Utilizing his background in tech, and merging it with his passion for fashion, Ramin Ahmari decided to create FINESSE, a new type of fashion brand that could set the precedence for the future. The company’s clothing is inspired by data, using AI and machine learning algorithms to determine what’s hot and trending in fashion.
Every 1-2 weeks, new outfits drop on their website for you to shop – but here’s how it works: you can vote for the clothing drops you most want to shop, which in turn, helps the environment because only clothing people want to wear is produced. And in limited quantities. FINESSE tackles many issues in the fashion industry at once – avoiding overproduction, taking the guesswork out of what to produce and what’s trending, and appealing to everyone, no matter their gender, race, or body type.
We chatted with Ramin about his inspiration for the brand, how its technology actually works, sustainability and inclusivity in the fashion industry, and the future. Check it out…
How did you come up with the idea for FINESSE?
The whole idea of FINESSE had started from my love of fashion and its power to allow everyone to express who they feel like they want to be a certain day, or during a certain moment. For me, growing up as a queer, feminine, brown kid in the middle of nowhere in Germany, fashion used to be my way of blending in, fitting in with the straight guys when I wasn’t ready to come out yet. It allowed me to wear a masculine armor when I needed it to avoid scrutiny and bullying. Eventually, it became my means of self-expression – exploring my femininity and my identity in its full force. It’s an incredibly powerful and personal tool. At the same time, it has become so inundated by following the same playbook over and over again – the same way we shop (particularly in the dying nature of brick and mortar), the same people we see (stick-thin white cis models), and most importantly, with an insane amount of overproduction and waste. I wanted to change that.
FINESSE in its very first iteration actually was an app that allowed people to upload their outfits and vote on each others’ outfits, partake in so-called ‘fit battles’, and buy the outfits they loved directly in-app. Soon after launch, we had a rabid fanbase that kept on voting like crazy and leaving comments letting us know what exactly they liked and how much they would want to pay for it. That was insanely useful data and it really opened my eyes as to how much data there is out there of people telling us exactly what they want – Instagram, Tik Tok, Digital Publications, Google Trends… there is this treasure trove of consumer behavior that we can tap into to really figure out what consumers want and not just blindly shoot in the dark.
So here I had this perfect answer for this massive problem of fast fashion that applies a spray-paint approach to production, producing as much as they can to see what sticks, and burning the rest (quite literally). What if we didn’t have to do that? What if we knew that what we produced was wanted? Isn’t that how it should be?
This sense of innovation in an otherwise archaic industry really is the core of FINESSE and it extends itself into all of its outdated facets, including our supply-chain (which usually takes months from inspiration to production, whereas with us it takes less than 25 days) and the way we build ourselves as a brand (fully diverse both behind and in front of the scenes, extending into “overlooked” areas of diversity as well with trans talent, etc.)
How exactly does the technology work?
At FINESSE we look at fashion in the same way an economist or hedge fund trader would – what are the signals that predict this stock, or fashion item, will it be going up to record highs, and what are the chances it will underperform? I used to work across finance and technology at some of the world’s leading institutions that tackle these problems – Morgan Stanley, Two Sigma, BlackRock. If there are trillion dollar industries out there that use mathematics and computer science to make sense out of something as ephemeral as a stock, we can certainly use the same methodology and apply it to fashion where we arguably have more expressive data from customers literally telling us what they want. We use a very similar approach to how a quant hedge fund would build its portfolio strategies.
We use a slew of sophisticated and proprietary algorithms and machine learning technology to analyze many aspects of what encapsulates a trend – language data, visual data, time-series data, and statistical analysis. All the way from more obvious, albeit strong, signals such as comments screaming “I need this fit,” to proprietary and underlying features we developed ourselves. We do so across a variety of data sources that include social media and the web. Similarly to Google, this is all embedded in a knowledge graph that we like to call our fledgling “Fashion Brain”.
Does the algorithm put the pieces together in each drop or does your team?
