Tuesday, 05 March 2019
A global leader in fashion personalisation, Dressipi has evolved from a consumer-facing website focused on curating inspiring wardrobes for members, to working with brands including John Lewis, Topshop and Littlewoods, to improve their customers’ shopping experience online and in-store. We talk to Style Director, Natalie Theo about the potential and power of personalised consumer choice, the future of shopping and how clothes can help you have fun and express your personal brand…
WHY WAS DRESSIPI FOUNDED?
Seven years ago, Dressipi’s co-founders Sarah McVittie and Donna North realised there was nothing in the market that made sense of the abundance of fashion choices we, as women, are faced with on a daily basis. They thought that it would be amazing if women could go online and have professional guidance on what clothes suited their lifestyle, style and shape, and Dressipi started on a B2C track. Quite quickly, though, retailers started asking about our technology with a view to transforming their customers’ shopping experience, creating a more advanced, nuanced algorithm on their online sites and, over time, the service has become more B2B.
WHAT IS FASHION-SPECIFIC PERSONALISATION TAPPING INTO WITH CONSUMERS?
Everything we do is customer-focused and comes from huge amounts of research with customers. Fundamentally, we’re reducing choice, so when you go online to buy a dress for work, for example, you don’t have to spend hours browsing. What’s presented to you are pieces that suit your shape and your style. Our service provides confidence and the concept of versatility. If you’re looking at something online, you’re asking yourself: ‘Do I know how to wear it?’ – because there’s not much point in buying it if you can’t see how it’s going to work in an outfit. You also want to know that you can wear it with that jacket you bought from the same brand a month ago. Importantly, fashion personalisation is about inspiration because it’s fun to try something new and have something recommended to you that you might not have thought of wearing.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO WEAR?
When you sign up, you complete a quiz on sizing, height, proportions, your lifestyle and colouring, so that we know what your investment colours are. We also understand if you like specific brands, and once you’re on the site you can say what you like and dislike and why. Every time you engage with your profile, our algorithms are learning and improving the recommendations. It’s a constant labour of love. And once you’ve cracked your own dress code, which is what you get with the style guide, you can go and add your own stamp on to it. We are dressing women who are doing a million things every day, from working to being mums, so we try and capture and express that in each personal profile. We also ask people how adventurous they are with fashion in the sign up, which is important. What you see on the catwalk is quite extreme – but trends are not the be all and end all, they’re just fun. There are some things I would never wear – if I don’t feel it’s me, then I’m not going to feel good.
HOW DO CLOTHES ACCENTUATE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?
Personal brand is all about confidence in who you are – which starts from within – but clothes are good tools to express yourself. A service like Dressipi gives you the know-how – so whether you’re working in a creative environment or for a blue chip company, you can start off by knowing that you suit a tailored fit-and-flare dress with a V-neckline, for example. These days you can put your stamp on whatever you’re wearing, in any environment. For example, your tote bag may come in a different colour or an animal print. Your heel may have a detail on it or a texture. Maybe you can move your dress away from that structured shift. If you’re wearing a print at work, you’re not going to go over the top, but you can look at pared-back shades, or add accessories like jewellery or even a dramatic statement coat. Putting your expression on things is a way to have fun – and it’s the kind of thing you notice on people. If you look at your colleagues’ outfits, there will be little things that stand out.
DO PEOPLE HAVE VISUAL SIGNATURES OF THEIR PERSONAL BRAND – AND WHAT ARE YOURS?
I’m a shoe person. I might wear the same thing to work every day but my shoes are always going to be shouting out – but other people like their tops or bags or prints. I like to wear dresses, too, and switch them around with different shoes, cocktail rings and clutch bags. It’s always a colour and texture thing for me. I think my personal brand style is accents of colour, but pared back – today, it’s a leopard-print biker jacket from Zara. I am the ‘glossy girl’: I like glamour and getting my hair and nails done. Three words to describe my image? Glossy, chic – and feet!
HAS TECHNOLOGY DEMOCRATISED THE FASHION STYLIST EXPERIENCE?
Yes. Previously fashion stylists were just for red carpet events and celebrities. From the beginning, we wanted the tech team and the style team to be hand in hand. Both aspects have to work together so customers are being given that inspired choice and are confident in the knowledge that they are being styled by people who’ve been in the industry for years. They also ensure that what we do will always be on brand for the retailers. Fashion is hugely emotional and you do need the human touch, because women’s habits and lifestyles change and things are forever evolving. But fashion and tech are the perfect match and I don’t think you can achieve that true fashion personalisation without both. It’s an approach that has allowed us to innovate quicker than any competitors and it is our USP.
IS FASHION PERSONALISATION A CASE OF LESS CHOICE – OR BETTER CHOICE?
It’s about providing curation – making sense of the vast choice we have as consumers. If I am at work and I need to buy a little black dress quickly, I want to see the best pieces that are going to express who I am, rather than having to scroll through 200 random little black dresses. It is a process that is driven by both sides – putting the best product or person that is suited to it in front of each other. In that respect, it’s like matchmaking, because we attribute data to garments so we understand the fit, colour, neckline and length. Someone can then tell us she likes pink, floral patterns and this brand – and there’s a piece! There is still a choice involved, but from great pieces that allow you to make inspired fashion choices and spend your money wisely.
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF PERSONALISATION IN FASHION RETAIL?
Personalisation in fashion retail is exciting and it’s growing. When we started working it was a blank page, but retailers now say that personalisation is their main focus. Through our retail partners, we now have 3.5 million online profiles – and I laugh that Tara, our other Style Director, and myself, are the style setters that no one has ever heard of! For us, we’re constantly learning and we’re also working to take it in-store, too, so people can have 24/7 access to personalised shopping recommendations. We’ve done work on an app with three retailers where you can scan bar codes to pull up outfits for you, and we’re currently working on another that will show outfits matching things in-store with pieces you’ve previously bought. Our team is very hands-on - we are there every step of the way with retailers and they are as excited as we are about developing and innovating. Ultimately, fashion personalisation is about consumers feeling special, so they can come online and think, “This is my specific little shop front that is talking to me.” Any retailer who is not doing it has got a lot of catching up to do.