Whering case study for Pixyle, interview with Svetlana Kordumova, CEO & Founder of Pixyle.ai and Bianca Rangecroft, Founder & CEO of Whering
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) were once technological solutions limited to computer scientists, but now they're powerful tools in various sectors, including fashion. Wanting to find a way to leverage AI to offer consumers new experiences while upending the ‘buy, use and dispose’ business model, Bianca Rangecroft, Founder and CEO of Whering, set out on a mission to create an app that digitises your wardrobe. Partnering with Svetlana Kordumova, Founder and CEO of Pixyle.ai, which offers AI-powered solutions that automate extracting detailed attributes from images, the two are working together to empower consumers to shop their wardrobes and make more mindful decisions when shopping. Using Pixyle.ai AI to power Whering's digital wardrobe, both founders share a vision of using technology to bring around sustainable change within the fashion industry while improving product discoverability. Ahead of International Women’s Day, we spoke to the two female founders to learn more about their companies, their journey together and how they are leveraging AI to educate consumers of all ages on how to dress more sustainable for less.
Where did the idea to start Pixyle.ai and Whering come from?
Svetlana: I have a scientific, technical background. I did a PhD in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Amsterdam, where I worked with computer vision and image recognition technologies. While working on my PhD in AI, I found it frustrating to shop online because finding what I was looking for took a lot of work. I remember one event where I fell in love with the dress that one of the speakers was wearing and wondered why it wasn’t possible for me to simply take a photo of the dress and upload it online to find it instantly, knowing the technology was ready for it - rather than searching hundreds of pages manually. I got the idea to apply the image search and visual search technology that I was developing during my thesis to help e-commerce retailers improve their shopping experience. After graduating, I founded Pixyle, which initially launched as a sustainable fashion marketplace. After nine months, we shifted from B2C to B2B to have a larger impact by implementing our technology into other marketplaces, e-commerce shops, platforms, and mobile apps like Whering.
Bianca: My background is in banking, where I worked for four and half years before the idea for AI styling recommendations came to me while working on Stitch Fix's IPO. I noticed the sustainability flaws in the company's subscription-based service, as they did not know what the customers already owned. After realising how much utilisation and wardrobe compensation data was left on the way-side, I was inspired to create a B2C product that allowed retailers to tap into that vital information. Then I realised that the app was a way into a B2B offering that can help retailers become more sustainable by making better sales to a more targeted audience, reducing wardrobe gaps, and reducing returns with a data-based personalisation system. Our big diversifying factor is our proprietary AI that can give outfit recommendations based on the weather, location, inspiration from the community, and the user's friend's outfits to try new looks.
How does Whering work?
Bianca: Whering is a tool to manage your wardrobe, including a wish list, mood board, and calendar. Once you download the app, you either take pictures of the clothes in your wardrobe and upload them, up to 200 at a time. Or you can use the universal clothing database that features basic items most women and men own and add them to your wardrobe with the tap of a button. You can also add pieces from a Google search or import items from online stores to your wardrobes. You can also swipe up from any link, like Net-a-Porter import that piece into your mood board, wishlist or wardrobe. Users can use Whering to create outfits, get styled by AI for specific events, or use the iconic "Dress Me" feature, inspired by the 1990s movie Clueless gamified with a Tinder-like swipe feature, making it more fun to find an outfit. The app also offers other services and will soon be community-based, allowing users to share calendars, borrow clothes, and bid on resold items. We aim to revamp the entire way we consume fashion and how we can utilise those purchases.
How does Pixyle's automatic tagging enable Whering's digital wardrobe?
Svetlana: Pixyle is an AI-powered product discovery and data enrichment solution for fashion ecommerce. Pixyle's AI technology automatically tags and creates product data for Whering's digital wardrobe by using advanced AI image models to identify key product information. Whering uses Pixyle’s tagging solution to automatically enrich product data when new items are being uploaded in the platform. This way, Whering can deliver a relevant search experience and make more personalised recommendations that allow their users to find exactly what they're looking for. In the simplest terms, our visual AI engine automatically generates tags from photos that are uploaded by Whering’s users.
