As the world shut down, many of us turned to online shopping in hopes of not only finding the perfect pair of tracksuits but also to fill the gigantic void left by both a lack of social interactions and dreadful boredom. Coming out of the UK’s latest lockdown with four new tracksuits that I didn’t need in the first place, along with more unnecessary crap, I can assure you that although it didn’t make everything better, it did help slightly.
That being said, my pandemic-induced compulsive online shopping taught me more than how important it is to not give in to the sirens of Klarna—it introduced me to a whole new wave of fashion apps using AI to personalise how people shop online.
One of those companies is THE YES, “shopping made genius” as its website reads. Launched by Julie Bornstein in March 2020, the AI shopping app pulls items of clothing from brands and retailers’ websites and shows them in a perfectly curated feed. Think of it as a fashion version of Tinder: if users like the dress being shown, they tap ‘yes’. If they’re not interested, they tap ‘no’. The only main difference here is that, unlike Tinder, it can improve the items it shows over time by using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
All likes and dislikes are then fed back to the underlying machine learning models to inform each personalised feed of items users can then buy, and of course, no two people’s recommendations are the same. “AI is simply the ability to understand consumer behaviour and act on it,” said Bornstein, the former chief operating officer of clothing subscription service Stitch Fix when speaking to Wired. “The problem with e-commerce is that the infrastructure doesn’t exist to do that today. You need to rebuild the tech stack.”
In order to give its customers the most accurate recommendations possible, THE YES starts learning from them as soon as they download the app. Each time someone installs the app, they’re prompted with a series of questions about what they like and dislike. Their recommendations are then refined as they ‘yes’ or ‘no’ the products they’re shown. “We factor in hundreds of data points,” Bornstein explained. These include preferred brands, price range, size and item silhouettes.
And so far, so good for THE YES—since its launch, there have been more than seven million ‘yes’ and ‘no’ entries, and Bornstein shared with Wired that the firm is already on the tenth version of its algorithm. “Really, what we’re doing is ranking the web according to each user.” Google, who?
Aside from THE YES, which is currently only available in the US but is planning to expand to the UK soon, a wave of firms are deploying AI in a bid to transform the fashion industry. Research published by Google’s Cloud business in November 2020 revealed that retailers were looking to use AI within ten different areas of their business, from demand prediction to customer loyalty schemes and product personalisation.
Furthermore, Meticulous Research predicts AI in retail to be worth $19 billion by 2027 and companies have made the best of the pandemic to speed up their adoption. Meanwhile, the startup FINESSE is using AI to search the web and predict what the next trend may be, then using algorithmic design to quickly produce small runs of clothing within 25 days. The firm also uses 3D modelling software for all of its gender-neutral clothing to reduce costs and cut down on the amount of waste that’s created during the process of creating samples.
Speaking to Hypebae, FINESSE queer and non-binary CEO Ramin Ahmari explained their vision, “Most of fashion today has been told from a specifically white male gaze. True equality and diversity has to start from the very root of an organisation […] Mainstream fashion has absolutely no idea about what will sell, so they play it safe and produce everything under the sun. Our focus at FINESSE is to eliminate this outrageous inefficiency.”
In a world where consumerism and artificial intelligence are demonised while still making the world go ‘round, it certainly looks like the fashion industry has found ways to get the best of both worlds. The real question is, are consumers fully ready to give away their power of decision making? If that means swapping out four okay-ish buys for a single flawless one, I’m in.
I would like to think that I had a good sense of style when I was younger. I remember having this tiny white rabbit fur coat that my mum had bought me age 5 that I had decided to customise with some pink fluorescent highlighter—I thought it was just the coolest thing ever, while my mum had a minor breakdown. Looking back now, I realise that, compared to today’s new generation of fashionistas, my early styling skills were borderline tacky.
Not only did Instagram create what we now know as influencers, it also introduced us to some very young fashion influencers. Standing out from the crowd of stylish little ones is Coco, also known as @Coco_PinkPrincess, the 9-year-old Japanese fashionista, and probably one of the trendiest and coolest young girls on Instagram. From her first post in 2015 to her most recent one from the beginning of February, not only did Coco share with her followers some serious fashion style, but she also showed the world what it means to be a kid-influencer.
