free of charge. If the cus­tomer buys noth­ing, he or she pays a $20 styling fee per box.

Cus­tomers can sched­ule reg­u­lar de­liv­er­ies or or­der one box at a time. When sign­ing up for the ser­vice, they choose from a range of cloth­ing price op­tions — in­clud­ing “the cheaper, the bet­ter.”

EStitch Fix’s soft­ware learns more about each cus­tomer every time he or she re­ceives a ship­ment.

“I’ve seen the things that come in my box start to adapt to more what my per­sonal style is,” said Kelly Walker, a mu­sic teacher at Wil­low Glen High School in San Jose, Calif.

But the com­pany doesn’t al­ways get it right.

“One time def­i­nitely there was a sweater in there that I was like, ‘umm, this isn’t re­ally my style,’ ” Walker said. “It was very loose and very baggy.”

Stitch­Fix uses 50 al­go­rithms to con­duct its dayto-day busi­ness. Aside from the for­mu­las it uses to pick out clothes, it also has al­go­rithms to as­sign each shop­per to one of its 3,000 hu­man stylists. Its tech sys­tems fig­ure out which Stitch Fix ware­house a client’s clothes should come from, de­ter­mine which styles and how many of each item Stitch Fix should stock and even de­sign cus­tom pieces.

Chicago-based Trunk Club of­fers a sim­i­lar ser­vice. So does New York­based Bombfell, a fash­ion de­liv­ery ser­vice for men that mines users’ Facebook, Twit­ter and LinkedIn pages for clues about their per­sonal style.

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