How has Pixyle supported Whering's growth and vice versa?
Svetlana: We met when we were both starting out, and Whering became one of our first clients. When I founded Pixyle, I did not only want to sell the technology; I also wanted to provide the expertise behind the technology. I like to see us as a partner rather than a software vendor. Every client is different, and we want to make product data enrichment really work for each specific situation. From the start, our teams aligned on what Whering was trying to achieve, and we made sure to set the right configurations before our AI models got to work. For Whering, the images are mostly shot with mobile phones, so we trained our AI models with user-generated content specifically for their use case. I think us both being female fashion tech founders has brought us closer together. Our relationship has developed beyond client and service provider to empower each other and our businesses. As women in a male-dominated field, we faced similar struggles but were able to share our journeys and support each other. We're looking forward to meeting in person for the first time in London this April.
Bianca: Pixyle has been a supportive partner to Whering from the start. We've established a strong working relationship, allowing for a trusted partner in building an MVP and iterate from there, which has been crucial for our growth. We refined our UX and learned how to incorporate Pixyle's technology into our styling tech. I think that the iterative journey helped both companies grow stronger, bringing our expertise to the fore while empowering our teams. Finding a reliable supplier is difficult for start-ups, but Pixyle provides affordable, high-quality services. We can work together without compromising on price or quality, which is rare for startups. I am happy to say we're working together for the long run and excited to continue their journey.
What are some key points you've both learned from this partnership?
Svetlana: Three key points we learned from this partnership are the importance of listening, adapting, and responding to clients' needs to continuously improve our product. Secondly, it has been crucial to trust our teams and empower them to take over and talk to clients while supporting each other's growth journeys. As female founders in fashion tech, it's been great to share experiences and support each other. We've learned to be open-minded, discuss problems, and listen to what others went through. Trusting and empowering our teams to do great work has been key to our success.
Bianca: Partnering with Pixyle taught us the importance of setting quality benchmarks early on to improve our product and stay focused on our goals. As a non-technical founder, it's easy to create a basic version of a product when bootstrapping an MVP, but working with Pixyle provided a benchmark to start with, and their iterative process helped us constantly improve our app. We appreciated Pixyle's flexible pricing and scaling options that enabled us to grow sustainably as a young start-up. Having a partner like Pixyle helped us stay accountable and improve our product experience. I'm grateful for the support and growth opportunities that we can share.
Where do you hope to see Pixyle and Whering in five years?
Svetlana: We want to transform the way people discover products online by helping them find exactly what they're searching for easier and faster. Our goal is to become the leading visual AI-powered product data enrichment platform for any company selling anything online. In five years from now, we aim to have a global reach, serving ecommerce clients in furniture & homeware, beauty and cosmetics. Also, we’ll have developed a strong position in the fast-growing social commerce industry, and we will be processing vast amounts of video content. Lastly, I believe that in the near future, companies will employ more and more highly skilled data scientists and AI experts in-house. This will allow us to give access to our AI models and enable them to train and build their own bespoke AI solutions. I believe that by fostering a strong and collaborative data science community, Pixyle can drive innovation and progress in AI, creating a more enjoyable shopping experience for everyone.
Bianca: We aim to achieve 20 million users within five years as we strive to become the go-to social commerce platform for promoting circular fashion and mindfulness. We use AI to help users replicate outfits they like and already own. In addition to fashion, Whering is also looking into expanding into interior design and décor. The platform offers a range of plug-in services allowing users to style their possessions in new and exciting ways. Whering's partnership with Pixyle has enabled us to gather insights and educational pieces to promote sustainable wardrobe utilisation. We plan to create reports that help users resell or ethically donate unused items. Whering is committed to teaching future generations to make the most of what they have.