“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.” With these wise words, Oscar de la Renta summed up a crucial distinction between two widely misunderstood terms too often used interchangeably.
The word “fashion” elicits grandiose visions of svelte models strutting to deafeningly loud music. They bear avant-garde creations crafted with artistry far beyond the comprehension of the everyday on-looker. The scene is understandably overwhelming, and may deter average shoppers who might be convinced that unless they acquiesce to these runway looks, they lack style.
But style, in its true definition, looks inward and approaches clothing and accessories from a starkly different vantage point. Style is about the individual and should be a reflection of one’s personal likes and dislikes. In some capacity, the clothes one wears should be an extension of one’s self, an expression of his or her unique taste.
Yet shopping can be tedious and unfruitful, and certainly not conducive to the lifestyle of a busy man or woman on the go. Even scrolling through online shops can be an arduous process. Lo and behold, Stitch Fix: the answer to the busy shopper’s prayers.
Through both algorithms and hired personal stylists, the Stitch Fix team strives to provide each customer a “partner in personal style.” The cutting-edge company and its fellow online personal styling sites do the heavy lifting and help customers develop and broaden their style horizons with a few simple clicks.
For a $20 styling fee, a stylist will select items for the customers using their style profiles. This $20 then becomes credit toward anything the customer buys in their Fix. The Fix comes with five pieces and even a letter from the stylist explaining the reasoning behind his or her picks.
Stitch Fix offers an array of items from up-and-coming brands as well as premium brands, including Kate Spade and Free People. Customers can buy whatever they like from their Fix and send the rest back.
Stitch Fix emerged on the scene in 2011 when CEO Katrina Lake founded the company. Before embarking on her entrepreneurial endeavor, Lake worked for the tech company Polyvore.
But she noticed a dearth in the market: no one had successfully united fashion with data. She drew inspiration from her sister, who would send her style tips, and set out to create a personal styling and shopping website at only 27 years old.
The site had humble beginnings. A far cry from the detailed algorithms used on the site today, Lake started simple. She used SurveyMonkey to obtain an understanding of customers’ preferences and tastes, and she then picked up and delivered the items to the buyer herself.
While working toward her MBA from Harvard Business School, Lake shipped the first Stitch Fix order from her Cambridge apartment. But in true Cinderella fashion, the company lifted off and Lake’s brilliance was soon realized.
Eric Colson was the VP of data science and engineering at Netflix when Lake approached him about her idea for Stitch Fix. While he initially dismissed the idea, upon meeting Lake a second time he soon became mesmerized by her inventiveness and considered her a similar breed to Netflix founder Reed Hastings.
“You feed them a little bit of information and they can paint a vibrant picture that matches reality,” Colson said. Colson left Netflix and joined Lake as Stitch Fix’s chief algorithms officer.
Today, Lake is a 34-year-old success story. When she brought Stitch Fix public in November 2017, she made history as the youngest female founder to bring a company to an IPO, or initial public offering, meaning Stitch Fix stock is now offered to the public. Her share of Stitch Fix – 16.6 percent of the company – is worth a whopping $330 million.
Stitch Fix’s clientele includes 2.5 million shoppers and each year the company grows an average of 31 percent. The company’s total net worth as of March 2018 was $295.9 million, exceeding analysts’ expectations.
But what makes Stitch Fix more useful than the vast array of other popular online shopping sites? Lake said the thoughtful “personalization” sets her company apart. “There are millions and millions of products out there. You can look at eBay and Amazon,” Lake said. “You can look at every product on the planet, but trying to figure out which one is best for you is really the challenge.”
This I can undoubtedly attest to; I loathe shopping. Though I love to get new clothing, I absolutely despise the process. Meandering around from store to store in search of an item worth the splurge does not constitute my ideal afternoon.
I became acquainted with Stitch Fix when the company dressed me for an event. The site gave me the chance to describe my personal style and choose the items of clothing I’d most like to see in my Fix package. I haphazardly pieced together a general summation of my style choices, and kept my fingers crossed as I awaited my Fix — with admittedly low expectations.
Never in my loftiest dreams did I think Stitch Fix could accurately surmise my underdeveloped style from a few vague sentences. Yet the company truly delivered, and then some. The items included in my Fix are some of the most used in my wardrobe a year later. My favorite pieces included an olive green dress with the perfect fit, strappy black heels and a gorgeous gold necklace.
As a new fan of Stitch Fix, I started perusing their pricing and shortly thereafter accepted that Stitch Fix orders would have to be a once-in-a-blue-moon splurge. While Stitch Fix includes items ranging from $20-$400, the average item on the site costs $55.
This does not exactly fall under the average college student’s budget, leading to the pivotal question: Is the convenience of avoiding the dirty work worth the pretty penny?
Obviously, 2.5 million people say yes, but consumers have voiced some complaints unrelated to the hefty price tags. Instances of colleagues, friends and strangers running into one another wearing the same outfit pieces are uncommon, but troubling to some customers. While this problem is not unique to shopping on Stitch Fix, buyers “say they expect it to happen less, or not at all, because of the way Stitch Fix touts the personalization factor,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Lake’s brainchild grew into a company that continues to break down barriers and advertise to a more inclusive market. In 2016, Stitch Fix started offering men’s clothes, and in 2017 the company launched its plus-sized women’s line. More shoppers can use the site to find beautiful pieces that suit their styles, instead of dishearteningly perusing fashion magazines struggling to determine what is “in.”
The company’s clothing remains outside the price range of some prospective shoppers, but with Stitch Fix’s continual growth consumers can hope for more affordable pieces to grace the site. Time will tell how the company continues to evolve, but as de la Renta explained, that is the beauty of it all.