TECHNOLOGY

Can AI Help You Nail that Killer Outfit?

As e-commerce rises in Southeast Asia, fashion-tech follows

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 20 Feb 2017

nail that killer outfit

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Entrepreneurs are said to be problem solvers and this notion applies to every industry including fashion. To the founders of SuitApp, a lot of people did not have the time, nor the fashion sense to dress properly for every occasion.

And while people shopping at a physical location can avail of assistance from in-store specialists, online consumers were left entirely on their own. This was the gap that co-founders Jen Grebenshchikova, Elena Chuyko, and Vladimir Sinitcin wanted to address. Their goal was to advance personal styling with modern technology so that people could get outfit suggestions tailored to their physique and budget preferences.

SuitApp was founded two years ago in Siberia before relocating to Singapore to participate in the May 2016 batch of MaGIC Accelerator where the co-founders were mentored by Lazada Malaysia CEO Hans-Peter Ressel.

On the SuitApp feed, the user can get outfit recommendations through a combination of artificial intelligence and the start-up’s own stylists.

“These outfits can be dressed on a generic avatar to see how they look on a human body,” says Jen Grebenshchikova, the chief operating officer of SuitApp who adds that the outfits can be customized through various filters such as color and item.

“At the moment, visually, avatars have the same bodies. Next month users will be able to actually see different body shapes and try outfits on them,” says Grebenshchikova.

If a user likes an outfit, he or she can learn more about all the featured items by clicking an information icon. There, users can opt to buy any of the items, at which point they would be redirected to the corresponding third-party shop so that they can place an order. This is how SuitApp currently monetizes — it is a registered affiliate of both Zalora and Lazada. In the future, they are exploring the addition of other premium options that users can pay in-app, Grebenshchikova says.

“Moreover, SuitApp is working hard on adding social features right now: adding following, communication, and sharing within the app. We plan to have more stylists on board and make their portfolios open so that users can deal with them directly and choose a particular stylist to work with,” says Grebenshchikova.

While Grebenshchikova notes that “the user can still do a lot of things in the app even if he or she is not signed up,” SuitApp tries to offer more enticing customization options for users who do sign up such as the ability to choose their hairstyle or hijab, select their face shape, and even take a selfie that SuitApp will add to their avatar.

 

At the bleeding edge of fashion-tech

Given the complexity of SuitApp and the ambition of their product roadmap, Grebenshchikova cites technology as the team’s biggest challenge. The amount of development work for Sinitcin, the CTO, was extensive so they tried to work with freelancers, but quickly realized they needed an in-house team.

“Eventually we managed to organize a great team of developers specializing in algorithms, python, javascript, swift, computer vision, and big data analysis,” says Grebenshchikova. “This team is definitely our strong point and competitive advantage.”

Currently, the team is targeting users in both the United States and Southeast Asia, mostly through Facebook targeting and other inbound marketing efforts designed to generate organic traffic. SuitApp has also been selected to be a part of the FashionTech Acceleration in Milan, Italy where they will be mentored by over 20 experts from both sides of fashion and tech.

Other Southeast Asian entrepreneurs may also want to get into fashion-tech which is only poised to grow further as online shopping becomes more popular. Grebenshchikova has an advice for them:

“Southeast Asia is very diverse so I would recommend learning about fashion preferences of your target audience and focus on it first.”

“We as a team of foreigners had some difficulties with that in the beginning,” she admits.