Katrina Lake, founder and ceo of Stitch Fix.

Stitch Fix Inc. is a poster child for applying artificial intelligence in fashion, but founder and chief executive officer Katrina Lake stressed the importance of a human touch to go along with the algorithms.

Lake, who took her company public in November, told investors at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications conference Wednesday that it gets important user data by having one of its 3,500 human stylists connect with customers.

“Our stylists are building human connections with our clients,” Lake said. “Our stylists are suggesting things to wear with the product. They’re mentioning their son’s graduation that’s coming up. I mean, they’re the ones that are really making this service a truly human one, and that’s important from a client experience part.”

Stitch Fix quizzes users on their fashion preferences and uses artificial intelligence to present wardrobe options to human stylists, who then whittle the choice down to five items that are shipped to the customer and can be tried on at home.

Having a human touch is important for the company’s ability to collect and understand data, which Lake said is the cornerstone of the Stitch Fix business model.

The company has data on the products it sells and on its customers, but Lake said “the intersection data is what’s most important.”

“One-hundred percent of the time, we know who bought what,” the ceo said. “Eight-five percent of the time, people are sharing with us some sense of why. So people are saying, ‘This was too tight. Like I love these jeans, but I still have 5 pounds of baby weight to lose, and so I’m going to keep them as my goal jeans, but they don’t quite fit yet.’

“People say these things to us, and I think they say them to us because there’s a stylist on the other end listening,” Lake said. “And if we didn’t have a stylist on the other end listening, I don’t think we would get as honest, as true, as kind of candid of data as we do today. The stylist is a really important part of our model. Can we use technology and algorithms to further kind of make them more effective? I think, absolutely, and that’s where a lot of our focus is. But we see the stylist as being a really important part.”

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