In recent years, the world of fashion has begun to digitize rapidly. Between virtual showrooms and online shopping boosted by the pandemic, fashion retailers have had to adapt to customer needs.
One of the industry’s biggest challenges has been getting a shopper to buy the items in their cart, which can be difficult for customers who can’t imagine how clothing or accessories can be displayed on their own instead of a model. This is what StyleScan Inc. is trying to change by providing visualization technology with artificial intelligence to improve the online shopping experience.
The company, based in Brentwood but with a main studio in Van Nuys, was founded by Larissa Posner in 2018. Posner has a certificate in the business application of machine learning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and more than 10 years of experience in advising companies on investor relations and strategies. Posner also spent time working as a catalog model.
While working in quantitative finance in 2018, Posner learned that she didn’t have time to shop at brick-and-mortar stores and realized that some were closing around her. She considered that the “retail apocalypse”.
“Barneys closed on the Upper West Side near my house. “Every major retailer was closing their chain stores because at the time they called it the ‘Amazon effect,'” Posner recalled. “Everyone started shopping online, not going to stores. At the same time, I looked at Shopify and some of these other platforms, and their stock is going up and they’re doing amazing. Of course, you have to assume that overcome convenience and e-commerce will be the future. So what can we do now to build a product that the market will need later?”
Posner said she wanted to be her client. She had the idea to upload her photo and be able to see herself in a retailer’s inventory. She brought together a group of computer scientists, venture investors and fashion executives to develop virtual clothing technology.
Posner went to the financial services team at Corporate Profile, an investor relations firm that represents publicly traded biotech, technology and financial companies, and asked if they could predict stock prices, whether it was possible to predict women’s sizes and potentially t did they show them to women?
“The answer was ‘yes.’ Now we have a lot of advances in computer vision and AI. We can get a garment from a photo superimposed on another photo,” Posner said. “We’ll have to train and build neural networks and algorithms of training. But yes, it is possible. And so, I raised the first million. It was 2019.”
That’s when things got serious.
How does it work?
StyleScan image processing technology takes a 2D photograph of an item of clothing or accessory and converts it into a 3D volumetric mesh that can be superimposed on people of different shapes and sizes.
Posner said this technology could be used to make several areas of the fashion industry more sustainable and cost-effective, one of which is traditional photography.
“A single photo of an outfit, say, on a mannequin. Now, that garment can be displayed in any size instead of just a sample size. Now, it can appear in women of different skin tones, body shapes, sizes,” said Posner. “And it’s all digital. (We) can generate zero waste. We can turn things around in a matter of 48 hours, whereas if you were to do a traditional photoshoot it would be at least two weeks, maybe three weeks. And then the cost, you can’t compare the cost.”
The StyleScan team surveyed 12 clothing companies of various sizes, from small to large, to see how much e-commerce photoshoots cost them. For smaller retailers, a final image can cost around $50, while larger luxury brands charge up to $1,000 per image.
“With StyleScan, it’s the cost of a bottle of water,” Posner said.
In addition to being cost-effective and sustainable, Posner said retailers using their technology have seen an increase in their sales and conversion rates.
The company offers two types of services: Model Switch and Style Switch. In the first, a customer can select an item on the retailer’s site and choose from different models to visualize the piece.
“Our next product is Style Switch, where you can also dress the model in items from the entire selection of the seller’s inventory and be your own stylist and create full looks and kind of preview before you buy,” she said.
Prospective customers looking to use the company’s technology will choose from a list of subscription tiers based on volume and how many models they want for their site.
“Do they want just one item, one model, or do they want an item in multiple sizes, multiple skin tones? … It’s based on volume, revenue and how close they want to be. It also requires a lot of integration into our partner’s e-comm. The integration is just us managing their Shopify account.”
The company is an official partner of Shopify. Customers give them access to Shopify, where they upload any images that are included in the subscription package.
StyleScan also plans to offer different tiers of models.
“Maybe someone will be an influencer with a certain amount of followers, and that will be something you can access with your higher premium package,” Posner said. “A package where you can change not only a model, but also a style. This is truly our premium creme de la creme package.”
After 30 days with StyleScan, jewelry retailer Millianna saw a 93% increase in conversion rate and a 367% increase in total dollar sales.
“They used to photograph earrings on a white background, nothing else. And what they found is that a consumer comes to the site and then can’t visualize the item. How big is this earring? Where does it hit you? And so, the customer now goes to Google and starts researching the article and you have a potential to lose a customer,” Posner said.
“With StyleScan, what we’ve done is we’ve added our magic ‘virtual model trial’ button. Now, you can see it on different women with different skin tones and you can see the article and imagine how big it is.”
Posner said it’s crucial that they don’t operate like a black-box company where customers submit photos of outfits and then download output images.
“We have professional designers, professional designers (and) professional creative directors on staff, so it’s almost like a cyborg where one human runs the software and one human has quality control of everything that goes out and is presented to the client,” Posner. said. “We make sure there’s an aesthetic oversight over the software output.”
With the intersection between technology and fashion comes a lot of uncharted territory, but Posner said tech companies and decision makers will always go through a learning curve when trying to figure out how to navigate these changes in the industry.
Posner also said she is proud that her clients have seen a direct effect of StyleScan on their businesses and are excited to work with them even more.
“Since we started… we’re already seeing customers come back and double their subscription and upgrade and want more SKUs on a monthly basis… powered by styles. “Now that they’re seeing not only the aesthetic improvement, they’re seeing the efficacy data,” Posner said.