Fancy beaming Kristen Stewart’s stylist into your bedroom? Or being first in line for your favourite influencer’s unwanted clothes? Fashion expert Laura Craik meets the hottest new retail entrepreneurs
The most successful new fashion businesses are online geniuses, offering the ultimate personal service – whether you’re looking for a top-stylist edit of this season’s key buys or want what your favourite influencer is wearing (and now), they’re the fast track to shopping smart. These disruptors – entrepreneurs who throw a spanner in the works of how an industry traditionally operates – are small and nimble, so they can react far more speedily to change and customer demand than their larger competitors. And, best of all, you don’t even need to venture out of your own home to have your pick of the season’s most wanted. The disruptors featured here aren’t yet household names or market leaders, but they’re riding the wave of the new fashion retail with aplomb, adapting to how we want to shop and giving us what we want, when we want it. Get to know them – because they want to know you.
Buy & give: Ninety Percent
How it works Co-founded by Bangladeshi factory owner Shafiq Hassan, this London-based label has a noble mantra – #DressBetter – but actually puts its money where its hashtag is, empowering not only the wearers of the clothes but their makers, by sharing 90 per cent of distributed profits between a diverse range of charitable causes. All orders arrive with unique barcodes that can be entered on the Ninety Percent website, allowing customers to vote for their chosen cause. At the end of the financial year, the company calculates how much each charity will receive.
In their own words ‘Ninety Percent came about as an idea over ten years ago, when we questioned the way big businesses – be it banks, utility or any other service – are run and control our lives. We felt the system was exploitative, without giving much back,’ says Hassan, ‘and there was a huge sense of disconnect between big businesses and their customers, which the customers could not do much about. We decided there had to be a way of moving away from traditional methods of running a company. Thus the seeds of Ninety Percent were sown, with a vision of 360 degree empowerment.’
Best for Premium basics: think slim-fit sweatpants, roomy hoodies and a variety of well-cut tees, all in organic, sustainably sourced cotton.
Unique selling point The high percentage of profit it gives to charity, plus the fact that customers have a say in where the money goes.
You’ll love it if… You resolved to shop more ethically this year, but sometimes feel that brands’ lack of transparency can make this less straightforward than it ought to be – not to mention the pressures on your own time, which often results in more panic buying and less thoughtful purchasing decisions than you might wish. Ninety Percent does the hard work for you: all you have to do is enjoy wearing the clothes – guilt-free.
Resale made simple: Depop
How it works With ten million international users, Depop is a peer-to-peer, app-only fashion resale site in the manner of Ebay, only more targeted and less overwhelming. While Ebay has 13 required fields to fill in, Depop has just a handful (eg, photo, description, option to link to your Instagram account), plus you can only upload four photos of your item, as opposed to Ebay’s 12. This could be seen as a negative for some, but I like the relative simplicity.
In their own words ‘Fast fashion makes fashion not unique, and our users want to express themselves in what they wear,’ says Depop’s CEO Maria Raga. ‘The app’s Instagram-like social features also support a sense of community that’s absent in mainstream “inhuman” consumerism. Depop is all about social interaction.’
Best For Reasonably priced streetwear (Depop is particularly popular with teens), mid-range vintage clothes and trainers. The term ‘vintage’ is one of the top five most searched terms on the site, while searches for Nike, Supreme and Gucci are also consistently high. Patagonia and other brands big on sustainability also do well on Depop.
Unique selling point It’s likely to be the site your favourite influencer uses to sell his or her unwanted clothes.
You’ll love it if… You are into Instagram, as it has much in common with the site. When you do a search on Depop, there are filters for size and brand, but with fewer pictures (like Instagram, photos are cropped to a square). This means your visual ‘storytelling’ abilities are pushed to the fore – the more style and personality your photo has, the more interest you’re likely to get. Ideally, photograph the clothes on yourself, as opposed to hanging limply on a hanger: bonus points for pulling a kooky pose. The site recently introduced a video option, too.
Your own stylist: Glamhive
How It Works Glamhive was set up with the idea of providing everyone with their own personal, relatively affordable stylist, whether you’re after fashion tips, one-off advice or a complete wardrobe transformation. I like its transparent pricing (ranging from around £20 for a basic consultation to around £680 for a full makeover with a celebrity stylist – there are ten different service levels) and the fact that, being web-based, it doesn’t discriminate against your postcode (though personal meetings can be arranged where feasible). Although most of the stylists are based in the US, you can schedule a video call at a time that suits you. Once you’ve chosen the stylist who best fits your needs, you fill in a questionnaire, schedule a video call and take things from there. While stylists will suggest purchases where applicable, the site doesn’t sell clothes: its role is to help curate via moodboards, video calls and advice, but the customer does the buying.
