Based in Shanghai, UnitedStyles is a Facebook Connect-enabled service that lets any user create customized women's apparel, allowing them sketch out, adjust and share a design via an online interface and customized 3D preview (Note: Chinese users will have to use a VPN to login through Facebook).
Co-founder Marc van der Chijs tells me that his objective is to recreate the entire fashion design experience for Internet users, “It's very strange that you cannot [already] design your own clothes online.”
The dominant business strategy in fashion is to guess months in advance what a customer will want and UnitedStyles wants to reverse this; “We change the fashion industry from a ‘push' into a customer ‘pull' model,” van der Chijs, who also founded the “Chinese YouTube” Tudou, explains, “Because of mass production, clothes have become cheaper but also less personalized. Tailors hardly exist anymore, or are considered too expensive.”
With UnitedStyles a user can replicate their own “tailored” experience, choosing from a variety of styles, prints, colors and shapes (There are several charts to check sizing). The company launches today with five styles, mainly tops and dresses but will be adding more variety asap.
UnitedStyles outsources all garment production to Chinese digital textile printers, and because it doesn't create any of its own inventory it avoids the traditional fashion industry ill of surplus product. Users can buy customized creations for $49.95 for a top and between $79.95 and $99.95 for a dress and van der Chris hopes to reduce its current one month shipping times down to a week - In addition, the first 100 orders today will get free shipping.
When asked who their closest market competitor was, van der Chijs held that UnitedStyles was “totally new"; “There isn't a lot of innovation in business models in fashion." He emphasizes that what sets them apart from services like Disrupt applicant MadeToFitMe is that UnitedStyles completely focuses on creating the entire fashion design experience, “Size is part of the process, but not our key selling point.”
UnitedStyles plans on expanding into men's clothing and further improving its user experience, eventually making it easier for people to mass design clothing, “We ultimately want people to have fun with design in fashion,” van der Chijs said.
Q: Who are your intended users? This seems very niche.
A: Fashion is niche, even Zara and HM have 2% of the market, so niche isn't something we're worried about.
Q: What about the digital textile production technique? Do you do all the printing?
A:The digital printing machine needs to be managed by people who are experts, so we outsource the digital printing.
Q: Is virality your main marketing strategy?
Q: Where is your target market, China, America?
A: The fashion blogosphere.
Q: What is your production time?
A: One month.
Q: Do you think this is too long?
A: People are buying for the experience, not for the speed in receiving the product.