The interview wasn’t going very well.
My opening line was something along the lines of “Oh my god, is this Ishara?!?” I began stumbling over my questions, my nerves getting the best of me as my voice became increasingly high-pitched.
So who is Ishara? A famous musician? An actress? Nope — she’s my Stitch Fix stylist.
Stitch Fix allows women like me — who find shopping exhausting — to get a box of personalized clothes and accessories in the mail once a month. Or less frequently if you choose.
Opening those boxes is like your birthday and Christmas wrapped into one. I kept everything in my first box, stunned at how well everything fit and how precisely it matched my style.
That brown purse I had coveted so much that I put it on my Pinterest board? Stitch Fix sent me a similar version. When I needed a cute dress for a Valentine’s Day dinner, Stitch Fix sent me one that month — even though I had never asked for it. Half my closet came from Stitch Fix now, and I rarely have a reason to go to a store anymore.
One of my favorite aspects of Stitch Fix is the paint-by-numbers style guide that comes with each box. I don’t have great styling instincts, so having a fashion instruction manual really helps.
As I kept ordering more boxes, I noticed that I was getting the same stylist every time: a woman named Ishara.
My box came with notes from her that were consistently cheerful, informing me why she picked a certain blouse or dress, and giving advice about how to style it. Because the clothes always fit my style so well, I thought of Ishara as magical mixture of fashion savant and mind-reader.
I started wondering about Ishara’s life. I pictured a woman in her 20s who wants to be the next Rachel Zoe — a celebrity fashion stylist — and is learning the ropes through Stitch Fix.
The great thing about being a journalist is you are able to explore your curiosities, which is how I found myself on the phone with my Stitch Fix stylist one day last fall.
She sounded just as intrigued to meet me, and at least acted like she remembered styling for me. (Later, I realized she was probably terrified of meeting an obsessive Stitch Fix superfan.)
Ishara, whose full name is Ishara Haas, said she went to college for fashion design and her goal was to work in the fashion industry.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do design, and I had some retail experience and I always loved working with the customer,” Haas said. “I came across a job post by Stitch Fix and was very intrigued by the company.” She started working for them in summer 2012 as one of the first stylists.
Haas said she used to work for Stitch Fix’s San Francisco office but then moved to Santa Cruz and began working remotely.
Then we got down to what I really wanted to know. How, exactly, does the styling thing work? I pictured online styling like a scene from the 1990s movie “Clueless,” when Cher’s computer rifles through her clothing and selects an outfit for her.
It turns out Stitch Fix is a little bit like “Clueless” in that an algorithm is used based on your style preferences, and your feedback from previous Stitch Fix boxes, to recommend merchandise for that particular client, Haas explained.
“From there (the stylist) goes into the inventory and chooses what we think is best for the client,” Haas said. So there is human intervention involved. “We just choose based on our own judgment,” she said.
Haas couldn’t divulge how many clients each stylist is assigned to. But she did offer some behind-the-scenes tips for Stitch Fix users:
- The women who are toughest to style are the ones that say they like every type of style equally — ranging from a more refined, preppy look to a torn-jeans and tank-top style. Try to favor some styles over others when filling out your style profile.
- Update your Pinterest page. If you tell Stitch Fix the name of your Pinterest clothing board, the stylists will check it for inspiration.
- The stylists like hearing from you. You can send a message to your stylist every month. Haas said they like the messages and getting special requests.
- When you keep everything in your Stitch Fix box, it increases the chance of getting that same Stitch Fix stylist again, which explains how I kept getting Ishara.
A few months after that interview I was startled to open my Stitch Fix box and see a note from a new stylist.
What happened to Ishara?
I reached out to my PR contact at Stitch Fix to find out what happened. She confirmed that, indeed, Haas had moved on from the company. Her LinkedIn page offered few clues, and I hope that means she’s busy working on her own fashion collection.
Now I have a new stylist: Sahar. So far, she’s doing a great job.
Stitch Fix reviews
Though it’s easy to find Stitch Fix fans online among the fashion blogging community, there’s also some criticism of the popular styling site. Here’s what Stitch Fix critics have to say:
1. But I like shopping. If you genuinely enjoy shopping for clothes, searching the racks for that perfect gem, then you might not enjoy having someone else pick out the clothes for you.
2. It’s not really my style. Though Stitch Fix shows you pictures of different styles and asks you to pick which one you like, if you have really eclectic tastes or if you’re the type who prefers a Mark Zuckerberg-type uniform, then Stitch Fix isn’t for you. And though it hasn’t been my experience, some women say Stitch Fix just doesn’t “get” their style.
3. It’s expensive. I’ve probably heard this criticism the most. Though Stitch Fix allows you to set your price preferences and has a “the cheaper, the better” option, some women have reported they still find their prices hard to stomach. Other criticisms I’ve heard center on whether you can find the same clothes cheaper at a retail store.
Inside: Meet the CEO who created Stitch Fix.
Inside: Meet the CEO who created Stitch Fix.