Thread: Style Nirvana?
Paul Markevicius discovers Thread the online styling platform…
Whether it’s a desire to follow trends, cross-refer pricing, tap into influencer recommendations or simply relieve boredom, an innate, subconscious desire to enhance our look, tirelessly pushes the mouse across the A-Z of known fashion websites. At the core of this neural quest is our subjective perception of ourselves to find what suits us. The truly beguiling unfathomable mystery is, why so many struggle intuitively with what styles work for them? Why do we seem to lack the ability to self-style with a grounded, perceptive filter of our own physiognomy? For some, it’s an existential fashion police bypass, for others a source of despair. We still can’t see the wool for the fleece.
Is an approximated style modelling portal, driven by intelligent algorithms, based on discrete data sets, from all the fabric options, designs, silhouettes, trends and cultivated styling looks an image bank can store, the solution?
Time for some neural fine-tuning of fashion’s holy grail: style.
Launched originally in 2012 as a service for men who wanted to look good but could not be bothered to shop, Thread now provides an online styling platform for women also. Easy to engage, with an enticing free styling premise that hooks you from the get-go. A cleverly designed quick quiz on physical appearance, covering height, hair colour, skin colour, dress size, bra size, body shape, etc. (all amendable), age range, budget and how you want to be styled, immediately transforms into a personal styled garment line sheet, based on your criteria. Slick, professional images with a boutique feel and with discounts against RRP. You even get a real live stylist to advise you.
With minimal effort, it’s like someone went to multiple designer storerooms and retailer garment rails, did some serious selective shopping on your behalf, and came back with incredible prices, you could never hope to obtain. And styling tips. What’s not to like? The friendly appointed Thread stylist, (like the gift that keeps on giving) by using their expertise, is activating the neural reward pathway that gives pleasure when we see something that makes us feel good. This has a tendency to motivate buying behaviour but it’s not manipulative. Thread is an ingenious idea, well presented allowing you to choose to be styled from a more intuitive starting point.
With innovators and disruptors, the starting point, like the Japanese design silhouette, is often fundamentally different from the norm. They capture something that no-one saw, sitting right in front of them. It just feels right.
Thread has cleverly fused intelligent algorithms with the human interface of highly attuned stylist expertise, to deliver something that is conceptually phenomenal: personalised, styled garment choices matched to the individual. In today’s artificial intelligence enhanced world, the applications potential is huge.
Thread’s growing team of stylists, machine-learning PhDs (and one assumes neuroaesthetic specialists), ensure intrigue interest levels are maintained with a high correlation of aesthetic value for the recipient. The yes, your glutes do look good in this. Its AI platform learns from consumer selections and with each assimilated response and stylist input, the data takes on more significance. In principle, no one will have this much perceptive styling knowledge, individually and collectively to relay back to the brands supplying the fashion industry. This is how Thread achieves scale to negotiate discounted pricing with the 250K+ affiliate retail partners they have. The cumulative feel-good for the individual using Thread, not to curb my enthusiasm, is ‘pretty, pretty good.’ But the potential benefits to the fashion industry are significant and exponential.
“AI technology can assist fashion brands through predictive analytics that can provide insight into fashion trends, purchase patterns, and inventory-related guidance,” cites Mélanie Mollard, Fashion Content Manager at Heuritech in an illuminating article on AI and Fashion. * As Caren Downey, respected doyen of the fashion industry recently commented on a Fashion-Enter master class, “The (fashion business) model is in dire need of change and has been for ages. It doesn’t work.”
Through data fed back to fashion houses, AI can enable a much needed paradigm shift in the industry’s core focus, without compromising creativity and imagination, to a more meaningful repurposed base of design and styling. Utilising machine-based knowledge, cultivated from social media styling and image metrics, we can design what people want, thereby increasing sustainability and reducing endemic waste. Lofty goals, but a clear differentiator in driving sustainability.
By incorporating social media styling and image metrics into designing what people want, AI can radically assist sustainability and reduce the profligate waste. It needs a paradigm shift.
The influence potential and data processing capacity of platforms like Thread and Heuritech, a company set up by several machine learning PhDs, with a “proprietary image technology designed to analyse images on social media,” has the power to change how designers approach styling and the way it is presented to consumers. Thread’s appointed stylist will continue to make styling suggestions for you each week, without it being intrusive.
As a concept, Thread www.thread.com needs to be experienced to be appreciated for the range and depth of professional tips garment by garment, colour suggestions, seasons, matching what you own and getting it work. And so much more. It’s a tad addictive, presented in a friendly, informative format. Friends I’ve asked have agreed, the styling is compelling and they would buy off this portal.
What are they up against? I have witnessed boutique owners whose styling talents go into overdrive with the subject in front of them in the store. It’s subtle, sophisticated people management, requiring diplomacy and not inconsiderable fashion knowledge and flair. They also work off height, hair, skin tone, body shape and personality to find just the right garment in a flattering fabric and cut andmost importantly colour, complemented with just the right blouse, accessorised effortlessly. This is no lightweight, arbitrary ability. It’s styling expertise, honed by many years of perfecting the art of ‘seeing beyond the rail’ garments that yield transformations and killer looks, worn and matched perfectly to the person.
Thread is proactively taking this traditional stylist role into the online arena. Retailers, boutiques and their incumbent stylists, have to adjust to online as the dominant shopping driver or be left behind. With so many consumers pandemic-ally persuaded to push online shopping to even greater levels of behavioural saturation, Thread’s styling platform can find its critical mass sweet spot. Will we ever see a changing room full of discarded clothing on the floor, with the exasperated assistant’s ‘do you even know what you are looking for’ expression again? Except this way, no one gets his or her knickers in a twist because the algorithm never gets tired.
Thread will probably have a clever ‘self-correcting’ answer to the assertion, getting the styling right is based on potentially distorting perceptions of self-image, priming its style-matching. And the affiliated sales margins will I’m sure tell their own story.
The confluence of AI technology and the ability to deliver on-demand personalised styling with globally fixated eyeballs can trigger self-actualised engagement to a fascinating level. We may be able paradoxically to quantify one of the fashion industry’s most sought after and elusive qualitative attributes. And discover neural inquisitiveness is the viral driver of the apotheosis of style.
By Paul Markevicius