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

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.

Pinterest Offers New Creative Outlet for the Fashion Community

I’m not surprised that Pinterest drives more traffic these days than Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn (at least, according to Mashable) and is part of a new trend hitting the Internet called “social curation”.

Elad Gil, an technology entrepreneur recently wrote a very interesting post on his blog explaining the evolution around how Pinterest emerged. The post includes a series of date ranges spanning the last decade that easily classify social media into categories from long form (blogging) to status updates (Facebook) to push button (Pinterest being an innovator in this site format).

Gil is right, Pinterest is part of the latest trend on the Internet, yet again giving us a chance to consume content faster than before (it sounds like we’re all getting stupider, doesn’t it?).

Anyway, the site is a great place to spend time when I’m relaxing. I’ve spent hours of time devoted to adding pictures to my categories that include things like fashion and wearable technology.

As someone with a deep interest in the fashion industry, I find Pinterest especially intriguing for those of the fashion community. So far, I’ve used the site to get inspired with new creative ideas, run a contest for my blog, and find new style bloggers (just this week I discovered Rachel Parcell of The Pink Peonies).

However, what are fashion brands up to on the site these days? I found a curated list made by Dave Surgan of fashion brands on Pinterest and while I’m not following all of them, I am aware of what a few of my favorites are up to.

Kate Spade is promoting their Spring ’12 campaign on the site, using both titles and hashtags to do so. My favorite is “dress colorfully”. Each board’s name is short, punchy, and the pins give more detail about the photographer of the photo and/or what’s being shot (if they’re done by the brand).

Next up, is ModCloth, already a stand out brand as far as fashion marketing goes! They recently ran their first Pinterest contest offering a gift card of $100.

How did it all work? Basically, the contest rules were for entrants to create one Pinterest board of 20 pins based on the criteria outlined in a pin announcing the contest. ModCloth also requested how contest entrants tagged their pins and for entrants to post links right in the comments section for the contest announcement pin.

A few of my favorite pins I used in my sparkled themed entry:

“We love coming up with fun, unique, and engaging content and contests for our fans,” Ashley LaFerriere, Social Media Specialist at ModCloth said, who added that the ModCloth team received a very positive response from the contest. In total, there were over 500 contest entries.

While fashion brands like Kate Spade and ModCloth are quickly wrapping their heads around the social curation trend, many others have yet to jump on board. What brands need first, like with opting into any new social platform are a strategy, process, and analytics. In this case, brand strategies may be as simple as posting behind-the-scenes photos of their new items, photo shoots or events. Strategies may be as complex as running contests using Pinterest, or Pinterest in conjunction with other sites. As for analytics, I haven’t seen the site come out with anything yet, but I am waiting. Polyvore did after a long wait, so I don’t doubt Pinterest will at some point either.

Right now though, Pinterest has more basic things to focus on.

Jonathan Howard, a member of the site’s smaller demographic- the male population- has found a few challenges when pinning. One has been the downside of the tagging feature. To find men’s clothing (for his boards like Suit Up and Like a Bauce), navigating through the abundance of style bloggers using the hashtag “menswear” to categorize their pins can be frustrating.

“To find things I want to repin I still have to actively search, browse, or pin original content myself,” he said.

Another challenge he’s run into has been connecting his Pinterest account to his Facebook account.

“My feed keeps filling with my female Facebook friends’ boards as they join, and I have to keep unfollowing boards about weddings, cute animals, and chocolate cakes. I don’t want to totally not be connected to Facebook friends. I just don’t want them auto-added to my feed.”

He makes some fair points. As a female user I don’t mind my feed filling with boards about baby animals and glittery things, but I do agree that the Pinterest team needs to focus on keeping the site running as smoothly as possible before focusing on anything further.

In the future however, I’d like to see the Pinterest team become very creative and savvy in how they work with the fashion industry (among others). After all, nobody wants another Tumblr.

Six Things to Know About Stella and Dot Stylist Kristina Hagerty

I met Stella and Dot Stylist Kristina Hagerty last year through a series of meetups and jewelry parties and was immediately intrigued by the Stella and Dot story, and especially her role entrepreneurial role in at the “social shopping” company.

Why did you decide to work with Stella and Dot?

I previously worked in International Trade for 5 years but have always had a love of fashion and marketing. I was inspired by the entrepreneur spirit of Stella & Dot and the opportunity to do what I love, style!

What interested you in jewelry styling in the beginning?

I’ve always been highly creative. I used to style my mom and friends growing up. I love the texture of jewelry and how it can literally transform an outfit. I used to make my own jewelry to go with my outfits!

How do you define your personal style?

Romantic, dreamy, sleek, modern, BOLD!

Photo by Ashley Batz

What have been some of the highlights of your Stella & Dot career so far?

Giving a style presentation to a room full of ladies at one of the events I was invited to attend. Receiving heartfelt thank you’s from my customers, seeing all the fun the ladies are having at my trunk shows and more than anything the people I’ve met. They are amazing. I love to meet new people and I’ve developed some fantastic friendships along the way!