Coco’s following really blew up globally after she was interviewed by Vice age 6. Shortly after, aged 7, she had already done a photoshoot for ELLE, for which she styled her own accessories. That same year, she spoke to Hypebae about her love of fashion. Today, with 675K followers (and counting), it is obvious that Coco is Insta famous, and for good reasons. Looking through her feed, there aren’t any styles that she can’t master—from streetwear and classic with a twist to kawaii and head-to-toe Gucci or Balenciaga, Coco looks amazing in everything.
In order to get some fashion tips from the Pink Princess herself, Screen Shot had an exclusive interview with the 9-year-old and her mum Misato, where we spoke about Coco’s style, her dreams for the future and her in-depth knowledge of Instagram’s algorithm. Here’s how it went:
What I love about your style is how eclectic and colourful it is. You always dare to take that extra step that most people wouldn’t. What is your process behind putting together one of those outfits?
Coco: When I make an outfit I sometimes choose the clothes I want to wear first or choose a theme, also my father teaches me a lot about fashion, so sometimes we make the outfit together or sometimes just by myself.
Misato: As she grew up in Harajuku she’s been surrounded by many colourful and stylish adults, so she’s been in an open environment when it comes to styling.
Do you have fashion icons or other influences on your style?
Coco: Not really but I sometimes check fashion feeds on Instagram.
With the help of her parents who run the vintage store Funktique in Harajuku, Tokyo, Coco styles her outfits depending on what kind of mood she is in on that specific day. But how did she start her Instagram and what exactly does it take to curate an account that has that much fashion influence?
You’ve been known as a fashion icon on social media for a few years. Is it still as much fun for you today as it was in the beginning? What encouraged you to open your account and share your fashion styles with the world?
Coco: Yes, I still really enjoy taking photos for Instagram.
Misato: Coco was brought up in Harajuku since she was 2 years old where we, her parents, run a vintage shop. Shop staff, influencers and people in the entertainment industry around her were all on Instagram, so Coco naturally imitated them and started posting on Instagram.
As a fashion influencer, Coco is one of the few who don’t post as regularly as the others—she posts monthly or twice a month, but never every few days. Speaking to Misato, we asked:
Is this done on purpose or are you both just posting whenever you have time and good pictures of Coco’s outfits?
Misato: It’s true that her frequency to post has lessened and there are 2 reasons for it. After analysing Instagram’s algorithm and taking her daily life into consideration, the posting pace we chose was the most efficient for her then. She also started to have a lot of work and projects, so it became harder to make time for posts on Instagram. However, the algorithm has recently changed and her work pace became calmer, which means that she started posting like before again.
When it comes to social media, and more specifically Instagram, kids are now growing up alongside it. Do you think one day Instagram will become old news, and, if so, what new app would you like to replace it?
Coco: There are new apps coming out one after another so it might change to something else.
Misato: This is a hard question. We don’t know what will happen to Instagram and which app will replace it, but for Coco’s generation, it will still be an essential part of their lives. So it will also be important to be able to make decisions flexibly, even if the platform changes.
Speaking about the future, do you know what you’d like to achieve next?
Coco: Lately I enjoy acting, so for now, I hope to be a great actress.
That would be great! And what about fashion, do you see yourself still doing what you do on Instagram? Would you like to stay in the fashion industry?
Coco: I like fashion so I hope to still be a part of it in the future.
To finish, give us a few of your tips, what is your favourite thing about fashion at the moment?
Coco: Lately, I’m into flowers and creating styles like natural flower combinations. I like pale colour tones, like what natural flowers have.
So, for those of you who are in need of some fashion inspo, you heard it here first; try to include more flowers and pastel colours in your Instagram feed to stand out. When it comes to fashion, Coco’s style and vision both seem to be a mix between classic and new innovations—something that we, at Screen Shot, are always trying to promote in a fun and engaging way.
It is unclear what the future holds for social media, new technologies or even for the fashion industry, but what is sure is that the new generation is showing an incredible amount of savviness and creativity. In the end, it will be people like Coco, ZaZa and others who will shape our future, at least as long as fashion is concerned. And when speaking to Coco and her mum, it almost feels like a reassurance to realise that a famous 9-year-old fashionista can be as grounded and lovely as her Instagram pictures depict her.