These UK fashion tech startups will help you dress better

As shoppers increasingly move online, the fashion industry is racing to adopt new technologies to set their digital experiences apart.

This has led to a sharp growth in the number of fashion tech startups emerging. From online marketplaces to fashionable hardware, the future of the UK's fashion industry is being shaped by these innovative players.

These startups are introducing data analytics, computer vision, facial recognition and 3D technology into the world of retail to help you shop and dress better.

Additional reporting by Hannah Williams.

Unmade

Unmade

Founded by three Royal College of Art graduates - CEO Hal Watts, Kirsty Emery and Ben Alun-Jones in 2014 - and based out of Somerset House in London, Unmade allows customers to customise certain fashion items. Its platform connects to certain retailers, like Farfetch, to allow shoppers to customise items within the platform, and then links to warehouse order management systems (OMS) to allow for the creation and delivery of those tailored garments.

Unmade raised £4.75 million in funding, led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from MMC Ventures, Felix Capital and existing investors in July 2019.

Intelistyle
© Intelistyle

Intelistyle

Intelistylelaunched in London in 2017, promising to provide 'your AI fashion stylist' from its app. The app lets users browse clothes from online stores or snap their own photos. Its AI uses these to suggest outfit ideas from the user's wardrobe and participating retailers.

The team says its AI analyses the latest fashion photography and learns how to combine clothes using the choices of high street stylists, allowing it to keep up with the latest trends. It uses 256 different style parameters to make its choices and currently reaches 80% accuracy when competing against human stylists, according to the founders.

Intelistyle has signed up a number of retailers including Mango, Crew, Zalando, Next, Nordstrom, H&M, River Island, Asos, prettylittlething, Boohoo, Urban Outfitters, Missguided and Nike.

The founders are Kostas Koukoravas, who previously launched AI products for the BBC, Skype and Microsoft, and Michael Michelis, who has launched five Android indie games in Google Play. The pair funded initial development with a grant they won from InnovateUK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Lyst
© Lyst

Lyst

Lystis an e-commerce platform that brings together more than 11,000 fashion brands and retailers, allowing shoppers to use a single shopping basket, instead of clicking out to each individual retailer’s websites.

So how does it differ to an e-commerce site like ASOS? PR manager Katy Lubin told Techworld:

“Scale and size, we have more stuff than anyone else with over three million products from 11,000+ brands and retailers. Insight, we have a data science and analytics team that are looking at 4.5 million changing data points every hour, such as new products dropping, new stock, changes in pricing etcetera, which give us the ability to build up a picture of how the world is shopping in real time. Lastly authority, we work with all of the best partners around the world, such as Saks in the USA and Selfridges here in London.”

Lyst is one of the better established names on this list (no pun intended), featuring in TechcityUK’s Future 50 and it has already pulled in more than £42 million in funding from the likes of Groupe Arnault, Accel Partners and Balderton Capital.

Thread
© Thread

Thread

Kieran O’Neill founded Thread in 2012 with the aim of helping men dress better through combining personal online stylists with big data insights.

You start out by telling the platform some of your fashion preferences (do you wear skinny jeans or bootcut) and how much you tend to spend on clothes, what size you wear and some of your favourite brands and some outfits you like. You are then assigned a personal stylist (shout out to my stylist Sophie Gaten) who reviews the preferences and emails you a list of suggested items.

Thread currently has eight stylists working in house for its 250,000 active users, with one stylist in particular having 45,000 clients. If this seems like an untenable workload that is where the technology comes in. Founder and CEO Kieran O’Neill told Techworld: “It’s a combination of the stylist and the algorithm.”

Once the stylist has sent over the first set of recommendations the Thread algorithm starts to work, learning which items you like and dismiss before sending out weekly recommendations. This frees up stylist’s time to concentrate on the initial taste profiles and the human actions of messaging, so you can even ask your stylist what she would recommend you wear to a wedding this summer.

Thread is a free service which makes its money by working directly with big fashion brands, clustering orders at wholesale rates before selling and shipping items itself.

Thread has raised more than £7 million from seed and series A funding, with Balderton Capital the lead investor.

Metail
© Metail

Metail

Metail is a London-based startup founded by Cambridge graduate Tom Adeyoola. It is applying computer vision technology to various problems the fashion retail sector faces, from digitisation of garments and photography to the elusive virtual fitting room for ecommerce sites.

Read next: How UK startup Metail is using computer vision to change the retail industry

Its main consumer product is the MeModel, which is a virtual version of you built simply using measurements which can be dressed in garments from partner retailers. The startup wants to digitise the world's garments by using "software to deform and warp garments based not just on how it changes shape but the underlying shape of the person under the garment," according to Adeyoola.

Most recently Metail has announced its Composed Photography solution. This leverages its garment digitisation expertise to essentially deliver all the onsite model photography a retailer needs at far lower prices than existing outsourcing providers.

Metail raised a £10 million Series B funding round led by Hong Kong garment manufacturer TAL in July 2017. The startup says it will use the funding to scale operations and expand its presence in the fast-growing Asian retail market. Metail has raised £22.5 million in total funding to date.

Snap Fashion

Snap Fashion

Have you ever wanted to ask someone on the tube where they got their shoes from? No, just us then? Regardless, if you see an item you want to own but don’t want to ask the person, simply snap a sneaky picture on your smartphone and use Snap Fashion to identify similar items from hundreds of UK retailers. You can then make the purchase through Snap Fashion, either in your browser or using the mobile app.

Snap Fashion founder Jenny Griffiths received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list last year before she even turned 30. Griffiths has already won the Decoded Fashion startup pitch, and first place at Cisco’s BIG awards in 2012.

Snap Fashion has raised an undisclosed amount during seed and Series A funding rounds from investors Venrex Investment Management and Time Inc, respectively.

Pocket High Street
iStock

Pocket High Street

Pocket High Streetwas born to support the little guy, the small retailers that struggle to compete with big e-commerce sites. The idea was to provide a quality online platform for shoppers to discover small retailers.

The London-based startup provides an open platform which connects to major inventory systems, so that small shops can reach a larger audience and offer a click and collect delivery option.

Pocket High Street has raised an undisclosed amount during a seed funding round so far.

Holition
© Holition

Holition

A fashion startup that is truly embracing cutting edge technology is Holition, which looks to help brands and retailers embrace 3D technology and augmented reality.

Their latest product is where it gets really interesting though. Face allows cosmetics brands to show how their products look on shoppers without applying any product. Using 3D technology a smartphone or tablet can act as a virtual mirror. The possibilities for this sort of technology in the fashion and retail spaces are pretty intriguing.

Holition already boasts Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer, Lacoste and even fellow startup Lyst as clients.

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