Interview with Cherry Pick’s Justin Stewart
Now that the first artificial intelligence-engineered fashion collections are already on the market, there is no better time than the present for the beauty industry to dive in head first. Yoox, Amazon, Alibaba, and fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara have all invested heavily in artificial intelligence, an innovation that has been at the core of Cherry Pick’s business since it launched in 2018. The US-based tech firm, founded by two millennials, uses proprietary artificial intelligence to analyze social media images and consumer commentary, and enables companies to measure the demand for products, before they launch. After working with some of the biggest names in modern beauty today, Cherry Pick is ready to let artificial intelligence build the next big brand – from product to packaging.
NOWFASHION chatted with Cherry Pick’s co-founder Justin Stewart to talk about the potential of talent-led brands and how artificial intelligence is disrupting the entire beauty industry.
SOFIA CELESTE: You’ve worked with successful brands like Glossier and Too Faced, and you are about to launch your own AI-developed brand. Can you tell us more about this new brand?
Justin Stewart : There are a few talent-led brands in the works that utilize our AI. These are entirely new brands for which nearly every product development decision is being made using our AI, think ingredient selection, etc. – this is so we can best create products that resonate with this particular talent’s audience.
SC: Is talent-driven product your strategy going forward? What about a Cherry Pick brand?
JS: There is no Cherry Pick brand in the works and there won’t ever be! We are focused on producing a number of brands going forward which are all talent-led or focused on a very specific audience or community. We have an interest in personalities, celebrity make-up artists, hairstylists, or professionals with large, engaged audiences. Our approach is about reverse engineering the best products for those audiences and letting the AI and the audiences help drive the product development decisions.
SC: Does Cherry Pick finance these projects?
JS: No, we act as the intermediary between two parties. On one hand, you have the operational team that is working with the manufacturers. On the other side, you have the talent which, in the case of one of our upcoming launches, is represented by the largest talent agency in the world. Every deal is different, financing comes in all forms.
SC: How exactly do you work with Glossier and Too Faced?
JS: We worked with Glossier and Too Faced during our pilot year when we were focused on developing the core technologies – the offering, testing solutions, testing insights, and different aspects of the technology. Glossier and Too Faced were both early-stage pilot partners.
SC: In your experience, what is the key to building the perfect beauty brand nowadays? Do you think that technology can simply do it by itself?
JS: Good question. If you look at the old guard, which includes the Estée Lauders and L’Oréals, you’ll find that these brands built their expertise with incredible sophistication and ownership of the supply chain and access to simply superior brand-building techniques... they were really really good at building brands. Over the last ten years, however, the supply chain has continued to get commoditized. Product lead times are getting shorter, the cost of launching new brands and products is getting cheaper because the entire supply chain, which used to be core to a brand’s success, is now broadly accessible to the market as a service and is inexpensive enough to make it relatively easy to create beautiful products and brands. However, in today’s world, the difficult part is getting the consumers’ attention. We are leveraging technology specifically geared to solve the product-market fit problem for beauty brands… how do you build products and brands people actually want and win in an attention constrained world?
SC: Is Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty an inspiration?
JS: Why was Fenty was able to achieve the biggest beauty brand launch in the history of beauty? Because Rihanna had 40 million people waiting for her product, as soon as it was ready to be delivered. Of course, they killed it across the board with a great product, great marketing, but having access to effective distribution from day one is what we see as the best opportunity to build the most successful brands – as quickly as possible.
SC: A lot of these cosmetic brands have the same suppliers, there are just different tiers and products you can source from them. Do you deal with these wholesalers?
JS: Not exactly – Cherry Pick’s core technology is about using data to decide what specific products to develop for what audience, not how those products ultimately get made. For this we rely on working with top-notch, high-quality manufacturers to produce high-quality products. Especially when data indicates the need for specific and nuanced products, we cannot simply work with off-the-shelf wholesaler solutions.
SC: What did AI teach you about this new generation and how to appeal to them?
JS: Successful brands are built around communities. You can either build the community or you can tap into an existing one. Consumers are committing to buying a piece of a community made up of individuals like themselves, or those they strive to be more like. It’s all about the audience; it’s all about knowing what the community wants.