Maison Me-chine

Maison Me is a made-to-order apparel brand powered by machine learning.

Machine learning has become Maison Me’s key differentiator in the crowded e-commerce space.

Epytom Inc., creator of the Maison Me platform, saw unmet needs in the online clothing marketplace. Founder Anastasia Sartan explains, “We realized that every single woman, when she shops for clothes, has to compromise on something. It may be the fit, or that the  price is too high or the piece has a weird ruffle.”1 To overcome this, Maison Me tries to understand the customer’s style preferences through a series of comprehensive questions. Then, the platform uses an algorithm to sort through this data to arrive at the perfect dress for the customer. Despite using artificial intelligence to optimize clothing design, Maison Me recognizes the importance of human intervention at key points in the process. For example, a human creates an original sketch that is made available to the customer for $15.

Not only do these made-to-order creations appeal to the customer’s unique desires, they also are custom tailored to fit the customer’s figure. Women have trouble finding clothing that is “100 percent right…Sizing is so inconsistent, it doesn’t mean anything anymore.”2 Again, humans re-enter the process with a professional tailor taking all measurements thereby eliminating the guesswork and ensuring proper fit.

Maison Me also solves for the sustainability problem in fashion. A recent study indicated that “the current approaches to sustainability are limited and fail to address more fundamental challenges linked to the dominant business models and consumption behaviors.”3 The result is massive overproduction and subsequent disposal as brands try to maintain their cachet.4 Shirking industry standards, Maison Me has adopted a just-in-time approach where production is triggered by an order. By working with a supplier that specializes in small-batch sustainable apparel, Maison Me is able to reduce waste and keep prices competitive between $100 to $200 for a dress.

Before March 2018, Epytom was operating as an AI personal stylist chat box with 300,000 users.5 Once Sartan proved the technology was viable, the company began raising funds for the Maison Me platform. Securing $1 million from the Founders Fund, Gargarin Capital and Google Assistant Investment Program in September, Epytom will focus on optimizing the platform described above and building for new platforms, such as Google Home.6 In early November, Maison Me will launch its first Google app and then will look to integrate into Google’s products. As Ilya Gelfenbeyn, head of the Google Assistant Investment Program, explains the partnership with Maison Me will “make it possible to build services and recommendations in such a visual industry like fashion.”7 Gelfenbeyn goes on to say “We believe that personalized what-to-wear recommendations can really simplify the morning routines for people. A lot of people start their day by asking their Google Home speakers for a weather forecast, and are looking for some help before they pick out their outfits.”8

In the medium-term, Maison Me hopes to successfully increase order volume in order to realize economies of scale. Sartan assets, “Once we get the volume of the orders, we’ll target the mass market segment to be competitive with Zara….we’ll be as big as Stitch Fix.”9

Sartan believes that “Google is definitely going to be a big part of Maison Me’s growth.”10 That being said, Epytom should start preparing for the next generation of Google Home, as well as competitor technologies. While Google Home does not have a visual display, many reports speculate that one is likely in development.11 In order to stay ahead of the curve, Maison Me should consider how to translate its interface into screened devices, whether they belong to Google, Amazon in the form of Echo or smart mirrors.

In the future, Epytom should ensure its current supply chain is scalable. Maison Me’s lead time is currently fifteen days driven by a kinetic operating system that allows the company to make sewing pattern in five seconds.12 While this is impressive, it will not be fast enough to compete with Zara, which is able to go “from floor to store in seven days.”13 Epytom should start making investments in its small-batch Arizona facility to ensure it can ramp up production with larger volumes. Epytom should also consider whether the Arizona facility is replicable and, if so, where should the next facility be located.

There are several questions to consider as Maison Me disrupts the current online marketplace.

How will Maison Me position itself against Amazon’s Echo Look device and future competitor products that help users decide what to wear each day?

Should Maison Me successfully expand into the mass market, will it be able to maintain its couture positioning?

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Endnotes:

1 Sharon Edelson, “Maison Me to Scale AI-Designed Made-to-Order Brand,” WWD, September 14, 2018, https://wwd.com/business-news/technology/maison-me-to-scale-ai-designed-made-to-order-brand-1202814267/, accessed November 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Esben Rahbek Gjerdrum Pedersen and Kirsti Reitan Andersen, “Sustainability innovators and anchor draggers: a global expert study on sustainable fashion,” Journal of Fashion Marketing & Management Vol. 19, Issue 3 (2015): 315-327.