How do you incorporate social media with your business?

I have a Facebook fan page where I post photos of how to wear the pieces and get my fans involved in the creative process. It’s so wonderful to hear all their creative suggestions; it’s a team effort! I also have a Twitter account (@kristinaviajera) where I interact with others, post trend reports and awesome promotions! In addition I have my own boutique where you can check out all the jewels and sign up to do a trunk show with me! Check it out at

Who do you typically work with?

My clients are very diverse and of all ages! Sometimes I am helping someone pick out a piece for an event or a wedding, but more often than not I am picking out and suggesting pieces that work with [women’s] everyday wardrobes. There are so many fun ways to accessorize and accentuate your personal style and I love helping women find pieces they love while they have a chance to relax, socialize and have a glass of wine!

A few photos of an event Kristina threw recently:

See the rest of the photos on my Facebook fan page. And while you’re at it, check out Kristina’s fan page as well!

Fashion Meets Analytics through New Startup, Stylitics

As a full time working analyst who recently purchased six pairs of shoes within a five day time span, I may have found just the site to obsess over.

Source: Stylitics Press Kit

Stylitics is a New York City based startup that helps consumers keep their style fresh and better understand their wardrobe habits. In addition, the site offers brands a way to track consumer demographics, and the media/content providers have quick access to consumer fashion trends.

Co-Founder Zach Davis, who describes his style as classic and lists Cary Grant as a style inspiration (swoon) says that he has always been a follower of style through friends, but now is trying new things he didn’t 6 months ago. Though his career background was not in fashion before Stylitics- it had consisted of experience in music, consumer insights/marketing, and mobile- Davis has always been interested in seeing what products impacted people. And now, he believes that consumers are smarter than ever and want more data so Stylitics is a good fit for that.

Through Stylitics, users can see the actual percent of how much they wear certain items in their closets as opposed to others. Right now, the site is very appealing to 18- 35 year olds and particularly moms who like the idea of managing their kids’ closets. Personally, I like the idea of having an “assistant” help me remember what I wore last week.

Since consumers are most concerned with two things- relationships with brands and privacy, the Stylitics team has addressed both.

Consumers have personal pages customized with all of their wardrobe data and no data is shared with Stylitics partners directly by name. Brands only have access to anonymous data. However, consumers can get a brand badge by wearing brands multiple times in a row and can opt-in to directly engage with brands (this helps relationship building between consumer and brand).

On the brand side of things, brands can see the trend of any type of clothing item, with information like where consumers wear the particular style, what styles of that item people like the most, and the popularity of their brand generally speaking or in certain areas of the country. This is to “give them perspective of how things are changing in real time”, Davis says, adding that brands also have complete access to data in the form of sleek inforgraphics.

Right now Stylitics has five partner brands, including Gilt Groupe and Lucky Brand. And just last week, Davis had a meeting with Ralph Lauren.

For bigger content providers like a Glamour or Lucky Magazine, Stylitics provides up to the minute fashion facts (with infographics) that these magazines can easily use. For smaller content providers, such as blogs, Stylitics offers the option to include a link to the blog, through which a blogger can therefore better understand the style of their own readers. (Coming soon on Pretty Innovative!)

After starting to use the site and learning more of the behind-the-scenes information from Davis, it’s no surprise to me that Stylitics won the Wharton Business Plan Competition just last April.

Upcoming goals for the team include adding Facebook Connect to the site (this week!), creating a mobile app (late December 2011), and ramping up to about 30,000 very active users by the end of next year.

Right now though, I’m just trying to find some time to finish adding photos (found on the site or added by hand) of my wardrobe to the site so it can start working for me. I already have a feeling that I wear a certain black boyfriend blazer from Zara a little too often…

You may also enjoy other posts about startups.

Digitally Chic’s #DCApps Event Recap

Last Thursday, 6 of my close friends and I hosted another Digitally Chic meetup. This time we featured fashion and lifestyle apps from around the Bay Area whose creativity was shown through small group demos and one on one discussion.

Participating apps included:

Meet Gatsby (lifestyle)

Localmind (lifestyle)

Pose (fashion)

Poshmark (fashion)

ShopNear.Me (fashion)

Snapette (fashion)

StyleSays (fashion)

Boutiika (fashion)

The event was hosted at Roe Restaurant in SOMA.

Being silly with some of the DC co-founders after the event

Just one year after we met for drinks and realized we all had a love for fashion and tech in common, we’re 230+ members strong in our Facbeook group, but also have a public Facebook page (where all of the event photos are located) and Twitter account you can follow for more updates: @DigitallyChic.

And, we were very honored to have our Apps & Apps event featured in the San Francisco Chronicle!

What’s next? Our first birthday party! That’s right, we’re currently organizing our one year celebration, so stay tuned for details coming soon!

All of the DC co-founders celebrating Sharon's college graduation!

