When Jessie Zeng set out to open an online fashion house, it made sense that she would do so by way of Instagram: The MIT graduate describes herself as a “social media obsessive” who spends hours pouring over the fashion stylings of the site’s A-lister accounts.
Zeng’s company, Choosy, draws its fashion inspiration almost exclusively from the top trending posts on Instagram. Choosy’s chief goal is to put the bespoke, buzz-worthy items worn by the site’s social media darlings into the hands of consumers, for a fraction of what the real items cost.
Zeng built her company around questions she saw cropping up again and again on the images of celebrities and influencers: Where can I buy that outfit? What brand is that? How can I get what they’re wearing?
“No one ever answers those questions,” Zeng told Business Insider. “And then, when you do find out what item they’re wearing, it’s usually so expensive that it’s unattainable for the everyday consumer.”
Zeng decided to open her own retail brand centered on providing consumers with the items they’ve expressed interest in purchasing online. To do so, Zeng and her co-founders kicked off their fashion company in an unusual way: By writing algorithms for fashions that were trending online in real-time.
For its debut, Choosy’s team created four algorithmically-inspired outfits drawn from styles worn by supermodel sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid. The items were an instant hit.
“The entire collection sold out and we had nearly 10,000 names on the waiting list,” said Zeng. “That was how we really started. We thought, ‘Okay, we can build a real company around this.'”
Now, Choosy is building a brand that delivers algorithmically informed fashions in as little as two weeks. Zeng, whose family runs a number of textile manufacturers in China, has leveraged her connections in the textile industry into a fast-paced fashion production network. The team creates small batches of the first crop of styles in-house; if an item proves popular, the manufacturing is outsourced to another nearby clothing factory in order to meet demand.
Most items on Choosy are priced at around $50, although jackets and clothing with bead work and premium fabrics run closer to $100. The company’s competitive pricing is a result of both its direct-to-consumer business model and its ability to avoid planning out inventory altogether.
Choosy’s model of consumer-focused “social commerce” has caught the eye of investors. Zeng said that the company’s first $5.4 million round, which included investments from firms like New Enterprise Associates and Forerunner Ventures, was oversubscribed.
Eurie Kim, a general partner at Forerunner Ventures who led the funding round, said that her firm was interested in Choosy because of the company’s unique merchandising approach. “They’re leveraging technology and data to listen to consumers’ real-time excitement and enthusiasm for styles and trends,” Kim told Business Insider.
While Choosy is still awaiting its official July launch, the team is actively culling Instagram for fashion inspiration and encourages Instagram users to tag the styles they’d like their company to create using the hashtag #getchoosy.
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