According to a stylist, the Insta-friendly subscription box, Stitch Fix, has a diversity problem it’s choosing to ignore. The employee has spoken up about the work culture at the famed clothing subscription box company. According to KT*, the company needs to address what she says is a deep-rooted workplace filled with racial and managerial issues.

On Race

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion page at Stitch Fix shows 90 percent of leadership at the company is white or Asian, with Black and Hispanic/Latinx each constituting 2.5 percent. In contrast, DCX (or warehouse operations) staff is 57.4 percent Black or Hispanic/Latinix, with 31.3 percent white.

The company’s messaging on the website admits there is an internal problem. “We do not have nearly enough Black or Latinx people working at Stitch Fix, especially within our corporate teams,” the statement reads. “This is not right, and needs to change. We know we aren’t alone in facing or tackling this challenge, and we are committed to doing the hard work.”

 

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Stitch Fix has implemented a program for BIPOC entrepreneurs in the fashion industry; however, it is unknown what the company is doing to change their hiring or employee retention practices.

KT started as a stylist (a Stitch Fix term for customer service professionals who pull clothes for customers) in 2013. She said that as a Black employee, she felt she and her fellow workers of color were treated differently by management.

On the Workplace

Along with concerns surrounding racial injustices, reports of a toxic workplace have also bubbled up around the internet.

An associate posted a two-star review on Glassdoor about her experience in the warehouse, writing: “Hot. Long hours in Texas summers. Good job for people out of high school. Too much gossip and cliques. Managers only had their backs. Office management acted snobbish. They had [an] employee shop when I was there but office employees would get first dibs and clear out the good things. If you need flexibility in scheduling, this is not the place. I had to leave 30 minutes earlier than my shift to make it to school on time and I had to use my pto EVERYDAY because they would not approve me making it up on my off day or coming earlier. They had fans like 5 rotating around, you had to get there early for one and hope no one stole it while you were on lunch or break.”

KT likened the pace to an American sweatshop, “Using algorithms and data to give employees monthly reviews on their pace and value is degrading and mentally abusive. [To] have to answer monthly why and how you could do more faster and better when you have no stock … has got to be addressed.”

On January 11th, a current employee wrote on Glassdoor, “Put simply, this is a bad place to work. The work itself is already fast-paced and tough, and without the proper resources, it is draining. We are expected to style a client in 12 minutes regardless of inventory conditions or technical issues. If the styling platform is down, employees are not compensated for their time but are rather asked to move their hours to the company’s convenience.”

The review goes on to claim the communication from management to staff “when it does come, is infantilizing and dismissive.”

Additionally, “stylists are told to ‘think creatively’ and use their ‘#stitchfixgrit’ to get their Fixes done. Hours are not prioritized, and the overall tone is that we are seen as wine moms doing this job for the employee discount and not actual workers who rely on this paycheck,” the employee writes.

“Tenured and high-performing stylists do not receive higher compensation for their work, nor are their hours prioritized. I have a backlog of about 100 relationship clients that I am not permitted to style due to hour maximums. Bonus knocks: they laid off all of their California stylists during the pandemic. Despite company-wide cuts to working hours, they’re still hiring? It’s bizarre, and frankly, insulting. Do not work here and do not shop here.”

Another former employee took to Simply Hired to talk about her time at the company. At first, she enjoyed styling clothes for clients. “Who wouldn’t love curating outfits for women, men, and child clients? That part was fun when the inventory was available. It’s been a couple of years since inventory has been consistently available, on-trend, in-season, and meeting customer requests. I think that should give you a pretty good sense of what day-to-day business is like,” she wrote. “However, the company recently made a business move that was significantly removed from the brand ethos and operating system (the same one I had been preached about and signed a contract to contribute to). They made the swift decision, but apparently well-thought-out, to ax all CA stylists (including myself) because it had become “too expensive” to support the compensation of the team within the state (not because of the pandemic). Their plan is to hire and pay stylists to do the same work for less money in other states so that more revenue can be brought in.”

In conjunction with this claim, KT shares that compensation is based on zip code, not based on job titles. “They did not want to pay a fair wage and they compensate on your zip code, not [a job] well done. So [employees who] live in San Francisco make more than [workers] who live in Sacramento and do the same work.” This, of course, prior to Stitch Fix firing their California stylists.

A statement on this decision can be found on Stitch Fix’s website: “We have taken the very difficult decision to reduce the number of Stylists in our styling team in California, as we invest in our other styling hubs across the US, and the innovations that will help evolve our experience in the future. All of our California-based stylists will be offered the opportunity to relocate to the new roles in other states. Any decision that impacts our hardworking and talented people is incredibly tough, but we believe this is the right thing to do for our business.” However, what remains to be transparent is why the decision to reduce the California stylist team was made in the first place.

On Customer Service

In addition to numerous reports on internal structure, external-facing services also seem to be lacking when it comes to quality and assurance.

KT said items were being sent to clients that did not match what their customers requested. “[Stitch Fix] canceled orders [from suppliers]; that is why they had no stock,” she says. “They advertise clothing they do not have in stock and clients get angry with stylists for not listening and we have to take the heat and lie for them.”

A customer took to Stitch Fix’s Facebook page to make a similar claim about the difference in stock “… I asked specifically for a t-shirt dress in the summer and got a rayon silky number that I’ll never wear,” the post reads. “I have to believe that their inventory is more diverse than this.”

 

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A Glassdoor search reveals mixed messages about the culture at Stitch Fix. While some employees give the company five-star reviews, others have different opinions. In regards to the company’s products, one reviewer shared that “inventory was rough most of the time.”

Another December two star review from Simply Hired spoke to the algorithm that Stitch Fix uses to send customer’s their boxes. “Bottom line: Fixes need to be shipped out at a rate that doesn’t allow the stylist to be able to serve the clients’ needs. Schedule needs to be set two weeks in advance. Algorithms choose what items are available to offer clients, and available inventory is often not remotely close to what clients have requested. Average price range is considerably higher than a large percentage of clients wish to pay.”

KT asserts she’s come forward because customers deserve to know the truth about what happens behind the scenes at Stitch Fix. “[T]hey are all about the hype,” she says of the company’s messaging about race, inventory, and workplace culture. Fear of getting fired, or worse, a lawsuit, means she needs to keep her identity under wraps.

“I really am taking a risk,” KT says “…it’s a nightmare.”

KT’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

Update: Following the original publication of this article, Stitch Fix reached out to Remake to share the following information: “We are examining everything from our hiring practices, and our employee experience, additional training and support for managers and creating more spaces for employees to learn and grow, to inserting more anti-racist and anti-bias mechanisms into our processes. We also believe the first step in making progress is by publicly sharing our company data on representation (and pay).”

Images: osseous/Flickr

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