Startups that aim to change the way people buy clothes: Choosy

Young consumers are demonstrating a growing interest in sustainability, social justice, and personalization. At the same time, technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality are expected to reshape the fashion retail landscape. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a rising number of startups combining some of these trends are being launched around the world.

In this series, FashionUnited will introduce five young companies that aim to change the way we consume fashion. Our first featured startup is Choosy, an e-commerce platform set to launch on July 24, which identifies fashion trends on Instagram and manufactures similar pieces in sizes 0-20, with prices under 100 US dollars. The website will debut a brand new collection every two weeks.

Trends are identified through a combination of artificial intelligence, social tagging and trendwatching by real humans. Choosy’s algorithm picks up key phrases such as “where can I buy this?”, while a team of trained style scouts monitors social media to further identify what consumers want, or may want in the future. In addition, Choosy encourages Instagram users to tag the company by using the hashtag #GetChoosy whenever they see a garment they’re interested in.

Founded by Jessie Zeng (CEO), Sharon Qian (CTO) and Mo Zhou (Chief Strategy Officer), the New York-based startup has already secured 5.4 million US dollars in a funding round led by New Enterprise Associates. Zeng spoke to Fashion United about the company’s business model and plans for the future.

Startups that aim to change the way people buy clothes: Choosy

How did the idea for Choosy come about?

“Choosy was born out of a mixture of a personal need and my upbringing. I’ve always been active on Instagram, sourcing my own inspiration from trending posts. Additionally, I grew up watching my family run one of the largest textile manufacturing companies in China. Being exposed to the business side of fashion from a young age has shaped my perception on buying clothes because I knew that what was on a mannequin in a store had a long backstory. After meeting my co-founders while trading at Citi, everything seamlessly came together. We realized there had to be a way to reinvent the process to bring covetable looks that shoppers were seeing on their favorite celebrities and influencers into their own closets.”

What can we expect to see on Choosy’s website on July 24?

"We’ll be launching with five looks when our e-commerce site goes live. This is to ensure everything runs smoothly and our customers’ first-time experience with us is a positive one. Then, we’ll be rolling out our larger collections every two weeks."

What happens to the trending fashions from previous weeks? Will those items remain available for purchase?

"They will be removed from the main shopping page on our site. This is to ensure we continue to spotlight what our shoppers want now, which is the core focus of our business model. Speed is our key differentiator. We have deep relationships without network of factories, which enables us to produce much faster than other social shopping brands. In addition, we only create an amount based on customer demand. This allows us to maintain a zero-balance inventory as well as to minimize wasteful production of excess clothing."

Startups that aim to change the way people buy clothes: Choosy

What is Choosy’s overall stance on sustainability? People have been talking a lot about minimalism, “shopping from your wardrobe” and buying investment pieces rather than disposable fast fashion. Choosy seems to go the opposite direction, by encouraging people to buy new styles every two weeks. It’s like fast fashion made even faster.

"We are not a fast fashion company. In fact, that was a key component to the founding of Choosy. I was so disgusted hearing about poor working conditions and terrible quality of clothing just to mass produce something quickly. The caveat that was keeping these larger retailers going was that they were selling top styles for less, so I thought: ‘how I can bring even more recent styles to these same shoppers without feeding into the fast-fashion economy?’ Because we only make what our customers demand, we are able to reduce our impact on the environment exponentially."

“I thought: ‘how I can bring even more recent styles to these same shoppers without feeding into the fast-fashion economy?’”

It must be very exciting to receive funding at such an early stage. What do you intend to use these funds for?

"Right now, we are laser focused on perfecting the customer experience. We’re so excited to be launching to the public in July and we want to ensure every shopper gets their orders on time, as well as making sure we are capturing the latest trends. Expansion is definitely on our minds for the future, but our main focus right now is refining everything ahead of launch."

Does Choosy intend to collect data about fashion trends from other video and picture-based social networks, such as Pinterest or Snapchat, in the future?

"Users will also be able to tag us on Facebook. In the future we could expand to other networks but we’ve found that Instagram is the most used platform by our customers."

Tomorrow: interview with Ada Yi Zhao from Curated Crowd, the online platform where designers earn more and consumers pay less. Stay tuned!

Pictures: courtesy of the brand