Online shopping: Romanian startup uses technology & stylists to pick the perfect outfits for customers
Buying clothes online can be quicker and more convenient, but it can also be tricky sometimes: the size is not correct, or the product doesn’t really look like the one ordered. Romanian startup The Outfit promises to be the better choice, as it combines algorithms with the know-how of fashion stylists to pick the best outfits for its customers. We talked to co-founder Horia Stupu to see exactly how their service works.
Young Romanian entrepreneurs Horia Stupu, Serban Buliga, and Ciprian Dudulea launched The Outfit a few months ago with the aim to make personal styling affordable through technology. The online service helps customers find the right clothes for their body & style by combining algorithms and personal stylists’ know-how. Users just have to create a profile on the online platform and answer a few questions about their style, body or budget, for the best shopping experience. The more they use the service, the more the algorithms and stylists learn about them.
The Outfit is only available for women at the moment, but the founders’ goal is to accelerate its growth and expansion. And a first step was made in June when the startup raised EUR 300,000 in pre-seed funding from a group of investors. The future plans include launching items for kids, plus-size & maternity, and men, as well as a mobile app that will provide solutions “to everything related to fashion.”
“We see a lot of opportunities once we end up knowing a customer’s entire wardrobe. In the future, we want to dive more into a 100% personalized experience for our customers by developing a mobile app that will provide solutions to everything related to fashion. How cool would it be to wake up and receive a notification with 3 outfit ideas for the day?” Horia Stupu told Romania-insider.com.
Discover more about The Outfit from the interview below. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
When did the story of The Outfit start? How did you get the idea?
We realized that even though we are using every digital product possible when it comes to clothing, neither me, my colleagues, or my friends were purchasing clothes online. Every time we tried, we mostly returned what we got because the items did not look in reality as they did online or because the size was not right. Besides this, we do not enjoy the process of scrolling through tens of thousands of products available online. We asked ourselves if there is a way for somebody else to do personal shopping for us and constantly learn about our preferences and body shape/size.
This is how The Outfit was born. Our mission is to help people discover fashion products that are right for them based on their needs, without any effort.
To create a completely personalized shopping experience and make this affordable for millions of people, we need technology. However, the need to purchase clothes is very contextual; therefore, we count on personal stylists to grasp a better understanding of our client’s needs. The intersection between algorithms and stylists allows us to provide personalization at scale.
We tested it out with real customers before going full speed. The first time someone heard about The Outfit was in November 2020. On November 15, we launched a prototype where we did personal styling both for men and women. In only 30 days of being up and running, we got 150 customers with no marketing spending. People talked about us a lot. The test was successful, and we decided to start with women only three months later, to better understand one gender before launching the other one. We also believe satisfying women is more challenging [smiles].
How will you use the EUR 300.000 investment raised in June?
This pre-seed round will help us in accelerating growth and developing recommendation engines. A large amount of the investment will be used to develop the three apps behind our service (customers platform, styling app and operations app). We also plan to develop a mobile app next year since our main purpose is to get inside our customer’s wardrobe in order to provide outfit recommendations that are right for every occasion.
How does The Outfit work? How do you use technology?
Data science lies at the core of this business model. A customer shares information about her body & style preferences in several ways:
- Through her profile, where we collect data points about sizes, style, budget, etc.
- Checkout feedback for every product she tried on. Compared to a traditional e-commerce experience where giving feedback is a hassle during returns, in our case, the perceived value is a lot higher because every order becomes better and better as we understand our customer more.
- Stylist notes: the customer writes specific needs such as the fact that she needs a party outfit for a garden-like setting, or she sends a link to a singer’s outfit. We use these data to optimize our inventory selection.
We often receive the question: “How come 3 male founders started a business that sells clothes for women?”. Our answer is that we rely fully on data and our customer’s desires. This is more relevant than anyone’s personal opinion. We use data in our recommendation system, warehouse management and process optimization. Every item we have in our warehouse has several tags behind, from how the material feels when you touch it to how large the shoulder gap is. In the first phase, we made sure that we collect data correctly so that in the near future, we will constantly develop algorithms that increase the match score between a customer and a product.
What future plans do you have for The Outfit?
We see a lot of opportunities once we end up knowing a customer’s entire wardrobe. In the future, we want to dive more into a 100% personalized experience for our customers by developing a mobile app that will provide solutions to everything related to fashion. How cool would it be to wake up and receive a notification with 3 outfit ideas for the day? What about instant style combinations with items you already own or with items you could receive in 24h at your door from a wide variety of brands that fit you best? We are sure that personalization is the next step in the fashion industry.
Do you deliver nationwide? Will this service be an option for men too?
We deliver nationwide right now, yes. We have customers from all over the country. We never imagined we would go this broad from the start. We plan to launch Kids items first, then Plus-Size & Maternity, and after we learn what women like, we will target men for sure.
What are the most popular products so far? What do your clients prefer?
The most requested category is 'dresses'. When it comes to the type of products they purchase most, it’s a combination between day-to-day items and crazy ones that they would have never tried before, and they love them.
Do you have recommendations for potential clients? What should they do to receive the best possible set of items?
Be specific about your body sizes and your preferences regarding style. It helps a lot! Besides this, be patient, our algorithms and stylists will get to know you well after a few orders, and the accuracy will go up.
Please tell us a bit about your background.
Ciprian and I founded a digital agency called difrnt.ro about 4 years ago, and Serban had a startup in IoT, and he is the founder of a data science agency.
Would you say that Romania is a friendly country for entrepreneurs?
The Outfit is the second company we’re starting in Romania, and we’re only 23 years old. I think Romania has the potential to become a country with tech products & teams that aim for the global market, such as UiPath, FintechOS and many other examples.
Irina Marica, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photos: courtesy of Horia Stupu)