Personal styling service Stitch Fix was founded in 2011 by US entrepreneur Katrina Lake, and sells third-party men’s, women’s and children’s brands.
In May 2019 it expanded into the UK, marking its first foray overseas for the San Francisco-based company.
Users sign up to the service, answer an online questionnaire about their fashion preferences, upload credits for the amount they want to spend, and a remote stylist picks out clothing according to their tastes. Consumers are charged an initial £10 styling fee, can choose the frequency of their deliveries, and provide feedback on their choices.
After receiving a box of five pieces of clothing, customers can pay for the items they want to keep and send back the others. If customers want to keep all five items, they receive a 20% discount. Stitch Fix has partnered with 140 brands, including Samsøe Samsøe, French Connection and AllSaints. Price points range from £20 for a T-shirt to £500 for a men’s jacket.
In August 2020, Lake “handed the baton” to current CEO Elizabeth Spaulding, and stepped into the role of chairwoman [Spaulding first joined Stitch Fix in January 2020 in the role of president to observe the business]. Spaulding was born in Chicago, but now lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.
Stitch Fix is Spaulding’s first fashion role. She was previously a senior partner and board member at management consulting firm Bain, and global head at Bain Digital, advising clients on digital and consumer sectors.
Drapers hears from Spaulding about making an entrance into the fashion industry.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I am often woken up by my energetic 11 year-old daughter running around the house, after which, the first port of call is a quick check of my inbox to see what awaits me for the day.
What was your first job?
My first job was babysitting around the neighbourhood of my childhood home in Chicago – it was actually quite a lucrative business at the time.
How did you start your career in fashion?
Joining Stitch Fix in January 2020 was my first step into the world of fashion. What a way to begin. I joined the business just six weeks before the pandemic took hold of the retail industry and it’s safe to say, I’ve learned a lot. Stitch Fix is a unique player and I think of it as a consumer technology business, fusing the art of human stylists, with advanced data science to create the ultimate personal shopping experience. This fusion of fashion and retail with a game-changing tech model is an incredibly exciting intersection to play in.
When founder Katrina Lake and I first agreed I would step into the CEO role, we were very intentional about what that transition would look like. I began Stitch Fix life as president and had the chance to get to know the business, the product and the people. So when the time came for Katrina to pass the baton to me, I felt well prepared for the day-to-day needs of the role.
Day to day, my responsibilities include shaping the future of our business, overseeing strategy and product development, continuing to build our investor base, as well as ensuring our DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] commitments and sustainability efforts are at the forefront of our decision making.
How would you describe the business in one sentence?
Stitch Fix is the most personal way to shop and we believe the future is about creating inspiring, simple, convenient, engaging and curated experiences for every customer.
What’s your coffee (or tea) order?
I gave up coffee a few years ago. So not the most common answer from a US native, but my order has got to be an English breakfast tea.
What’s the biggest challenge the fashion industry is facing at the moment?
Sustainability and the supply chain are without doubt two of the biggest, most pressing challenges. The need to do better across both has been prevalent for a while now, but the pandemic and Brexit definitely intensified the issues. Customers are also far more aware of their purchase power today, and to stay relevant, businesses simply need to do better.
We are active members of coalitions such as [US organisation SAC] Sustainable Apparel Coalition, BCI [Better Cotton Initiative], [tree-planting organisation] CanopyStyle and [sustainable label and packaging specialist] Pack4Good to improve our sustainability and supply chain efforts. We are also able to make data-informed decisions when it comes to purchasing inventory, which means we can better predict our stock units and most importantly, reduce waste. There’s a lot of work to do, but we’re ready for it.
There are so many things that come to mind after a long 18 months, but I would say the importance of being responsive and agile – being aware of your customer, and responding to their wants and needs quickly. The pandemic accelerated the many trends we were already seeing before Covid.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
When I’m shopping in the UK, I love exploring the different floors of Liberty, wandering around Mayfair and visiting The London Silver Vaults around Chancery Lane.
Last fashion purchase?
I actually bought a French Connection dress via Stitch Fix in the US. I can see it being a wardrobe staple through the coming months as the seasons change.
Emails or phone calls?
Definitely a phone call – not just because it’s more efficient, but because it gives you a personal connection and appreciation for the point of view of the other person that words on a screen just can’t. A good conversation just gets more done.
Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?
Early in my career someone said to me “everyday actions are what people remember you by” and I’ve definitely carried this with me. You might have a brilliant vision for your business, but if you forget to listen to your team and ignore the seemingly small day-to-day things that make such a difference, you ultimately lose the human connection and your business will suffer as a result.
What’s the last book you read?
I’ve just finished American Dirt [by US author Jeanine Cummins]. Eye opening, real, humbling and a testament to the power of female strength in the face of life-changing adversity. A must-read.
Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?
Laura Lambert, founder of responsibly sourced digital-first jewellery brand Fenton & Co, is doing amazing things in the jewellery industry at the moment. She founded Fenton, in 2018 and in February 2020, secured an additional £1.7m in funding, which shows the growing belief in her brand vision.
Her business puts personalisation and sustainability at its core, focusing on natural gemstones and recycled metals with a transparent and well-managed supply chain. I’m so excited to see what is in store for her and her team.
One piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Be more self-compassionate. I’ve learnt we have to make mistakes to learn, but without the kindness to self that promotes constructive development, it becomes destructive.
Who do you turn to when you need advice?
My husband every time – he’s the best sounding board and keeps me real with solid advice.
What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?
We’ve recently built a covered dining area in our garden, complete with outdoor seating and fairy lights, so I am really looking forward to hosting dinner parties with friends and family. It’s been a tough 18 months, so it’s going to feel very special to spend some quality time together with delicious food – and even a bit of karaoke (my guilty pleasure).