Thanks to a mad rush of start-ups entering the fashion industries in the USA, Germany and beyond, there has been a surge in the digitization of consumer experiences. Shoppers can now readily find the pieces and accessories they’ve been searching for with ease. Discover your new favorite clothing, footwear and jewelry brands with our list of ten fashion start-ups every tech or fashion lover should to know about.
2011 Harvard Business School graduate Jamal Motlagh is the brain behind Acustom Apparel, a clothing company that uses 3D measurement technology to create custom mensware pieces at affordable prices. Stop by the company’s New York brick-and-mortar store to get two full-body scans, which produce 200,000 unique data points each, then use your personal measurements to customize jeans, shirts, shorts, chinos, raincoats, suits and more. Though there are over 33 million different combinations of fits, the process is seamless—measure, add custom hems, lapels, stitches, then pay and be out the door, all in about 20 minutes. Alternatively, just stop by for a measurement and order online later. Since winning the Best Fashion Start-Up Award at the 2014 Fashion 2.0 awards, the company is looking to expand throughout the East Coast and open several pop-up shops.
330 West Broadway, New York, NY, USA +1 212 219 8620
The four-year-old, New York-based start-up STYLYT is a social, interactive web platform on which users and fashion brands can interact creatively. When brands upload new designs to STYLYT, users are given the opportunity to pick each piece’s colors, fabrics and shapes and submit them to be judged by the community. The product designs that receive the most attention on social media outlets will be turned into real, limited-edition pieces that can be purchased on STYLYT, and the users that produce those product designs will receive mentions from brands on social media or free items. This innovative platform of fashion industry interaction gives consumers opportunities to have input on future trends, and allows brands to engage with consumers and predict which items are going to be in highest demand.
chloe + isabel
When she was a teenager, Chantel Waterbury used direct-selling opportunities to pay for her education. Working in the jewelry industry for 15 years gave her a first-hand look at the field, including the concerning reality that there are very few women in CEO positions. In 2010, Waterbury’s experiences led her to found chloe + isabel, a New York-based social retail company that encourages women to become entrepreneurs and reach their personal finance goals independently. Women who successfully apply to be a Merchandiser for the company can purchase a starter kit of on-trend, hand-designed jewelry. The supportive chloe + isabel community provides them with photography, branding and social media tips as well as a personalized online store. Merchandisers typically earn anywhere from $30 to $300 per hour. Last year, TechCrunch also announced that the company also launched its own fragrance and introduced live, virtual trunk shows that customers can connect to on mobile devices.
The personal shopper app Mallzee is a virtual aggregator of over 100 stores, including ASOS, Urban Outfitters and French Connection, that’s been deemed ‘the Tinder of fashion.’ There are over 2 million items available on the app, which was founded in 2012. Users can create style profiles of their favorite items, and are sent alerts when the pieces they like go on sale. The Scotland-based company was named ‘one of the six apps to change shopping forever’ by Yahoo, and made its U.S. debut last year. It currently ranks in the top 100 apps in 48 countries, and is already having a stellar 2015: Its twenty-seven-year-old founder, Cally Russell, appeared on the reality investment show ‘Dragon’s Den’ in February 2015. Though he turned down a ‘dragon’s’ offer, the night the episode aired the company announced it was going to partner with tech giant Samsung in the UK and Ireland.
Using one email per day and a corresponding algorithm, New York-based fashion media start-up StyleUp helps you make the best of what’s in your wardrobe and find out which piece(s) you should buy next to upgrade your closet. Founded by a woman who formerly served as the fashion editor for both Lucky and InStyle magazines, the service provides daily outfit recommendations that draw upon pieces you already own plus new shopping suggestions. The style tips are based on the weather in your local area, your budget and how you rated previous outfit suggestions—the more ratings the better, so StyleUp can match your taste accurately. Users can also submit Special Event requests to receive a custom list of three fashionable outfits for more upscale occasions.
Bib + Tuck
Bib + Tuck, a New York and Miami based re-commerce shop founded by two Colombian twenty-somethings, allows users to exchange and barter for pieces virtually. Users upload a stylized picture of the garment they’d like to sell—from retro, vintage frocks to luxury designer shoes—onto the app or website; when their piece sells, they get virtual ‘bucks’ that allow them to purchase others’ items. Users can also purchase ‘bucks’ with real dollars if they don’t wish to sell anything first. Every once in a while, the site will highlight ‘featured closets’ organized by big-name designers. According to CrunchBase, while the three-year-old Bib + Tuck isn’t the first online consignment shop, it’s the first to ’emphasize social transparency, moneyless transactions and attractive visuals.’ Since it scored $600,000 from angel investors in 2013, expect the Bib + Tuck community, recently at about 12,000 members, to expand rapidly.
Stitch Fix is a California-based online shopping service that combines computer algorithms with the knowledge of professional, human stylists to make having a personal shopper affordable for everyone. Customers are polled on their budget, the occasion for which they want a new outfit, their favorite physical features, how they like clothing to fit, and more. Stitch Fix then uses the information collected in the questionnaire—meaningful data that most traditional retailers would kill to have—to pull together five unique pieces per user and ship them to their homes once a month for a regular fashion fix and wardrobe reboot. Users can keep the pieces they like and send back the ones they don’t. According to Buzzfeed, Stitch Fix’s customers ‘range from teenagers to seniors, but its core is women in their late twenties and thirties who are pressed for time or who live far away from a mall.’
Seeing a jaw-dropping outfit on the street, on television, on the red carpet or on a blog, then being unable to find it anywhere in stores or on the web, is perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of developing one’s wardrobe. However, with the crowdsourced shopping platform Wheretoget—the ‘Shazam of fashion’—finding where to get that exact ensemble is a breeze. Post a photo of the outfit you’re looking for onto the website or app, then fellow members of the Wheretoget community can comment on the picture with advice and/or an answer. When you find just what you’ve been searching for, you can buy it on a third-party website. Last year, the Paris, France-based company got over 2 million unique visitors per month and will likely expand even more with increasing app use.
Known as ‘the publishing house for jewelry design,’ the two-year-old start-up Stilnest uses 3D printers to produce original necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, cufflinks, headdresses, tie pins and bolo ties out of Sterling silver, gold-plated silver and fine polyamide. Why 3D printing? According to AngelList, the process allows the company ‘to source worldwide, pick up trends instantly and produce on demand’—plus, there’s no minimum order requirement for retailers, and storing the pieces digitally is virtually free. Keep a close eye on the Stilnest website, as its portfolio of hand-picked designs changes every week. Currently, over 70 artists from around the world contribute design concepts to the Berlin-based company’s lineup, which currently contains over 100 different items. Expect the collection to grow even larger in the future, as the company received a $900,000 seed investment in the fall of 2014.
Both consumers and retailers can find a happy medium with the two-part, data-driven start-up, Stylitics. The company’s app, ClosetSpace, is aimed at consumers and allows them to upload their clothes onto virtual ‘shelves’ and tag their most-weared pieces. The app sorts users’ wardrobes based on aspects like color, brand and price to generate statistics on the items they wear daily, then gives them data on global fashion trends and suggestions on which pieces to ditch and what kind of clothing they should stock up on instead. Stay tuned for the second-generation version of ClosetSpace, revamped after two years of testing and feedback, which should be launched in early 2015, according to AngelList. On the other side of Stylitics, retailers who subscribe to Stylitics can conduct market research on ClosetSpace members’ purchase history and style in real-time, including data on large-scale up-and-coming trends.
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