Amazon’s focus on using its camera-enabled Echo devices to help you figure out what to wear everyday has highlighted how the tech world sees a big opportunity in building fashion-related tools and services beyond the now-ubiquitous but still quite basic business of e-commerce, where clothes are displayed on websites, and ordered for delivery to your home. Now one of the latest startups in the space has raised a seed round from an interesting group of investors.
Maison Me, a startup that has built a platform that lets people provide either a few clues, or very specific detail, of a piece of clothing that they would like, and then makes it to order, has raised $1 million to build out its business from backers that include Founders Fund, the new Google Assistant investment program, Gagarin Capital and others that are not being named for now. Maison Me’s co-founder and CEO Anastasia Sartan said that the startup will be using the money to continue optimising its services and building for new platforms such as Google Home.
That particular device is a notable one to build for: currently Google doesn’t have a camera or screen, but many reports speculate that it will be launching a new version very soon that will. Meanwhile, Amazon is also level-pegging on me-too functionality.
Google of course is not saying anything about any upcoming hardware, and sees Maison Me as something useful for the Google Home speaker that we know today, and for the displays out there not made by Google that are being powered by it.
“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,” said Ilya Gelfenbeyn, head of the Google Assistant investment program, 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.”
Maison Me will have its first Google app of its clothing service ready in the beginning of November. But Maison Me (and Epytom, which is the name of the actual startup) has been in business for a while already, starting first with a chatbot that helped people figure out what to wear — data, Sartan said, has been used to help feed its algorithms for its clothing-making service. That bot is still active and has racked up 300,000 users so far.
“Google is emphasizing routines in voice assistants,” Sartan explained. “In the morning, 78 percent of people ask about the weather. But why? It is to figure out what to wear. Knowing the location and preferences and we can help here.”
The pitch that Maison Me is making for the clothing service is that it can go from specs to delivery in 15 days — longer than a Prime-style turnaround of a day, or nipping out to the shops for a quick purchase, but potentially more rewarding and individualised. The garments, she said, are all made in the US.
Within those two weeks there are a number of stages: After a conversation about the garment-to-come, which includes questions about a buyer’s interests beyond fashion, the data goes through algorithms created by Maison Me and then handed off to a human (not robot!) designer. A custom sketch is made for approval or modifications. All of that costs $15.
Then comes the making of the garment. A professional tailor — again, not a bot or computer vision program — takes a customer’s measurements and starts to produce the clothes, which end up with the user within 15 days.
One of the big issues that Sartan says she was trying to tackle is “dead stock” — the massive amount of overproduction that fashion houses and retailers create in the process of making mass-produced clothes. The creation and “disposal” of dead stock — in order for a brand to continue to have cachet — has been the subject of some controversy in the fashion industry, since not only does it fundamentally feel wasteful, but there is an environmental impact as well.
“Dead stock is the burden of the global fashion industry and the environment, and so are the unmet customers’ expectations regarding the fit, quality, and cost. Our goal now is to create clothes you reach for the most, because they fit your body and life perfectly, go with the rest of your wardrobe, and are truly worth their price,” Sartan said.