NU speaker-founded startup Taelor addresses style and sustainability with artificial intelligence NU speaker-founded startup Taelor addresses style and sustainability
The Taelor men’s clothing rental subscription service combines artificial intelligence and sustainability to bring stylish clothing to eco-friendly professionals.
The women-led, Silicon Valley-based business was started last year by Medill speaker Anya Cheng (Medill MS ’08). Cheng said the company seeks to meet customer needs for convenience and style while tackling sustainability.
As of early May, the company had 400 customers on its waiting list, Cheng said.
“Taelor is not only about making people look great, but also about helping them dress the way they want to be,” Cheng said. “I hope this is a way to help more people reach their full potential.”
According to Grace Hsieh, Product Design Manager at Taelor, each customer pays a fixed monthly fee in exchange for selected rental clothes. Once registered, the service invites them to take a style quiz, after which artificial intelligence and stylists will make recommendations.
“(We) learned that people don’t fully trust AI, because they’re like, ‘That’s a fancy word, like how do I really know my preference? “” Hsieh said. “(So) we added the human touch.”
After the ready-to-wear items arrive, recipients have two weeks to try them on. Because Taelor is a rental service, customers are not required to purchase the outfits. However, they will get discounts of up to 70% if they choose to buy.
Rita Liao (McCormick MS ’12) said that despite obtaining a degree in biotechnology, she became interested in entrepreneurship. She joined the startup to research the industry, including Gen Z and the fashion market for sustainability.
“We found some research data and it shows that the market is growing,” Liao said.
Liao also researched the company’s competition for the Alumni New Venture Challenge at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago. Taelor qualified for the final.
The idea of launching an AI-based clothing rental service came from Cheng’s own experiences, she said. Cheng said that she started using the method five years ago and fell in love. She hasn’t bought any clothes since, she said.
However, Cheng said she couldn’t find a service that catered exclusively to men’s clothing. She said she has observed a more sustainability-conscious and positive audience over the years, which now makes it a ripe market for a service like Taelor.
“(Taelor’s clients) want the Fairy Godmother to help them style the look better, or they know what they want,” Cheng said. “They don’t want to keep buying things where they feel like they’re wasting time.”
Instead of using the buy-subscribe mode recently popularized by companies like Stitch Fix, Taelor chose to adopt a rental system because purchase-based subscription boxes are always a waste, Cheng said. . Research shows that people regularly wear only 20% of their wardrobe, she pointed out, which is a huge amount of waste in their lifetimes.
By adopting a rental system, the garment’s life cycle is much longer, leading to a more circular fashion pattern, Cheng said.
At NU’s integrated marketing communications, Cheng learned about changing audience knowledge and transferred his education to his company.
Even though Cheng worked in companies such as Facebook to expand her business arm to overseas markets, she said she still remembered the hardships she faced after graduating in 2008. Cheng said that she had left Los Angeles to New York to try and find a job and Cold called every alum she knew.
Cheng said she eventually returned to Chicago and got her first job at a company after developing a business plan incorporating what she learned in New York City and Los Angeles.
“(It taught me) the ability to solve a problem when there is no solution and find a solution,” Cheng said.
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