E-commerce is booming, but shopping for clothing online can still be a challenge. Unlike many consumer products, clothing is personal and often needs to be tried on for fit. Plus, there are numerous options available via the web, so sometimes it’s tough to even know where to begin with an online shopping expedition. Two companies from TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s Startup Alley are addressing these problems by offering personal stylists and recommendations online. One, Stylit, is targeting women and another, Black Tag, is focused on men.
Stylists-as-a-service? Yep, it’s that kind of thing.
Tel Aviv-based Stylit’s co-founder and chief stylist Maya Kramer has a decade’s worth of experience in the fashion industry: She’s worked as a stylist herself, as well as a personal shopper, photo shoot producer, boutique owner, fashion writer, styling instructor, model and even TV personality. Her clients have included Vogue, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Microsoft, Glamour, Target, Victoria’s Secret and various celebrities, designers and artists. Others on the founding team include CEO Yaniv Nissim, CTO Michael Gutkin, and lead engineer Shilo Ayalon.
“We feel that personal styling was not accessible to everyone,” explains Kramer. “Stylit solves this.”
After signing up on the website, users are prompted to fill out a questionnaire, detailing their budget, body type, and personal tastes. Stylit’s personal shoppers will then curate a selection of outfits based on these answers. The outfits, sent out on a weekly basis, don’t just include the clothing, but also accessories like shoes, bags, hats, jewelry, etc. Users can choose to buy the outfit and/or the individual items, or just pass altogether. But to help the stylists better learn their own personal tastes, users are also asked to rank the outfits they’re sent, allowing the recommendations to improve over time.
Unlike with many stylists in the offline world – and even some found online – there’s no charge to use Stylit’s personal shopping service. Instead, the company is monetized through affiliate sales for now, though Kramer explains that longer-term, the company could work with brands directly to help them connect with those who best fit their target demographic. In addition, the company wants to eventually build each of their users their own personalized stores that provide items that fit their body type and style preference, says Kramer, who calls this bigger vision a “Pandora for online shopping.”
The stylists work for the site on a freelance basis. This differentiates the service from those offering more of a crowdsourced approach to fashion inspiration, because it’s about making a personal connection and learning about a user’s individual tastes to find unique outfits built just for them.
Founded in April 2012, Sylit launched into beta this January and now has around 1,000 users.
Meanwhile, Palo Alto-based Black Tag takes a similar approach with online styling but with a service that’s targeting men and their fashion needs. Explains co-founder and CEO Damon Pace, “I hate shopping and have a hard time finding products that fit me because of my height,” he says. “People should be able to shop together and it should be more personalized.”
He and co-founder James Greene have been working together on various products since 2005, and decided to build Black Tag to scratch their own itches, so to speak. The service just launched today.
After signing up, users fill out a quick profile offering details about their budget, height, weight and body type, among other things. They can then follow brands and other personal shoppers on the service who can recommend items, and they can also make requests for specific items, such as a tan blazer or a blue sweater, for instance. Users can also sign up to become personal shoppers themselves, which makes the service a bit similar to the female-focused shopping site The Hunt, which also defers to the crowdsourced model of connecting passionate online shoppers and fashionistas with those in need of hope.
The site also features a social shopping component, which allows users to shop with their spouses, friends or others with similar interests.
Before today’s launch, Black Tag had run a private beta with some 750 users. The site currently offers more than 700,000 items, from 6000+ brands and more than 60 stores. Like Stylit, the service is free to use and generates revenue through affiliate sales. But, adds Pace, “we believe there are many different business models in e-commerce that have yet to be discovered.”
Black Tag is a bootstrapped service and still needs a little polish in some areas. But given its target demographic, how “pretty” the site looks right now may not be the top concern, just so long as it works.