More event coverage:

From Natalie (Miss Social)

San Francisco Chronicle

From Ashley G (FashionablyA)

Apps coverage:



Digitally Chic:

Scavenger Hunt

ShopNear.Me Merges the Worlds of Online and Offline Shopping

Whenever I go shopping for clothes in San Francisco I tend to just focus on the area around Union Square. Two reasons: I know what I want and where I want it there, and I’m usually short on time. But it’s nice to know that I can cut down on time even further by using ShopNear.Me.

The App’s Usability

ShopNear.Me a new iOS app that gives users information about sales and arrivals at stores they care about. Users can also set up alerts for their favorite stores, and browse the app by products so as not to miss out on a great piece by sticking to their usual stores. Without waiting until there’s time to visit new stores on a whim, users can browse products in their San Francisco neighborhood of interest for goodies they love. Though right now the app features mainly boutiques in Hayes and the Marina, the team is working to expand coverage into the Mission and SOMA.

And the best part, is that coming soon, users will be able to reserve items while on the go.

You won’t have to be torn between seeing an alert go by about beautiful shoes you don’t want to miss out on or attending a startup’s launch party. You can do both!

The Team

I recently had a nice chat with co-founder Yuan Zhang, whose role entails business development, marketing, PR, raising funding, and investor relationships. Phew! But she said it doesn’t feel like work.

According to Zhang, shopping is “a visual experience”, and this app fits that desire of consumers. There are apps out there that list store directories, or sites like Yelp, where users can write reviews of their shopping experiences, but no real visual way to find out what’s inside stores in the area quickly. (Talk about finding a perfect niche in need of some help).

Other team members include Programmer Ben Wong and Designer Loc Ngo (co-founders of Startuply), and Programmer Steve Zu (formerly of social gaming company Lolapps).

The Boutique Perspective

To get the boutique perspective, I took a quick trip to meet with Marissa Olson, Owner of Chloe Rose, a women’s clothing boutique on Union Street.

Olson, in no way new to fashion, or online marketing, said what first drew her to using the app for her store was that she was approached about it.

She finds that to keep her store running smoothly and market online, she does what every boutique owner should do- she has a checklist of promotional things she does. She updates Facebook and Twitter at least once a day if possible and ShopNear.Me when new items arrive in the store.

ShopNear.Me really offers a “store front” to boutiques. With the pretty pictures and thoughtful search options, I’m excited to watch this app take off.


The Story of Snapette, an iOS Fashion App

I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve been out and about and seen an amazing shoe that I took a picture of to text to my mom or one of my girl friends. In the end, these pictures would either end up saved on my phone or eventually deleted. But now I am able to save all photos to one place, Snapette, where other fashion fans will be able to enjoy my finds and I am able to see theirs too.

Last Friday, I sat down with Sarah Paiji, a co-founder of Snapette, and she told me the story of how this cool new fashion app came to be.

The Story

Sarah Paiji, originally from a suburb of LA, found herself on the East Coast for the past 8 years, including time in school at Harvard and working for Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Co and Berkshire Partners. Most recently before Snapette, Paiji was studying at Harvard Business School. It was through an HBS alumni event where she met Jinhee Kim, an HBS alum more than two decades her senior, and more importantly, a woman with a very big idea.


According to Paiji, the two had a short meeting over coffee, after meeting at a Harvard alumni event. Soon after, Kim invited Paiji to spend her January 2011 term with the Kim family in London… to launch a company. Snapette.

With “no dominant social app yet” in fashion, and mobile being a space with such great growth potential, Paiji decided this was a chance too good to pass up.

After the two recruited a technical person to join their team (and for a month in London), the real work began.

Luckily, a tweet Paiji made about their new app was found by Dave McClure of 500 Startups, a startup incubator located in Mountain View, and soon McClure was inviting the Snapette team to relocate to California and work from the 500 Startups office space.

Just yesterday, 500 Startups hosted its second ever Demo Days, a place for its entrepreneurs to present their ideas to investors and press. The Snapette team presented, along with more than 20 other startups, as the culmination of their 3 month period in the 500 Startups accelerated program.

Think about it, within 8 months, Snapette went from an idea, to a company, and to a company that publications like Forbes and VentureBeat are now covering. That is pretty inspiring.

The App

Paiji describes the app as this: like Milo for fashion.

Source: The Fashionable Bambino

Snapette lets users upload an unlimited amount of content to the app (available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) and browse other users’ finds as well. For now, users can see shoes and bags that others have uploaded from around the world, and content uploaded by nearby stores. Users are able to search by brand, store, description, or “New”, “Near”, and “Hot” ratings of products.

And of course, there is further social integration with sites like Facebook.

Right now the Snapette team is focusing its efforts on working with boutiques in New York, LA, San Francisco, and London, including San Francisco-based boutiques like Heidi Says and Gimme Shoes.

Why stop with shoes and bags? Well for now, the Snapette team decided to just start with those products because “women are passionate about them”, according to Paiji.

Within 6 months, Paiji hopes to see the team add more features to Snapette and figure out whether to decide to focus more on fashion or the social experience.

*Note: A big thank you to Hong Quan of 500 Startups for the introduction.