Thread Set to Revolutionise the British Retail Market with a Personal Stylist for Every Man
Offering a free personal stylist to men in the UK, Thread is a London-based tech start-up looking to revolutionise the British retail market with a blend of humans and computer algorithms.
Menswear Fashion Market Booms in the UK
In 2012 Burberry reported that menswear was their fastest growing area of business, with sales of men’s tailoring up 70% year-on-year. And as they opened their first ever standalone menswear store in Knightsbridge, the British Fashion Council (BFC) launched its first menswear-only event, London Collections: Men.
Dylan Jones, Editor of British GQ, says, “Menswear has never been so important. During the recession it has been one of the sectors that has outperformed in the fashion industry”. In fact, over the past five years, the UK menswear fashion market has grown by 12%, and is now worth around £10.4 billion.
The British men contributing to this boom in the men’s fashion market, are doing so via technology: 68% shopping on a computer, 25% on a tablet, and 15% on a smartphone.
Part-Man, Part-Machine Personal Styling
With this rise of the style-smart tech-savvy male, comes part-man part-machine styling service, Thread. Founded in 2012 by 27-year-old entrepreneur Kieran O’Neill, with Ben Kucsan, a product designer who has worked for Twitter, and Ben Phillips, an ex-Google engineer, the company offers a free personal stylist to any man in the UK.
Entering a virtually untapped market, the Thread system combines highly intelligent algorithms with 3 in-house and 40 freelance professional stylists. Users sign up, and enter detailed information about their style, size, preferred fits and cuts, brand preferences, typical spend, income, likes and dislikes. Then (in working hours), they have a live chat session with their very real very human stylist, who adds more nuanced information to their profile. The computer then searches through a database of outfits, made weekly by the styling team, matching users with five perfect looks. Based on user scores and feedback, the algorithm continues to learn, and users receive five new (better and better) looks every Friday.
With the option to email their stylist for specific advice, hand-picked selections, or even a new look to pair with their favourite sweater, the result is a personalised, but highly scalable system, as humans and machines achieve what neither could alone.
So far, Thread has raised $2.5 million in seed funding from influential investors including William Reeve, co-founder of LoveFilm; Shakil Khan, a founding investor in Spotify; Michael Birch, founder of Bebo; and Miriam Lahage, former vice president of fashion at eBay. And as they invest in O’Neill’s vision for the future of British retail, his track-record must be of reassurance. His first entrepreneurial foray aged 15, HolyLemon.com, a video sharing website similar to and in advance of YouTube, sold for $1.25 million. And in 2007, after raising $3.1 million in funding, from Niklas Zennstrom founder of Skype, Michael Birch founder of Bebo, and Chris Deering former chairman of Sony, he co-founded Playfire, the largest social network for gamers. Users grew to 1 million and was acquired in May 2012.
Whilst Thread breaks new ground, O’Neill comments “our biggest competitor isn’t another company but the fact that people aren’t aware that this is possible.”