The fashion world has started to digitize rapidly in recent years. Between virtual showrooms and online shopping intensified by the pandemic, fashion retailers have had to adapt to the needs of customers.
One of the biggest challenges in the industry has been getting a shopper to purchase the items in their shopping cart, which can be difficult for customers who can’t imagine what the garments or accessories might look like on themselves rather than a model. This is what StyleScan Inc. is trying to change by offering artificial intelligence-based visualization technology to improve the online shopping experience.
Based in Brentwood but with a main studio in Van Nuys, the company was founded in 2018 by Larissa Posner. Posner holds a Certificate in Business Applications of Machine Learning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has over 10 years of experience advising companies on investor relations and strategy. Posner also spent time working as a catalog model.
While working in quantitative finance in 2018, Posner learned she didn’t have time to shop at physical stores and found that several around her were closing. She called it the “apocalypse of retail”.
“Barneys has closed on the Upper West Side next to my house. All the big retailers closed chain stores because they called it the “Amazon Effect” at the time,” Posner recalls. “Everyone started shopping online instead of going to stores. At the same time, I’ve been looking at Shopify and some of these other platforms, and their stocks are recovering and doing amazingly. Of course, one has to assume that convenience will be overtaken and that 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 own customer. She came up with the idea of uploading her photo and being able to see herself in a retailer’s inventory. She assembled 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 services companies, and asked if they could predict stock prices, if it was possible to predict the height of women and they might show in women?
“The answer was ‘yes’. We now have many breakthroughs in computer vision and AI. We can take a garment from one photo and put it on top of another photo,” Posner said. “We have to train and build neural networks and train algorithms. But yes it is possible. And that’s how I raised the first million dollars. That was 2019.”
Then things got serious.
How it works
StyleScan image processing technology takes a 2D photo of a garment or accessory and converts it into a 3D volumetric mesh that can be overlaid 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, including traditional photography.
“A single photo of a garment, say, on a mannequin. Now this garment can be shown in any size instead of just a sample size. Now it can be shown on women of different skin tones, body shapes and sizes,” Posner said. “And it’s all digital. (We) can generate Zero Waste. We can turn things around in 48 hours whereas a traditional photo shoot would take at least two weeks, probably three weeks. And then the costs, you can’t possibly compare the costs.”
The StyleScan team surveyed 12 apparel companies of varying sizes, from small to large, to see how much e-commerce photo shoots cost them. At smaller retailers, a final image can cost around $50, while larger luxury brands pay up to $1,000 per image.
“With StyleScan, it’s the cost of a bottle of water,” Posner said.
Aside from being cost-effective and sustainable, retailers using their technology have seen an increase in their sales and conversion rates, according to Posner.
The Company offers two types of services: Model Switch and Style Switch. In the first case, a customer can select an item on the retailer’s website and choose from different models to visualize the item.
“Our next product is Style Switch, where you can also dress the model with the items from across the retailer’s range and be your own stylist and create full looks and sort of preview before you buy,” she said.
Potential customers wishing to use the company’s technology choose from a list of subscription levels based on the volume and number of models they want for their website.
“Do you want just one item, one model, or do you want an item in multiple sizes, multiple skin tones? … It’s based on volume, revenue and desired relationship capability. It also requires some integration with our partner’s e-communications. On integration, we only manage their Shopify account.”
The company is an official Shopify partner. Customers give them access to Shopify where they upload all the images that come with the subscription package.
StyleScan also plans to offer different model levels.
“Maybe someone will be an influencer with a certain number of followers, and that’s what you can access with your higher premium plan,” Posner said. “A package where you can not only change a model, but also styles. This really is our premium creme de la creme package.”
After 30 days of using StyleScan, jewelry retailer Millianna saw its conversion rate increase by 93% and its total dollar sales increased by 367%.
“Usually they photographed earrings on the white background, nothing else. And they found that when a consumer comes to the site, they can’t visualize the item. How big is this earring? Where does it hit you? And so now the customer goes to Google and starts researching the article, and you have an opportunity to lose a customer,” Posner said.
“At StyleScan we have added our ‘virtual model fitting’ magic button. Now you can see it on different women with different skin tones and you can see the object and imagine how big it is.”
Posner said it’s important that they don’t operate as a black box company where customers submit photos of the garments and then download the source images.
“We have professional designers, professional stylists (and) professional creative directors on the team, so it’s almost like a cyborg where a human runs the software and a human has quality control for everything that comes out and is presented to the client,” Posner said . “We ensure that the software result has an aesthetic control.”
With the transition between technology and fashion comes a lot of uncharted territory, but Posner said tech companies and decision-makers will always face a learning curve trying to understand how to navigate these changes in the industry.
Posner also said she is proud to see that her clients have seen a direct effect of StyleScan on their business and look forward to working with them even more.
“Since we started…we’re already seeing customers coming back and doubling their subscription and upgrading and wanting more SKUs monthly…driven by styles.” Now they not only see the aesthetic improvement, but also the efficacy data,” Posner said.