Natalie Theo is Style Director at Dressipi, the world’s only “fashion prediction platform”. It works with brands like John Lewis, River Island and Arcadia to help them predict what customers will buy and not return.
She spoke to Econsultancy about how she come to work with Dressipi while it was still at the “kitchen table” stage, how she combines data and emotion in her style work, and which retailers have been raising the bar with fashion.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Natalie Theo: I am the Style Director at Fashion Prediction Platform Dressipi. I work hand in hand with the technology team to inform the fashion domain expertise behind the personalised shopping algorithms (such as the trends for the season and how outfits should be built). We knew from the very beginning how important it was to have the fashion and tech teams work closely together to deliver personal styling at scale.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Natalie Theo: I head up the fashion team and I report to our Co-Founders, Sarah McVittie and Donna North.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Natalie Theo: An inherent love of fashion and the confidence of one’s instinct. Fashion is emotive and it is not static – how, why and what we shop for changes according to trends and lifestyles, so it’s important to be constantly up-to-date and informed about the fashion and retail industry as a whole as well as what the buzz on the style-street is, so to speak.
Adaptability is also key. This job is not just about being creative, it’s also about understanding how to work with technology and use data to create a meaningful and impactful customer journey.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Natalie Theo: There is no typical working day in technology! One constant is always ensuring that the services we provide for our retail clients such as John Lewis and The Modist are running smoothly, which means checking the output for outfits, similar items, style emails, etc.
Another is going through the morning’s retail product drops. Through a combination of our stylists and the latest machine learning technology, every garment is tagged with up to 35 data points (length, neckline, colour, etc.) before it goes live on each retailer’s site. No one else has this high level of expertise and focus on fashion.
After that, it can be anything from working with the tech team on building new pieces of functionality, onboarding new retail clients, going through data feedback or working with the marketing team on articles and whitepapers.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Natalie Theo: I love the synergy between the technology and fashion teams. It’s our USP and what sets us apart from other generic vendors delivering personalisation services that have been built to work across many industries and don’t take into account how and why fashion is different. These vendors do not understand that fashion is emotive and instinctive.
I can identify why something has or hasn’t worked, from the way an outfit is styled to a particular recommendation for a customer profile. I can also explain to our data team how for example trends shape the way we shop and suggest reasons why a customer who has stated “never show me florals” has this season bought a floral print dress! It’s not something that can be achieved purely by technology or academia.
What sucks? A weirdly-styled outfit! Nothing is ever perfect! But then again, a shoe I may think is odd in an outfit can more often than not be a bestseller.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Natalie Theo: We’d love for retailers to use our technology globally to inspire their customers to shop with confidence and create a great, personalised user experience for them at every touchpoint. We also have big ambitions for how our data can be used to help with enabling a far more sustainable and efficient industry.
Every retailer comes to us with different challenges and ways in which they measure success. It might be increasing conversion, reducing returns, helping with customer acquisition or supercharging their marketing efforts. We work very closely with each retail client to identify where their pain points are and how our personalisation platform can help them.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
- The ones we have built ourselves on the backend as it means I can make style updates quickly
- Instagram as a source of inspiration for styling trends
- Vogue Runway for all the seasonal catwalk collections
- Tableau reports from the data desk, as it’s fascinating to me to be able to track customer behaviour and garment performance.
How did you end up at Dressipi, and where might you go from here?
Natalie Theo: I worked at Condé Nast International as Associate Editor/Fashion writing for their international Vogue titles, and then at the Daily Mail as their Fashion Editor. I always knew I wanted to work in technology thanks to the impact of the blog I started at the Mail. I loved the immediacy of it all. I ended up at Dressipi after Sarah, one of the founders, called me up when they were literally at the kitchen table phase.
Which retailers have impressed you lately?
Natalie Theo: There is absolutely no denying that Zara has an incredible ability to push the boundaries each season, not only with the look and feel of their website but also with their ability to translate trends. The sales figures show it.
Mango has really transformed their online offering and I like their #MangoGirls movement as it’s a great way to show how different women wear their pieces.
Sustainability is key and I think that Los Angeles brand Reformation has not only set the standard in this field but also given a clever, consumer-friendly approach to their instore customer experience.
What advice would you give a fashion brand right now?
Natalie Theo: Customers, both in-store and online, don’t want a one size fits all approach to shopping. Use all of your channels of communication with them as well as the technology that exists to surface a truly inspirational and personalised shopping experience.