After the dramatic success of boutique fashion boxes and personal shopping services like Stitch Fix, the fashion industry seems poised to kick things up a notch with custom-designed, sewn-on-demand clothing.
The latest company to enter the market in a big way is Maison Me, a new custom-design firm that has emerged organically from — or perhaps counterintuitively — Silicon Valley technology. It’s hard to square up high fashion with engineers and algorithms, but that’s exactly what happened for Anastasia Sartan, a serial entrepreneur who has grown her success with a personal stylist chatbot into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.
Here’s how it works: The process starts when a customer signs on and starts engaging with a form driven by Epytom Stylist, the aforementioned chatbot and personal recommendation platform developed by Sartan and her team in 2016. The chatbot processes their desires, demographics, and tastes, then crunches the data through its proprietary recommendation algorithm, and kicks recommendations over to a human designer, who creates a custom sketch of the proposed apparel for the customer.
Once the client has their custom sketch in hand, they can approve the sketch, request changes, tweak some details, or request a whole new design. All of this costs just one flat fee of $15, which is applied toward the final price of the item.
When the customer is satisfied with the design, Maison Me initiates a video call, where a professional tailor takes the customer’s measurements. The tailors go to work, the clothing is produced in Maison Me’s manufacturing facility in Arizona, and the sartorial item is promptly shipped off to the customer in about two weeks.
The price range for custom-designed clothing can vary widely depending on fabrics and the complexity of the design, but Maison Me says most unique tailored pieces cost between $150 and $250. It’s a pretty good bargain given that brand-name dresses in standard retail outlets can run north of $500. Oh, and if you don’t like it, Maison Me will do your alterations for free, including free shipping both ways.
As for the backing for this artificial intelligence (A.I.)-based operation, Maison Me just got a big boost from a $1 million seed round that included support from Founders Fund, Gagarin Capital, and the much-lauded Google Assistant Investment Program.
“A lot of people start their daily routines asking their Google Home speakers for a weather forecast, looking for some help before they pick out their outfits for the day,” Ilya Gelfenberyn, head of the Google Assistant investment program, said in a statement. “Smart Displays with the Google Assistant make it possible to build services and recommendations in such a visual industry like fashion, and we believe that personalized what-to-wear recommendations can really simplify the morning routines for people.”
These changes in how people buy and accessorize clothing could become part of a tectonic shift in the fashion industry that includes innovations like Amazon’s computer vision-enabled Echo Look device and the advent of improved technologies like smart mirrors.