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Four Fashion Tech Firms Transforming the UK

Britain’s technology start-up sector is booming thanks to government tax breaks, specialized university courses and London’s position as the finance hub of Europe. This means fashion tech entrepreneurs are at a major advantage—able to gain good access to stylists, fashion brands and affluent customers as well as venture capitalists and private equity funds. Here is a run-down of four U.K. fashion start-ups to watch.

The AI one

Tech has found a way to give us drivers, homes in every city and help on demand. And in the latest invention to steal life hacks from the rich, Intelistyle—an app launched in London in 2017—provides us all with an AI fashion stylist. The app lets users browse clothes from online stores or upload their own photos of items from their wardrobe, and AI will use the information to suggest outfit ideas.

But how do you teach an app something as intangible as style? The team says its AI analyzes the latest fashion photography and learns how to combine clothes using the choices of high street stylists and looks from the runway. It uses 256 different style parameters to make its choices and currently reaches 80 percent accuracy when competing against human stylists, according to the founders. Intelistyle will make money from the brands that sign up—so far on board are Mango, Zalando, Next, Nordstrom, H&M, River Island, Asos, prettylittlething, Boohoo, Urban Outfitters, Missguided and Nike.

The sustainable one

In a bid to bring manufacturing back to the beleaguered U.K. industry, Community Clothing is making high-quality, home-grown clothes for men and women—and simultaneously creating jobs for skilled workers, while restoring pride in Britain’s textile communities.

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Less than two years old, the social enterprise is trying to fill a gap caused by seasonality. For several months of every year, even the best factories are operating at well below full capacity. Community Clothing was launched in 2016 to address this exact issue by using factory downtime to create their own line of wardrobe staples. The clothes are available via their app or in Topshop—Britain’s most powerful high street store. Its message is one of equality and fairness: every factory receives a fair price for its goods, and every worker is paid at least the National Living Wage. And so far, it’s working—the company is up and running in 19 factories around the U.K., illustrating that social enterprise can sometimes also spell success.

The global one

Lyst may have been born in London, but today the e-commerce platform has its finger in the global pie. Its unique selling proposition is that it brings together more than 11,000 fashion brands and retailers from around the world, allowing customers to use a single shopping basket and bypass expensive delivery charges from abroad. Its particular specialty is new products—the company aims to have the newest stock the moment it drops and is always attune to the latest changes in pricing.

As a result, Lyst is moving past its start-up roots—it featured in TechcityUK’s Future 50 and it has already received nearly 50 million pounds ($64.8 million) in funding from the likes of Groupe Arnault, Accel Partners and Balderton Capital.

The menswear one

Outside of the high-end Jermyn Street tailors, menswear in the U.K. has lagged behind other European countries. To redress that balance, Kieran O’Neill founded Thread. The aim of the platform is to personalize each man’s experience—you tell them if you like three-piece suits or narrow jeans, how much you like to spend, and which brands you tend to shop. Consumers are then assigned a personal stylist (a real-life person) who goes through your preferences and sends you clothing suggestions on a weekly basis.

Thread currently has eight stylists working in-house for its 250,000 active users—if that sounds wild, it’s because while the stylists are human, the algorithm does the hard work, taking over after the first few weeks of recommendations. This frees up the stylist’s time to concentrate on the initial taste profiles and the messaging service.

The service itself is free with the money coming from brands that pay to opt in—so far, it has raised 7 million pounds ($9 million) in capital.