4 Ingrid Lunden, “Maison Me nabs $1M from Google’s Assistant fund and more for made-to-order clothes,” Tech Crunch, September 13, 2018, https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/18/maison-me-nabs-1m-from-googles-assistant-fund-and-more-for-made-to-order-clothes/, accessed November 2018.

5 Sharon Edelson, “Maison Me to Scale AI-Designed Made-to-Order Brand,” WWD, September 14, 2018, https://wwd.com/business-news/technology/maison-me-to-scale-ai-designed-made-to-order-brand-1202814267/, accessed November 2018.

6 Ingrid Lunden, “Maison Me nabs $1M from Google’s Assistant fund and more for made-to-order clothes,” Tech Crunch, September 13, 2018, https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/18/maison-me-nabs-1m-from-googles-assistant-fund-and-more-for-made-to-order-clothes/, accessed November 2018.

Sharon Edelson, “Maison Me to Scale AI-Designed Made-to-Order Brand,” WWD, September 14, 2018, https://wwd.com/business-news/technology/maison-me-to-scale-ai-designed-made-to-order-brand-1202814267/, accessed November 2018.

Clayton Moore, “Who needs Stitch Fix? Maison Me uses A.I. to custom design clothing just for you,” Digital Trends, September 18, 2018, https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/maison-me-custom-clothes/, accessed November 2018.

Sharon Edelson, “Maison Me to Scale AI-Designed Made-to-Order Brand,” WWD, September 14, 2018, https://wwd.com/business-news/technology/maison-me-to-scale-ai-designed-made-to-order-brand-1202814267/, accessed November 2018.

10 Ibid.

11 Ingrid Lunden, “Maison Me nabs $1M from Google’s Assistant fund and more for made-to-order clothes,” Tech Crunch, September 13, 2018, https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/18/maison-me-nabs-1m-from-googles-assistant-fund-and-more-for-made-to-order-clothes/, accessed November 2018.

12 Sharon Edelson, “Maison Me to Scale AI-Designed Made-to-Order Brand,” WWD, September 14, 2018, https://wwd.com/business-news/technology/maison-me-to-scale-ai-designed-made-to-order-brand-1202814267/, accessed November 2018.

13 Dave Manning, “Fast fashion,” Logistics & Transport Focus Vol. 20, Issue 4 (April 2018): 22.

Photo courtesy of Digital Trends

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2 thoughts on “Maison Me-chine

  1. It seems like Maison Me is setting itself up for solving the two important challenges in women clothing – style and fit. However, I have some doubt around the viability of their growth strategy. I like how you touch on the question of whether Maison Me will manage to maintain its couture position once if caters to the masses. I would even ask more provocatively “Does Maison Me have clarity on the mass customers needs?”. Currently they are targeting women with good purchasing power and a keen interest in having their unique clothes. This is clearly different from the mass customer at Zara that they want to target going forward. I would argue that the “stylish individualism” Maison Me offers is less appealing to the mass consumer who is relieved that Zara is making the style calls and translating the latest runway fashion trends to something wearable. Also, fit for everyday clothes is arguably less of an issue as opposed to fit of special dresses/suits. So even if Maison Me does manage to make their service affordable to the masses, does the average Jane want to design her own clothes and stand out or does she just want to wear something fashionable that fits just well enough? If she does, Maison me looses its key competitive advantage moving into mass fashion.

  2. It is quite incredible that Maison Me has been able to develop a system for delivering made to order dresses to customers with unique design elements in only 15 days. I think this inherently poses a challenge with their ambition to scale widely and compete with mass retailers such as Zara. The value proposition I see from Maison is their ability to leverage artificial intelligence to complement human designers and create unique pieces for consumers who want their dresses to fit perfectly and standout from a design perspective, which is contrasts with the mainstream offerings mass retailers provide. I wonder if they would be better served scaling at a more moderate pace and instead focus more on positioning themselves as key partners to in-home smart devices that can understand a consumer’s unique fashion preferences and work to make daily recommendations.

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