Our Start-up of the Week is Styl.Wrap, a Waterford-based company using AI to create a sizing solution for online fashion retailers.
Waterford-native Shana Chu worked in clothing design and manufacturing for eight years, gaining knowledge of some of the major problems the fashion industry is facing.
In addition, she has also worked in web development and digital marketing, giving her an insight into online consumer behaviour including buying and return habits.
With this combination of experience behind her, Chu decided to set up Styl.Wrap, a sizing solution that aims to reduce the cost, volume and environmental impact of customer returns by providing instant fit recommendations to online shoppers.
“We look at sizing and fit issues across the complete supply chain from initial design and production to ensure that shoppers get the right fit that looks good and feels great the first time,” Chu told Siliconrepublic.com.
She said that her start-up’s technology enables online retailers to offer real-time size advice to shoppers, just like an in-store assistant would. While this may be helpful for consumers, it could also make “an impactful difference” to the fashion industry.
“From my own background experience and from in-depth research with retailers and factories, we saw the opportunity was bigger than just solving sizing for online shoppers,” Chu explained.
“Sizing is problematic across the complete supply chain and we want to solve the problem across the board. There is a disconnect between the supply chain and online. We want to bridge the gap and reverse-engineer the sizing problem for retailers.”
— STYL.wrap (@stylwrap) February 26, 2020
The technology behind Styl.Wrap
Explaining how the platform works, Chu said: “We are evolving a ‘thinking’ software tailored for the fashion industry, which is powered by AI and machine learning, and designed as an automation strategy for recommendations on sizing and fitting across the supply chain for factories and retailers.”
She said that the goal is to “streamline fashion’s excessively manual production” to reduce timelines, waste and the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
“By removing waste and slashing the environmental impact, we hope to remove the guilt of enjoying fashion felt by shoppers, while making positive impacts on retailers’ bottom lines.”
‘Fashion and retail technology is a hot space and luckily there are some great opportunities for start-ups in this industry’
– SHANA CHU
Chu noted that the fashion industry has traditionally been a slow adopter of technology in some ways, but this has changed in recent years.
“From speaking to retailers, it is clear how eager they are to find technology solutions for common problems,” she added. “Considering the current situation with Covid-19, we are accelerating development and launching earlier than anticipated to help retailers during this time.”
By speeding up the launch of Styl.Wrap, Chu also hopes to help retailers plan for the future, when production returns to normal. In the last few weeks, she has come across reports of retailers cancelling orders with factories and writing off stock due to the downturn in sales.
“We want to support retailers now to help them ease back into production as smoothly and quickly as possible,” she said.
Supports for Irish start-ups
Chu said that since she founded Styl.Wrap, she has received a wealth of support both in Waterford and Dublin. In Waterford, she has received help from the Local Enterprise Office, New Frontiers, South East BIC and ArcLabs at Waterford Institute of Technology. She said that she still regularly turns to these resources for advice when necessary.
“It’s so important when starting a business to have access to a good support system. When I first started out, I didn’t know where to go or what my next steps should be. The New Frontiers programme really helped me plot out my plan and gave me the groundwork to start building a viable business,” Chu said.
In Dublin, she has been interacting with Dublin BIC and its Innovate programme, which has given her the confidence to start speaking to investors.
“Ireland has a buzzing start-up ecosystem that actively encourages innovation while offering strong support pillars in the form of investment, mentorship, programmes and so many opportunities,” Chu said.
“By utilising all that Ireland has to offer start-ups, companies established in Ireland definitely have an edge over the competition. Fashion and retail technology is a hot space and luckily there are some great opportunities for start-ups in this industry between networks and events.”
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