In their own words ‘It’s not that people want to look just like someone else… what they want is to look like the best versions of themselves, but are not always sure how to do it,’ says CEO Stephanie Sprangers. ‘The eureka moment for me was when I started bringing celebrity stylists into Glamhive. They were so excited by the opportunity to work with normal, non-celebrity people, anywhere in the world.
‘I could see they were energised by the possibility of sharing their knowledge. When I hear how excited someone is after working with a stylist – when they see how easy it is to look exactly how they feel on the inside – it really makes me smile.’
Best for Those living in remote locations without access to department stores.
Unique selling point So you really admire Adele/Kristen Stewart/Scarlett Johansson’s looks? Their stylists are on Glamhive’s roster, including Brit Gaelle Paul (Adele’s longtime collaborator), Tara Swennen (Kristen Stewart, Allison Janney) and Nicole Chavez (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Scarlett Johansson). Also on Glamhive’s books are Lashoundra Young (above left) and Caitlin Saucier (above right).
You’ll love it if… You feel stuck in a style rut and are keen to solicit a professional opinion. If you’re shy or lack confidence, you might well prefer the more indirect, email and video-based approach to the intimidating prospect of hiring a personal shopper through a department store – plus there is less pressure to buy.
Style sleuth: LiketoKnow.It
How it works It’s a social-based shopping service that allows users to purchase whatever their favourite influencers are wearing – in an instant. It works like this: just download the app; go on Instagram, if you see @liketoknow.it tagged in the post of an influencer’s page, screenshot it; go back to the app and, hey presto, click on what the influencer is wearing and you’ll be taken to the website where you can buy it.
In their own words ‘The LiketoKnow.It app is the only place where shoppers can go to search for products and get 100 per cent shoppable results, all in the context of the lives of real, influential people who use those products,’ says Amber Venz Box, co-founder and president. ‘I’m probably most proud of the fact that we launched it in March 2017 and attracted one million app users in just nine months. According to Business Insider, LikeToKnow.It reached this figure faster than Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter. With nearly $800 million [around £608 million] in retail sales of fashion, beauty and home goods, it’s currently the largest influencer-driven retail sales channel.’
Best for An overview of which trends, brands and colours are hot right now on Instagram. Perfect for impatient people who see something and want to buy it immediately.
Unique selling point Its trackability. It allows retailers to see exactly how many referrals each influencer generates, which in turn allows influencers to benefit by monetising their social-media posts (far easier to charge an accurate fee-per-sponsored post when results are quantifiable). No wonder the app already has more than 1.4 million registered users and 3.1 million Instagram followers.
You’ll love it if… You are the sort of person who’s forever tempted to run down the street after someone whose jacket or shoes you admire, but always feel too shy; or you’re the kind who admires the way those influencers appear to find the ‘perfect’ jeans that have always eluded you. Well, not any more!
The fashion box: Stich Fix
How it works Launched in San Francisco by Katrina Lake, Stitch Fix is a subscription-free personal styling service where you complete a short survey, allowing your stylist to pick out five ‘curated’ items based on your size, style and budget. You keep what you love and return the rest, although if you end up buying all five items, you’ll save 25 per cent on your entire order. Based in the US (sales for 2016/2017 were $730 million; around £550 million), Stitch Fix is due to launch in the UK later this year.
In their own words ‘We’re already hiring stylists locally and adding British brands and designers to the platform, plus our algorithms will be adapted to the UK,’ says Eric Colson, Stitch Fix’s chief algorithms officer. ‘We’re really focusing on how to translate Stitch Fix for this brand-new market – what travels well and what things we need to tweak now. We plan to serve both women and men in the UK at launch with price points ranging from £40 to £150 per item. We’re very excited to see how things will go.’
Best for Time-pressed, style-conscious people on a budget: the average price point is around £40 per item.
Unique selling point This isn’t just for women: Stitch Fix offers the same service for men and children, too. Tweens are particularly likely to be impressed by the grown-up nature of a box of goodies arriving for them through the post.
You’ll love it if… You and your family love fashion, but are too busy to shop for it on the high street and find internet shopping both a bore and a chore, as well as daunting. The service is particularly useful for those looking to branch out from their usual favourites: with more than 250 established and up-and-coming brands, you can expect to be sent an interesting mix of both well-loved and lesser-known labels.