Our algorithm dictates which pieces are most likely to sell together and each “drop outfit” is always meant to be a cohesive look, whether it be the same print used for tops/bottoms or a similar flare style on the arm and leg cuffs. While our algorithm gets us 90% of the way there, our talented team of product developers use their expert knowledge of high fashion and street fashion trends to ultimately put together the finalized design. Community feedback helps us to iterate on small changes on these outfits, such as if there’s an overwhelming demand for a different color or material.
Your clothing is made for all genders — tell us why that was important to you.
We want FINESSE to fully represent and celebrate the amazing diversity of identity and body types of real customers, not just the thin white cis copy-paste model standard in the industry. Our diverse team bonds over the shared history of us all looking at fashion runways and ads and never having felt represented. We want to see ourselves out there on those billboards! For too long, clothing styles have been dictated by strict binaries, and we want to destroy that notion by presenting all of our fits, whether more femme- or masc-leaning, as suitable for everybody to feel their best in!
FINESSE is all about sustainability. How are you working to help the environment and why was that something you wanted to incorporate into your brand?
Fashion’s most damaging issue – and most well-kept secret – is overproduction and waste. The typical fashion company produces thousands of styles every month knowing fully well that only some will sell. The vast majority of styles will get marked down into oblivion and will eventually end up in landfills or burned. Elizabeth Napier, an assistant professor at the University of Toledo, states that out of “100 billion garments made every year worldwide, 92 million tons become waste”. That’s absolutely insane to us! Fashion has been built for decades to enable this.
At FINESSE, our mission is to eliminate this inefficiency and guesswork to entirely rethink how a fashion company is built from the ground up. Through the consistent use of data, we only produce the hit-pieces we know will actually sell. No guesswork. No overproduction. No landfills. Not only do we eliminate overproduction at the manufacturing step, we also use 3D technology throughout our development to create samples digitally and eliminate waste in the design process. At FINESSE we refuse to just go along with the archaic tradition of creating dozens of physical samples and shipping them cross-country when we can just do so digitally.
Reducing waste and overproduction is not only beneficial to the the earth, it is also of benefit to the customer and company – we save money by not producing items that will never sell, and we are able to return these savings to our customers which is why we are able to offer our quality at such an affordable price point. This more focused and efficient approach also allows us to cut down on our production times allowing us to take designs from inspiration to finished product within less than 25 days, and doing so sustainably.
How long do customers have to purchase a ‘drop’?
While there is no set “time limit” that customers have to purchase a ‘drop’, we find that each drop can sell out in just a few days, sometimes even hours, to a few weeks after the launch date. We purposely embed a sense of urgency into our drops, noting to customers that we produce in small, limited batches to avoid overproduction. Typically, once a drop sells out, it’s gone forever, so we hope to train our audience to always keep up with our weekly product releases so they don’t miss out.
Do you find that people mix and match pieces from different drops or do they style them exactly as in the drop?
We find that a huge value proposition for a majority of our audiences is the ability to purchase an entire outfit as a set, without needing to worry about how to style the individual pieces with what they already have in their closets. However, we’ve seen more and more of our audience starting to mix and match pieces from separate drops and style them as a cohesive look – we love to see this and encourage this as it displays both the uniqueness and versatility of our products!
What if you vote for a drop and it doesn’t win?
If a drop doesn’t win during the voting rounds, it will most likely not be placed in production. We want to only produce the fits that will ultimately sell out within a month, and only stock something if there’s high consumer demand. Even if a drop does not win, it is still extremely valuable data for us, especially as we are now collecting comments and suggestions from our audience on what changes they’d like to see in the outfit, so that a modified drop can once again be presented as a vote and potentially produced.
What do you see for the future of FINESSE?
We intend to really blossom into our identity as “Zara meets Netflix” over the coming years. Data is incredibly powerful and shapes the very core of what we do. As a growing platform with increasing amounts of interactive datapoint between us and our customers, we can really expand upon that vision. Eventually we aim to show ever visitor to FINESSE’s online experience only the fits they like. Imagine going onto a website and you only see the four outfits you’d like and your friend would see four completely different outfits. We think there is so much to do with the incredibly complex and multifaceted nature of fashion and we’re excited to lead the way when it comes to technological innovation led by data.
To check out FINESSE’s current drops, head to www.finesse.us.
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