Stitch in time wears well in age of quick fixes

| Juliana Chen 12 Sep 2018

"Care to engage a stylist for US$20 [HK$156]?"

This line sounds familiar, very much akin to the interior design reality TV show Design on a Dime, which for US$1,000 would provide your home with a new look.

Yet there are fundamental differences. The personal stylist service is only one e-mail away and can last as long as you wish, whereas the TV program requires multiple screenings and is one-off.

The most horrendous aspect of these home embellishment shows is that some lucky beneficiaries caught the attention of the taxman and ended up having to pay hefty property taxes for the resultant appreciation in value.

Operating under the slogan of "A new you in one tiny box," 35-year-old founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, Katrina Lake, has spun this remote makeover concept into a US$3 billion company.

As the youngest woman ever to take a company public, Lake was named by Forbes in 2017 as one of the wealthiest self-made women in America.

Her success story can perhaps serve as a reference point for young entrepreneurs. In an interview with CNN Money, she admitted that starting a company was never on her radar.

Lake said she did not see herself as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin who were coders sitting in a garage and building a firm. Focusing on what she was familiar with, she came up with the idea for Stitch Fix as part of a project at Harvard Business School.

Targeting women without ready access to a wide range of fashion options or do not have the time to shop around, she launched a personalized shopping service in 2011 by deploying algorithms and recommendations from stylists to curate a customer's style, sizes and fit preferences.

For a fee of US$20 and after filling out a style profile, a tiny box of four clothing items and an accessory will reach the client's doorsteps, with a personal note from the stylist and styling cards of matching suggestions. The client can choose to keep any of the stylist picks and should she buy all, there will be a 25 percent discount. Any purchase will have the styling fee deducted.

Items for return can simply be placed in the enclosed prepaid shipping bag and dropped at any USPS mailbox within three business days.

Feedback is encouraged, along with the choice of another stylist. The company has since extended the styling service to men and kids.

Retired senior civil servant is a passionate crystal collector who shares the good things in life.

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