Fashion in the Cloud

Over the past few years, fashion retailers, brand owners, and manufacturers have all slowly begun to realize and incorporate cloud deployment and machine learning into their business models. When considering the fashion industry, there are many potential applications and improvement that can be made using cloud computing and technology. Here we will take a closer look at two:

Inventory Management:

Cloud computing will enable fashion retailers to better and more efficiently manage their inventory. By using such technologies, retailers will be able to conduct “real-time inventory tracking, including stock availability, store orders, and shipping details.” [1] In addition, through the cloud, retail employees have constant access to the information they need, and will also be able to better anticipate spikes in demand (including seasonal, during sales, etc.)


By “examining buying patterns, integrating social media platforms, and gauging customer attitudes,” [2] fashion companies can derive insights driven by technology and analytics. Companies can then use those insights to better improve sales, design apparel that better fit customer tastes, or even design something that will trend in the future. Such big data analytics relies on massive processing power and storage capacities that can be more easily optimized through the cloud.

Robert McKee in his article on cloud computing in the fashion industry summarizes all this very well: “Cloud computing is well suited to meet the growth, time-to-market and planning needs of the highly dynamic fashion industry.” [2]

Fashion Companies Utilizing Cloud Computing – 
Currently, there are plenty of fashion companies and retailers that have built their business around cloud computing, or are slowly starting to incorporate cloud computing into their business model:

Less Clutter and Less Waste, a Closet in the Cloud – Rent the Runway

According to studies, women only wear around 20% of what they have in their closets regularly (this is definitely true for me). As a result,Rent the Runway is focused on building a closetless future by building a dream closet that can be accessed in “the cloud.” [3] By using its services, you can call upon the clothes you need when you want to wear them, and then return them after they aren’t useful anymore. This allows people to try a more diverse set of outfits because you won’t actually be stuck with it in your closet.

Your Online Personal Stylist – Stitch Fix

Powered by a cloud-based infrastructure, Stitch Fix is a business that delivers hand-picked, personalized clothing recommendations directly to its consumers. Those customers can then either keep all the products they received or only keep some and return the ones they do not like. Feedback on which pieces of clothing were returned get inputed into the company’s databases to improve their algorithms to better determine the preferred styles and tastes of individual customers. Stitch Fix combines the expertise of personal stylists (will AI ever be able to perfectly match humans in terms of certain capabilities? But that’s a discussion for another day.) and the efficiency of AI methods “to analyze data on style trends, body measurements, customer feedback and preferences to arm human stylists with a culled down version of possible recommendations.” [4]

A Cheap and Easy way to Buy Clothes – Asos

Asos is a British online fashion retailer that sells over 850 different brands and also carries its own line of clothing and accessories. [5]  It “uses a hybrid cloud architecture, with on-premise and AWS,” and its back-end systems are fully integrated with its front-end e-commerce stores. Asos conducts a lot of data modeling, warehousing, and analytics, with it’s entire cloud platform build around it’s customers (sales history, tastes, social media information, clothing reviews, and feedback). [6] By doing so, Asos’s business is able to be more customer centric.

What will all of this mean for shopping malls and brick and mortar retail? If people can do all their clothing shopping online, why do we need physical stores anymore? In addition, thanks to Amazon and Instacart, I don’t even need to by my groceries or everyday products in stores anymore. If I now don’t have to by my clothing in stores anymore, just how dependent will I become in the internet?









3 comments on “Fashion in the Cloud”

  1. I find it amazing that a centuries old market can not only adapt to the new age, but can revolutionize the way that the market is run! RentTheRunway seems like a very Uber-esque way to approach a business.

  2. In my opinion this is a very interesting industry, not only because of fashion is interesting, but also because people are increasingly demanding sophisticated online service. Most (hopefully all) fashion houses and retailers have already responded to the demand for ability to shop online, return products if they do not fit and to see availability of the whole product portfolio.

    However, I believe that people will be wanting new more advanced services in the future. Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix are good examples of innovative services that aim to fulfill the needs of a modern age consumer. Cloud computing, analytics and AI based recommendations are a key in the near future. Next step might be augmented reality solutions to see what you would look like in a dress or shirt, or something else.

    What is your own experience of current online fashion features? In my opinion, the recommendations are not as personalized/accurate as they could be. Another thing, I don’t believe that retail companies are happy with their inventory optimization today, in times of 25-50% [1] return rates in online shopping.

    Thanks for a great post!

    [1] Zalando’s return rate about 50%:

  3. Brilliant share, Sharon.
    Fashion is indeed overlooked, not for good reasons though. A lot of lateral thinking is required for the “technologists” to connect the dots. (Once one sees beyond what’s on the surface, it becomes clear there are elements of retail, manufacturing, demand forecasting, the list goes on. There are many supply chain optimization and predictive modeling opportunities in a reasonably lucrative field, we just need some capable and motivated entrepreneurs to come create and capture value here)

    By the same token, I see data science (think AI/ML) being under-utilized in fashion, big time, especially considering how much data the fashion giants sit on…
    Reminds me of this FT article – about a 28-year-old building her “google of fashion” with a data gold mine…[1] Worth checking out!



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