So I’m walking down the street in SF today and someone steps out of a building in front of me. I’m always interested in what’s happening around me so naturally I ask if they work there. This person answers yes and says it’s a bunch of startups, including Le Tote.
“It’s like Netflix for clothes” I am told as a shopping bag is opened to reveal a box.
“We send you clothes we recommend you wear and…” I interrupt to finish the sentence “if you keep them you buy them! Am I right?” They nod yes and smile widely as if they were about to explain something hard and I saved a mountain of effort.
A pregnant moment arrives as I wait for even more congratulations; although I have really just described the age-old mail-order model as it currently exists. The irony of me predicting the end of a sentence, and pointing out a lack of innovation, is lost. They just seem relieved of the chore of explaining something aspiring to be innovative.
Maybe I shouldn’t attempt to find humor in analytics. I ask seriously if they have anything I should try.
“It’s only for women right now” I am told with a disapproving look.
I genuinely wonder out loud about their predictive algorithm: “Why do you assume already I do not want to wear women’s clothes? What if I am transgender? Would you still predict my fashion?”
I am looked at skeptically and offered no answers other than a soft and slow repeat of “if you want to wear women’s clothes…”.
Still curious and since this person is still standing there (presumably at the mercy of a service, a late driver) I press for more. “Nevermind gender fashion definitions, how does your prediction reflect regional differences. For example when someone in Colorado…” they interrupt me to say “we check the weather”.
Weather? Definitely not the end of sentence I had in mind.
I forgo jokes about the weather being perpetually wrong and instead restart my question so I can bring back my ending: “what do you do when someone in Colorado thinks sky-blue is the hot new color, while someone in SF wants orange and green? Can your algos anticipate fashion trends from social or other indicators, given your fashion angle”; tempted to add “not a good indicator of weather”.
Their face grows bright, they lean back, look to the street with an open gaze, suck in an ocean of air and exclaim “WOW WHAT A GREAT IDEA, I WILL SUGGEST THIS IDEA AT OUR NEXT MEETING”. Then they abruptly turn and excitedly run across the street waving a hand.
Now standing alone I yell “so what’s your name” towards the back of a head that nears an Uber parked in the bike lane. “Heather” is the response. Of course it is. And so I continue on my way.