Lalaland, an Amsterdam-based fashion-tech startup, has been selected as one of the six finalists of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge.
In an exclusive interview with Silicon Canals, COO/CCO Harold Smeeman says, “It’s a great recognition of the work we’re doing, making the web more inclusive for everyone.”
Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge
Launched in 2018, Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge is an annual global programme to find and support innovative startups that are making the fashion landscape more inclusive.
Smeeman says, “Michael and I feel underrepresented online. When you are a plus-sized person like myself, after shopping online you can return 99 per cent of the clothes. Michael, as a person with dark skin, recognised it as well. The Netherlands doesn’t only have slim, white, blonde people, so it would be short-sighted to only show those kinds of models.”
The third edition of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge was done completely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finalist and rewards
The global program took almost a year to complete after which a seven-member jury, including Tommy Hilfiger himself, selected the six finalists out of 430 participating startups and scale-ups.
Upon reaching finals, Smeeman says, “Getting to the finale of the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge is great for two reasons. First of all, it is a recognition of what we’re doing. And it would be great if we can cooperate with these brands, and provide digital models for their collections. There’s also a business programme attached to the contest, offering support by INSEAD and guidance by Tommy Hilfiger. Winning the €200,000 would be really nice, sure. But I see the potential cooperation as much more valuable.”
The other five finalists are
- Clothes to Good (South Africa)
- Haelixa (Switzerland)
- Mafi Mafi (Ethiopia)
- Soko (Kenya)
- Uzuri K&Y (Rwanda).
The six finalists, including Lalaland, will pitch their business ideas during the digital closing event on January 12 and 13, after which the jury will choose two winners.
The winners will get an investment amount of €200K. In addition, they will receive year-long mentorship from Tommy Hilfiger and INSEAD, the world’s top international business school.
Lalaland: What you need to know
Founded by Michael Musandu and Ugnius Rimsa in 2019, Lalaland uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop highly realistic digital photo models for e-commerce applications for clothing and fashion brands.
The Dutch company uses neural networks to generate images of artificial humans. It is disrupting e-commerce apparel webshops by letting shoppers turn their online shopping experience into a personalised and customised shopping spree
Through its platform, the company offers brands a vast library of age, size, and ethnic-inclusive models so that online shoppers can see themselves in the latest apparel as per their requirements.
Lalaland not only helps brands to attract new customers by showing diversity and inclusivity, but has proven in a short time that it can offer great added value for e-commerce with its technology.
Google for Startups Black Founders Fund
In June, Google selected Lalaland for its European ‘Google for Startups Black Founders Fund’. The fund was aimed to increase diversity in the startup and tech world. Out of 800 startups only 30 made the cut, and Lalaland.ai is the only Dutch company selected.
Talking about it, Smeeman shares, “We receive a lot of support from Google, for instance in the form of credits to use their services. There’s also coaching available and mentor sessions on topics like raising funding. They will also introduce us to many different parties if we want.
Our solution is now being used in digital re-marketing campaigns. If you’ve looked at clothes in a webshop, featuring our personlised models, then those same models will show up in the search results afterward. Google helped us with that use case, and it is now in use by multiple companies.”