How London Startup poq Studio is Changing the Mobile Commerce Space

Mobile fashion apps are hot. And the options seem endless. Consumers can now do things like “window shop”, share photos of their favorite finds, and purchase and trade new clothing . But not every brand is able to afford a custom shopping app. Enter poq Studio, a startup located in London that makes this option possible for small and medium-sized retailers at an affordable cost.

Recently, the team launched a new app for Tatty Devine, a quirky British jewelry company, and so far it has been downloaded to mobile phones across the world more than 10,000 times.
The startup has been around for over a year and has launched several successful mobile fashion apps (across iPhone, iPad and Android platforms). The team’s background is in e-commerce and this past May, poq Studio won their first round of investment from UCL’s (University College London) Bright Ideas Award 2012.

Most of the startup’s customers are currently based in the UK and across Europe (about 80% of downloads come from there). Not surprisingly, the next most active markets to download are the US and Japan.

“With every app that we launch, we learn more about what it takes to be successful,” Michael says.

According to Michael, though fashion brands have traditionally been slow to adopt new technologies compared to other retail sectors, this is changing. And the mobile space is the perfect fit for the fashion industry.

“In terms of technology-adoption, many big brands are beginning to develop their mobile strategy, but there’s a lot of potential for smaller brands too. There are more and more, especially young designers, who develop their digital strategy first,” he points out. “By using a fashion-tailored platform, we can keep the price affordable for smaller brands but still create beautiful apps for them. This means, we give fashion retailers an easy and fast way into mobile commerce and the user experience of our apps is as good or better than very expensive ($20,000 – 100,000) custom-built apps from digital agencies.”

“Fashion shoppers will always be keen about buying the next ‘most stylish’ item. Through a mobile application, shoppers are first to get to know about new products and can purchase them whilst on-the-go, before they sell out. Mobile makes fast fashion even faster,”  he says.

He’s got that right. What fashion fan doesn’t want quick access to what’s now and what’s next?

Since we’re so excited about what Michael and the poq Studio team are working on

(and let’s face it, we love anything British), we’re partnering up!

Details coming soon about our first live Twitter chat.


Get Inspired by The Story of Gilt Groupe

I recently had the great opportunity to meet Alexis Maybank, Co-Founder of Gilt Groupe. Though we didn’t have long to chat one on one, she did give a nice presentation to attendees of her recent book signing in San Francisco.

Her book, “By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop“, co-authored by Gilt Groupe Co-Founder Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, is about how these two women launched a fashion startup in 2007 that grew to be valued at $1B by the Spring of 2011. With the unique combination of their experience in the luxury retail and e-commerce startup worlds, and each with an MBA from HBS and penchant for high-end fashion sample sales Alexandra and Alexis were truly the perfect team to pull this off.

Before they created Gilt, Alexandra and Alexis were used to dashing all over New York City during breaks from work to strategically snatch the best pieces from local sample sales. Alexandra and Alexis essentially brought this concept online.

The book gives an exciting glimpse into just how Alexandra and Alexis handled the early years of Gilt, from brainstorming, to raising capital, to creating buzz, and to traveling an insane amount (all while in amazing heels I’m sure).

Prior to Gilt, luxury fashion brands weren’t typically looking at the Internet, and more specifically e-commerce, as a place that was refined enough through which to sell their pieces. If it wasn’t for Alexandra and Alexis’ relationship with Zac Posen (at the time, an up-and-coming designer) and his mother, Susan, the Gilt story would be drastically different. Because the Posens took a chance with Alexandra and Alexis, the women were able to leverage the Posen brand to bring others on board.

Besides Alexandra and Alexis’ relationship with the Posens, the timing was right in other ways as well. In 2007, Project Runway started exposing mainstream audiences to high fashion designer personalities and runway looks and around this time US luxury brands began creating “capsule” collections (think Marc by Marc Jacobs) aimed at making luxury more accessible to the everywomen or man.

Different sections of the book focus on different parts of Gilt’s growth and each offers sound business advice. In addition, funny anecdotes are woven through the story, which keep you remembering these insanely brilliant businesswomen are in fact actually human.

However, out of all the sections of the book, my absolute favorite is the one about raising capital because of personal ties to some of the names mentioned. Not only is Maxtrix Partners, the VC firm where I worked after college, discussed, but Nick Beim, one of the general partners, is quoted quite a bit. Notably, he was the original Series A investor in Gilt Groupe. Reading about him and the Matrix office was pretty surreal and made me feel like I’d gone back in time for a few pages. In fact, working at Matrix and being surrounded by entrepreneurs like Sheila Marcelo, Founder and CEO of (also mentioned in the book) gave me just the push I needed to return to school. I don’t doubt that much of my current drive is from this time in my life.

