Online clothes shopping can be a gamble – you never really know if items will fit until you try them on. Meanwhile, shopping at local retailers can be time-consuming. A startup called Boon + Gable aims to solve both those problems with a service that offers a personal stylist who comes to your home with a curated selection of clothes for you to try, then buy on the spot if you like them. The company has just raised $2.5 million in seed funding, and is now announcing its initial retail partners, including Bloomingdale’s and J.Crew.
The seed funding was led by CrossCut Ventures, with participation from Crosslink Capital, Female Founders Fund, Maveron, Fresco Capital, Structure Capital and 500 Startups. The funds will be put toward hiring, product development and expanded retailer partnerships, the company says.
The idea for Boon + Gable comes from former Diane Loviglio, who previously worked in qualitative user research at Mozilla. Loviglio says that she realized she was in a style rut, and looked for help to no avail.
“I got super frustrated when I went shopping. I was at Mozilla, I turned 30, and I was wearing Teva’s, Gap jeans…and just a solid tee. And that was my uniform,” she explains. The founder tried working with the in-store stylists at local retailers, but didn’t have any success until she met a stylist Nicole Chiu-Wang, now Boon + Gable’s co-founder and COO.
“She helped me at my home, which made so much more sense than helping me at the store,” says Loviglio.
Gilman Tolle, who previously sold Arch Rock to Cisco, is CTO.
The advantage of the in-home stylist is that they can pull from your own closet to help you figure out how to wear the new items. This makes a huge difference in terms of sales, as it turns out.
After testing the concept successfully, Boon + Gable was formally founded last year. It currently operates only in San Francisco, but is already seeing promising results in terms of sales and word-of mouth referrals.
The service now has thousands of customers, 60 percent of whom return to the service every 8 to 10 weeks. Its average order value is very high, too, at $700.
Customers use Boon + Gable by downloading the app, then filling out a style profile where they enter in their size information and the price points they’re comfortable with. Customers also swipe, using Tinder-like gestures, on photos to provide feedback about their own style preferences.
On the backend, Boon + Gable has created a real-time database of some 41,000 items from area retailers. Its stylists use a separate app to select 20 items to bring to the customer’s appointment. Algorithms help stylists pick the best 20 items, based on sizing and taste, but ultimately it’s their decision. (Stylists are paid a flat rate and commission on sales, but are not full-time employees.)
J.Crew and Bloomingdale’s are now working with Boon + Gable directly by pulling items, packing them and handling returns. They also pay a commission on items sold through the service.
Of course, access to a personal stylist for help with shopping has been done before, but not in the quite the same way. A startup called StitchFix, for example, offers a similar service to Boon + Gable, as it also has customers fill out an online profile which is then used to prepare a curated selection clothing and accessories. However this is shipped to the customer’s home, not hand-delivered. Shoppers try on StitchFix’s items, keep what they like, and then return the rest.
But StitchFix relies more heavily on tech and algorithms than true personal assistance, which can cause problems. And its box of goods only has a handful of items, instead of Boon + Gable’s larger selection due to shipping constraints and economics.
Still, while Boon + Gable is finding its footing in its hometown, that may be challenging to scale to places where time is not necessarily more valuable than money. Plus, Boon + Gable is deeply familiar with the San Francisco market – even knowing the dress code at area tech companies, to help it inform its stylists’ choices.
The app is a free download on iTunes.