Fashioning a revolution: Sojin Lee, the brains behind Toshi
A new service promises to bring the fitting room to your door – with an assistant delivering the latest fashion in a variety of sizes that you can try on before buying.
Toshi, dubbed the Deliveroo for fashion, has already signed up Chanel and now has its eyes on High Street names such as John Lewis. It aims to bring the fitting room to your home using a network of trained seamstresses.
Once you place your order and choose a 30-minute delivery slot, they pick up the clothes from the store and travel straight to your home. They bring different sizes, wait while you try the items on and can even adjust them for a perfect fit. If you don’t like it, they pack it back in the box and take it straight to the store – and the cost is covered by the retailer.
They are directed around by clever technology that is able to track the location of the item of clothing, the assistant and the customer – to ensure they can only order items that are in stock.
And items that are returned only leave the store’s shelves for an average of 90 minutes, often via public transport. Founder Sojin Lee has been running the business for three years but the pandemic has super-charged interest in new ways of shopping online.
She has doubled the number of high-end brands offering the service to more than 50, and hopes to be delivering thousands of orders per month by early 2021.
Many fashion lovers on the hunt for an afternoon of retail therapy have recoiled at the sterile experience offered by shops with strict social distancing measures.
High-end: Toshi has already signed up Chanel and now has its eyes on High Street names such as John Lewis
Online sales have boomed while stores – especially mid-market and high-end fashion outlets – have suffered.
But for many, waiting around for deliveries, ordering multiple sizes and queuing at the post office to return items makes shopping online unattractive.
Lee, a former head of retail and buying at Net-a-Porter, believes her technology offers a ‘third way’ with the convenience of Amazon Prime or Ocado, but with the experience you receive in-store.
Speaking to the Mail, she said: ‘We’re in conversations with some large brands, and our model can absolutely work all the way down to a brand priced like a John Lewis.’
For now, only shoppers in London can use Toshi, and the only companies signed up are high-end stores – with items starting at £200. It is completing just 150 orders per month.
The margins are ‘healthy’ and the Toshi team promise they only started in luxury because ‘if you own the top you can go where you want’.
The numbers Toshi uses to woo brands would certainly suggest that. Shoppers who receive their order from one of their trained assistants spend 40 per cent more per order and they return less.
Toshi claims the brands’ overall revenues are up 30 per cent thanks to their service. Lee said: ‘When you have the knowledge that someone is going to come round, it’s hassle free, you tend to order more in the knowledge you can hand it back.’
Her army of seamstresses is also growing, helped by the downturn on the High Street. Some have switched to Toshi’s Deliveroo-style zero-hour contracts after being laid off – but come with more than years of experience in fashion retail.
The business serves London and New York, and plans to move to other luxury centres such as Paris, Milan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Beijing in the next two to three years.
It means shoppers hoping to have their next Jigsaw party dress hand-delivered by a stylist may have a little while to wait.