Overall, I’d say the book “By Invitation Only: How we Built the Gilt Groupe and Changed the Way Millions Shop” is well worth the read. It’s fast paced yet detailed enough so you feel like you get insider info. It’s interesting and truly inspiring at the same time. Even if you don’t have a personal tie to anyone mentioned, once finished, you may just feel inspired to try and conquer the world.


I’m honored to have this post included in this week’s Independent Fashion Bloggers weekly roundup:


Edited by: Victoria of vmac+cheese

Yawn. Mid-week holidays are fantastic because, well, they’re mid-week holidays. The down side? It’s Thursday and I’m sure we’re all wishing it was the weekend! Waking up after a holiday that includes all of summers’ best aspects (warm weather, fireworks, swimming, and grilling) can be painful indeed. To get you through your barbecue and burger hangovers today (and perhaps hangovers of another variety too), this week’s links all feature great, fun reads to peruse in your downtime. From fantastic DIYs to inspirational stories about women in fashion, you’re sure to find a good read. Settle in with a coffee, put some aloe on your sunburn, and enjoy.



New Bags Shopbop: Ferragamo, Gucci, YSL, Totes, Addition, Chloe, M. Williamson, Valenentino Bags, Rachel Comey, Tucker, Hindmarch & Margiela Bags

Summer is Here and E-Tailers are Ready

Summer is officially here, but many e-tailers have been ready for days, or even weeks, with cool, glamorous, and even quirky site design updates.

Coach: This brand’s site opens with a short video of a dog climbing in and out and around a few different Coach handbags before shifting to the question, “What’s in your tote?” Coach definitely knows how to market to my demographic well by including two of our favorite things- cute animals and colorful handbags.

Prabal Gurung: As soon as you arrive to Gurung’s homepage, various images of a model in the designer’s Spring dresses appear, taking over the whole screen. Visually driven? Yes. Springlike? Very. A bit erotic? Maybe Gurung was reading 50 Shades of Gray when this campaign was designed. All in all, the dresses highlighted are beyond beautiful. You can’t help but click to see what’s next.

Hermes: Though this site has other hand drawn images, this is my favorite. It’s creative (almost Target-esque in the way one item becomes something else- a man’s tie used as a cape in this instance) and catchy. Anyone shopping on the site can remember when they were little and they saw their Father, or Father figure, as superman.

What seasonal site updates have you been admiring lately?

You may also like:

E-tailers Decorate for the Holidays

Tory Burch Ups the Ante on Digital Presence

Over the past eight years, the Tory Burch brand has grown into something of a fashion phenomenon. I can barely think of a day when I haven’t seen a girl in Tory ballet flats or toting a handbag with the famous Burch emblem prominently displayed on its side.

Most recently however, Burch has been focusing on more than fashion design and the debut of her Resort 2013 collection, but also on upping the ante of fans digital experience with her brand.

Very recently, Burch gave her blog a makeover and launched her first ever app for iPhone and iPad.

Why the digital updates? For starters, just think of how many brands now have e-commerce sites, blogs, and Facebook pages. Since these three things are pretty much fashion brand standards at this point, brands have to go above and beyond to stand out and stay relevant (besides just creating great fashion design).

Burch’s blog makeover launched this week along with a smattering of posts focused on the color blue. Tory Burch Facebook fans were asked to check out the new blog look and new navy pieces, of which over 1,125 people “liked” the post in the matter of hours. According to Burch’s creative director, the blog hasn’t had a face lift since 2009 and it’s now more “visually driven”.

Burch’s new app (available on iPad and iPhone) lets users get cool perks, like free shipping and invites to exclusive events. Obviously, app users also get another way to connect with Tory Burch’s world.

While nice, neither update really surprises me. It was due time for a Tory Burch app (yay!). And given the popularity of sites like Tumblr and Pinterest, photo apps like Instagram, and how long infographics (even the terrible ones) have stuck around, I’m not at all surprised about this blog’s visual turn.

However, one other major development is on the calendar. Later this month, shopping through the e-commerce site will be available to 30 international countries. I’ll be tuned in to see how cleverly the Burch brand interacts with these new markets, and ok, perhaps saving to buy a certain navy bag.

