Someday List with Mark Zheng, Sene

This month, we had the chance to interview Mark Zheng, co-founder of Sene, a sizeless clothing company. Together with his cofounder, Ray, he’s built a company that creates pieces one-to-one for each of its customers. They carry zero inventory. We dig in to how they manage to pull that off, what exactly sizeless means and why it’s top of mind for big retailers right now. We also talk about what he’s learned as a founder, and how Mark’s relationship to work has changed in the midst of it. Listen to the episode or read the highlights below:

Can you tell me about Sene and what your role is there?

We're a size-less clothing company that's made with AI. So, usually you would choose a size for any of the styles that you shop, but for us, there are no sizes on our site.

You take a 60-second quiz; we ask questions like your weight, body shape, fit preferences–no measurements needed at all. Then we translate those answers into exact measurements.

My role in the company has been to develop our SmartFit quiz, the AI behind it, our operations, our finances. So really, the backend.

On leaving a job in the healthcare industry to start a fashion brand:

Coming to LA was eye-opening. Our store was on LaBrea Avenue, a store of famous for streetwear and outdoor wear. I mean, the first thing you you do is you get on Instagram and you make sure to follow these accounts and just see what their creative teams are putting out, but you also learn about the process of how the clothing is made.

You learn about how different retailers design for their product and how they think through the branding and I just have a genuine interest in that. I think some part of my creativity is activated through the brand which I didn't think I needed necessarily. I came in thinking I wanted to do the analytical stuff and improving the operations and lowering costs but the creative aspect is fun for me too.

On turning Sene's biggest failure into their biggest success:

I came in and within two months, I looked at the numbers and I told Ray, "I don't think this works. We should shut down this store." And we didn't shut down the store for another year. We tried Facebook ads, we tried various things online. He said, well, let's try to sell online to supplement the cost of the store and one of the ideas we had was a try-on box. We had all this inventory in the store where if the store wasn't having enough foot traffic, those samples were just sitting there just wasting our money taking up space.

The way we set up our site, it didn't have a way to reject fraudulent cards. So there was this period of time, we don't know how people discovered our site, but we got way more traffic than normal and ended up getting tons of try-on box orders–people wanted to try on the clothing and then ship it back. Or so we thought.

Shopify was flagging it or something like that, but we realized that we couldn't charge the people for the samples if they kept it. We ended up losing thousands of dollars of inventory because we had shipped out all those samples and nobody was sending them back.

That was January of 2019 and it felt like the lowest of lows. After that happened, we decided, okay, we have to do something new. The store isn't working so we decided to to look for sub-lessor and move the business online. And actually. at the time, parallel pathing with closing the store, we decided to launch a Kickstarter.

What was the aha-moment? When did you realize you might be onto something?

I was actually on the floor of the retail store, and so I was measuring customers, meeting them in person, measuring their sleeve length, their chest, their stomach, everything for a suit generally. I started to be able to memorize measurements and I could look at a person and size them up and be like, well, you're a 42 long or whatever. Not only could I figure out their standard size, but I could also name off the rest of their measurements.

Generally speaking, your height and your weight correlates with certain measurements. And this is around when the try-on box failed, I thought to myself, well, if I can predict people based off of certain facts that they give me, why can't I make that automated? That's really the impetus of it all, we needed a solution online.

On the problems that Sene is solving in the fashion industry:

The biggest thing is that our clothing is one for one. We don't make the clothing unless the customer buys it first. The flip side of that is brands like Shein that create a massive amount of clothing. They have to come out with styles quickly because trends are even faster than they were before, which leads to a lot of the waste which makes clothing the second most wasteful industry in the world, not to mention the labor practices to get clothing at that price point.

With our manufacturers, we're really not making clothing unless a customer wants it. At the end of a season, we don't have anything to throw out because there's no inventory in our business.

For the consumer, 70% of women at least, are between standard sizes. The standard size system for women is extremely archaic and it's not fitting the diversity of body shapes that are out there.

We have been talking to some of the larger corporate brands that have been established since the early 1900's, and on all of their agendas, their goal is to become sizeless in the next five to 10 years. Inventory and the return rates are a big problem that these retailers are always facing, no matter how big they are. Sizeless is something that every big retailer is interested in.

sene suits

As you've gone through these phases of growth with Sene, has your relationship with work changed?

Yes, it definitely has. I think I was influenced by a lot of friends that I graduated with. Banking and consulting were super hot after we had graduated. I saw that some of the hours they were pulling off and it kind of felt like if you weren't working that hard, it just meant that you aren't working a legitimate job or something.

I think that definitely played a part in how I worked when I first started, just unconsciously, where I told myself that's what I needed to do to make the brand successful. The thing about that is, after a year of doing that, you realize how many bad ideas you go through when you work a lot.

The thing I realized was after all that hustling, I still made a series of a ton of bad decisions and it wasn't even effective. It just goes back to like, work smarter, not harder. Like I suffered along the way, you know, and I wasn't really seeing people. I didn't go out to make a lot of friends in LA even though I had just moved there. And I think it took a toll on me.

I kind of vowed to live a more balanced lifestyle and I can only do that with confidence because I went through a year of bad decisions and started to learn from them. So you start to make better decisions, which allows your time to be a little bit more efficient. You set up processes around yourself.

What's the vision for Sene in 2023 and beyond?

People always ask, is our competition the traditional suit companies that are tailors and have shops around the U.S.? Not really our competition. Most of our customers have never ordered a piece of custom clothing and they're ordering something sizeless for the first time because it's a problem that they're experiencing in their own lives.

Being able to have an experience that skips the tailor completely and be able to order something custom-made, unique to them, and it only takes 60 seconds to figure out–it solves a real pain point.

Another part of it, in terms of achieving mass market, is to partner with larger brands that are looking to solve the problem for themselves. So the platform that we've created, we're really setting it up now so that it's an easy plug-and-play situation where other brands can come in, they say they want to start their own sizeless program.

We still believe that brands are important behind this idea and how you want to shop in a specific category. It should be simple in terms of the size that you have and we're hoping to enable that in the next few years.

Follow Sene on Instagram @senestudio or make your own custom fit at

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