Leadership Lessons from CEO of Fashion Startup Rent the Runway

Leadership lessons from Jennifer Hyman, Co-Founder and CEO of Rent the Runway:

Be savvy. Be tenacious.

After Hyman had seen her younger sister waste too much money on designer dresses worn only once or twice, Hyman saw an opportunity to fix this problem that many women face. One Saturday night she thought, “What if we gave women access to this revolving ‘Vogue closet’- everything you’d ever want to wear?”

The next step for Hyman was to figure out if others thought her idea was solid. She asked a friend (and now her co-founder, Jennifer Carter Fleiss) for her opinion. Next, Hyman took things to the next level. She approached Diane von Furstenberg over email (merely guessing her address) and within minutes received an invite for her and Fleiss to visit the DVF headquarters in New York City. Throughout their meeting with Diane, Hyman peppered Diane with questions until the three were on the same page.

Hyman and Fleiss next ran some market research by hosting a few trunk shows at Harvard (where Hyman completed her undergrad). Once Hyman heard the reaction of one very ecstatic Tory Burch-clad sorority girl, she was even more convinced that she was onto something.

With the help of Diane and their test markets, Hyman and Fleiss learned that they could hit a whole new target market for luxury fashion designers, women between the ages of 15 to 45. Women known for regularly shopping at Zara and H&M and just under the target demographics of luxury department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. Rent the Runway could bring designer dresses to the everywoman, without the designer price tag.

Photo from the New York Times article covering their launch

Things were moving along well, when the Rent the Runway team hit another snag. Just before launch, after securing an exclusive interview to be published in Vogue, Rent the Runway’s PR team leaked their launch story. Ever the scrappy one, Hyman reached out to a (at the time) little known writer at the New York Times and got the story covered, and got it covered well. In 2009, this story became the sixth most emailed story of the year.

Be respectful. Be humble. Be open to learning.

One piece of advice Hyman received that’s stuck with her was to always have a manicure. Funny to openly say? Yes. How the fashion industry is? Definitely. As with every industry, fashion has a unique culture all its own. Hyman also learned along the way to remain very respectful of the designers she and her company work with. A brand doesn’t want to partner with Rent the Runway now? No problem. Hyman knows that just because someone says no in the beginning to working together, it doesn’t mean that once the designer and Hyman develop a relationship, that designer won’t reconsider. Besides, it’s nice to just build relationships so you can learn from new people anyway.

Hyman also has two mentors, from startups The Knot and Chegg, whom she greatly values. One is the woman she met in her early twenties whom she always looked up to. The other is a man who gives her the “hard coaching” she loves.

Be yourself.

Ah, such an overused phrase, but always true. While pitching her business idea to VCs, Hyman learned that she stood out from the flock (mainly male venture capitalists) by being her feminine self. She wore dresses and acted like a lady. Now, as the CEO of Rent the Runway more than two years in, Hyman can admit that she may be more emotional than most male CEOs, but does she see it as a negative? Absolutely not.

“It’s ok to be your authentic self at work,” Hyman says.

Be authentic, but be confident is her rule. Too often Hyman says she hears men boasting they are the right man for a big position (whether they are or not) and she notices that women don’t often do this. While being humble is important, it’s just as important to have confidence. Just within the past year and a half Hyman has started to realize that she’s confident in her leadership style and position within the Rent the Runway team.

I met Jennifer Hyman on Monday evening at Ruth’s Chris Steak House as part of Marie Claire’s Women in Business series. I also won the grand prize of the night!! But more on that later.

Three Unique Features of Online Fashion Marketplace

Imagine that you’re walking down the street looking into the high-end shops of Luxembourg and you happen to stumble across one that has just the aesthetic and clothing brands you’re looking for. You peruse the boutique and then twenty minutes later, after you’ve taken in the fashion, the people, and the music, you’re out the door with shopping bag in hand. Next stop, Monaco.

Normally this could take at least all day, but, a four-year-old fashion marketplace with more than 1,000 high-end fashion labels, lets users take this shopping trip in the matter of seconds.

If that’s not enough to get you ready to finally look for “that perfect white dress” or “a leather jacket that doesn’t like like the one everyone owns”, here are three ways the site differs from other online shopping destinations:

Boutique Shopping

Unlike other online retailers that let users search for wardrobe finds by the usual means, like size and brand, also offers a boutique search capability. The boutiques section of the site, organized by location, houses the list of locations where products featured on the site are originally found. And, each boutique is introduced by location, date founded, brands to look for,  a photo of the interior, and the company’s history. It’s nice to see a little bit of the store’s history and personality without having to physically enter the store.

Suggestion: Include more photos from each boutique.

The Infusion of Music

By visiting the Projects section of, users are able to experience the musical stylings of artists featured in online music popup shops and fashion films with memorable tunes. What does music have to do with fashion? Fashion shows feature music. Boutiques feature music. Basically, any live fashion experience wouldn’t be complete without it.

Suggestion: feature the same tracks played for shoppers who visit each boutique’s physical location for online shoppers visit the boutiques’ pages on

Global Style Trends

Beyond knowing what’s inside each boutique, also shows users styles trending globally. Posts feature everything from color trends to the site’s hottest selling products through both editorial posts from the team and guest bloggers.

Though I have a few minor suggestions for the site, overall’s clean, easy to navigate, site is a go-to destination for men and women interested in both contemporary and vintage clothing from retailers in some of the world’s most famous and up and coming fashion capitals. Just don’t forget to connect with the team on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest if you need a break from shopping. You won’t even need your passport.

This post is sponsored by

Five Ways Technology Has Shaped Fashion

By Philip J Reed, on behalf of Aston Royal

Technology has influenced fashion since the invention of the sewing machine. High-technology has been incorporated into the fashion industry in many ways. Fashion shows that were previously exclusive events are now streamed online. QR codes allow an enhanced buying experience, teenage bloggers are dictating styles and new fabrics and embedded technologies have practically converted garments into wearable computers. Here’s a list of five ways technology is currently shaping fashion.

Onlookers at the live streamed Burberry show during LFW in Feb. 2011

1. Live streamed fashion shows

Fashion shows used to be exclusive events for the wealthy, fashionistas and journalists. Now companies like Burberry have turned their fashion shows into live events streamed to all their locations and onto a billboard-sized screen in Picadilly Circus. People can watch and buy the latest fashions directly from their smartphones via the Runway to Reality application.

2. Blogs

Bloggers have become a powerful force in the fashion world. Teenage bloggers are in the front row for some of the biggest fashion shows around the world. The power they have to make or break a style is incredible. With their approving blog post, a new designer can become instantly famous. The blogger’s weapon of choice is the smartphone or electronic tablet. They command armies of buyers with disposable income who want to be on the cutting edge of fashion.

Silk scarf created by Crystal J. Robinson

3. QR codes

QR codes are the latest form of barcodes. The main difference is these codes have built-in links to websites. By scanning the QR code on a garment, a buyer can be whizzed to a web page or mobile magazine with additional information on the product and styling suggestions. Other applications overlay text on the garment’s scanned image describing the fabric qualities and fine tailoring.

4. Online Fittings

For those who can’t get to the store, mobile platforms bring the store to them. These mobile platforms permit you to print a digitally coded photo of a ring, for example. Cut out the ring’s image, and put it on your hand. When you hold your hand up to your webcam, the software shows what the real ring would look like on you. Hair salons can also offer a 3-D view of how you’d look in a particular hairstyle before you go under the scissors.

5. High-tech clothing

Fabric batteries can power computers that are built-into jackets and coats. Advanced applications of this technology can lead to clothing that can charge MP3 devices or smartphones. Textile batteries can also be used to heat clothing. Flexible, wearable displays are on their way. Rather than color t-shirts, you’ll soon see animated t-shirts and other garments. Athletic garments will soon be equipped with heart monitors and pedometers.

Who knows what advances tomorrow will bring? One thing is for sure. If there’s a way for it to be applied to the highly competitive and ever-evolving fashion world, somebody will figure out a way to use it.


Philip is a writer and fashion enthusiast, working in association with Aston Royal Fine Jewelers. Feel free to browse their selection of birthstone rings, and contact them with any questions you might have!

Virtual Dressing Room Assistant Helps Online Shoppers with Sizing

Have you ever been a size S at one store and a size M at another? Often I shop on ecommerce sites headquartered in Europe or Asia hoping to find a little something different, and the scariest part is trying to find a good fit for a new piece of apparel.

Enter, a company that offers the technology online clothing retailers can use to give customers a realistic view of how different sizes of a piece of clothing will fit their body.

“Our robots and the Virtual Fitting Room technology have solved the main problem that online clothing retailers face – the lack of a fitting room,” Heikki Haldre, CEO and co-founder of said.

The technology, created by teams from Estonia (Tartu University and Tallinn Technical University) and Germany (Human Solutions GmbH), is the basis for the robotic mannequins whose shapes can deftly shrink to slimmer sizes or grow to hunkier frames. These robots- there are 14 total- can morph into 100,000 body shapes.

Right now, brands like Ermenegildo Zegna (a men’s luxury brand), Thomas Pink, and Park & Bond use this technology to help give their clients a better understanding of how their pieces fit. Why did all the men’s retailers jump on board first? According to the team, a man’s torso is less complicated than a woman’s so the team started there, back in 2010. And just recently, the first woman’s robot model was launched.

Vogue magazine named one of the most influential names in digital fashion in their 2012 Online Fashion 100 list so rest assured, this invention is fashion forward. Now here’s hoping the team can create an army of robots to send to more than a few luxury retailers so I can spend less time on guesswork and returns and more time shopping for pieces that will actually flatter.

Fashion Startup Betabrand Pairs Quality with Quirky

Nothing gets most of my guy friends more excited about fashion than making fun of it. Seriously.

Recently, on two separate occasions, both my boyfriend and a male friend of mine showed me a pair of sweatpants they had found for sale online. These weren’t ordinary sweatpants though, they’re Dress Pant Sweatpants, a line of classed up, Barney Stintson-style of sweatpants meant to be office friendly.

Anyway, these Dress Sweatpants are a creation of Betabrand, a San Francisco based fashion startup who’s mission it is to create unique, quality clothing for those with a sense of humor about how they present themselves to the world.

Betabrand is also well known for other creative fashions such as Disco Pants (perfect for anyone staring in the next LMFAO music video), the Black Reversible Smoking Jacket, and the original design (how the whole company started), Cordarounds.

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After doing some investigating of the site on my own, I decided to see if I could get an interview with someone at Betabrand and set up a coffee with the brand’s creative director, Jared Graf.

Graf started with the company three years ago, as its first official employee, helping out on product development. Today, he oversees the brand’s creative direction.

Today, Betabrand has about 18 employees and has had press coverage in some major news outlets, including Time. In fact, Graf admits that the press this brand gets is “disproportionate” to the actual size of the startup.

But hey, when you’re doing something unique, people will take notice.

“We like to try to reach audiences maybe other clothing companies aren’t speaking to, and engaging them online,” Graf said during our discussion over coffee. “If you have a little bit of a different perspective, we’d like to be the forum where you could share that.”

Betabrand’s marketing tactics are as unique as the clothing designs themselves. For example, at Maker Faire 2011, the brand collaborated with Inventor Saul Griffith and Onya Cycles to create a small event called “Eco Knievel“. And, the online personality of the brand (think Twitter, Facebook) is very vibrant. Fans of the brand are so engaged that there’s a 40 – 50% open rate of the e-newsletters, but no wonder. All of the copy is as hilarious as the clothing concepts themselves.

To keep fans of the brand engaged, site users can upload photos of themselves and apply B-glasses, without even purchasing any clothing. Actual brand buyers can upload photos via mobile phone to Betabrand’s Model Citizen community. Unlike on most e-commerce sites, (expect for sites like ASOS) where users aren’t really encouraged to participate with the brand other than to make purchases, Betabrand displays photos of fans wearing pieces of their clothes right on the page where that particular item is sold. To date, over 2,000 have been uploaded.

To generate even more buzz about the brand, the team came up with NSFWorkwear (which has a NSFBlog photo up now, so you can just click the link), a line of that’s not actually created and sold, but definitely talked about. Comments from users on Facebook show up in real-time on this page, like they do for the real place where Betabrand does its market research, the Think Tank.

One key thing discovered through paying attention to their customers, is that women want in on the fun! Starting with The Elope Dress, Betabrand now offers more than 8 clothing designs for purchase, and the womenswear designer has been known to personal email customers to build relationships and get feedback.

While Betabrand is expanding into womenswear and continually testing the boundaries of inappropriateness, it’s main demographic skews male, between the ages of 25- 55. Most customers, according to Graf, are tech savvy, geeky, and like large computer monitors. Sounds like the perfect target audience for perhaps San Francisco’s most wackiest (albeit brilliant) startup yet.

Online Shopping Through a Man’s Perspective

I’m not an expert in men’s fashion by any means, but I’d like to give my programmer boyfriend, Jon, lots of credit for being so. Yesterday he wrote a post over on his blog about the three main things that need improvement on in the online shopping scene for guys- better pricing, correctly targeted written content, and more style variety. According to Jon, there is a big opportunity for the right startup to succeed here.

Check out his thoughts at

My well dressed boyfriend horsing around.