You may never get exactly what you want from a boutique shop, but that’s not their fault. While they can never really know what you want, your 10-second description of your style to an employee is never enough. This is why OpenStile is changing the boutique experience for shops and customers. With their online service, you simply make a profile of your likes and style, and when you go to a participating boutique they can upload your profile and be prepared for your preferences. Meanwhile you sleep a little better at night knowing you can walk into your boutique shop to find everything you, for the price that you want.
Cofounders Tamara Austin and Sparkle Johnson speak with AlleyWatch about their previous boutique experiences and how they are hoping to change the market.
Tell us about the product or service.
OpenStile is a fashion-tech service that allows shoppers to book personal styling sessions with local boutiques. Shoppers start by completing a style profile to capture specifics about their body, budget, and preferred looks. Then when they book styling sessions with our partner boutiques, they walk in to find a personalized garment bag containing a few looks pre-selected based on their style needs. Our goal is to help shoppers find those unique pieces that make them look and feel their best while helping store owners offer a more personalized and engaging shopping experience.
How is it different?
OpenStile brings an effective and accessible personal styling service to the boutique space. We differ from other services for two main reasons – 1) We cater to the on-demand in-store experience which is critical when it comes to clothing, and 2) Our portable approach allows shoppers to define and maintain their style needs in one location, and leverage it with any of our partner boutiques.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
With our current model, there are approximately 30,000 independent fashion retailers in the U.S that fit our market. Our goal however, is to expand into mid-size and big-box retailers making us facilitators in the $178B U.S. clothing retail market.
What is the business model?
With our current model, stores pay a fee per styling booked with OpenStile.
What inspired the business?
I wanted a better way to shop for clothes. I hated going store to store only to leave empty-handed. This was a frustration I shared with several friends who all had different styles, body types, and budgets. Having worked in retail, and being the go-to stylist for several of her BFFs, my co-founder Sparkle knew how effective personal styling services were. She knew that making this service more accessible at neighborhood boutiques would make it much easier for women to shop local. Together with our backgrounds in tech and fashion respectively, we were inspired to create OpenStile.
Are smaller fashion boutiques equipped to offer the variety that one of your customers may want?
There is a lot of diversity in the independent boutique space – some carry a wide array of inventory whereas others offer a more tightly edited selection based on the owner’s personal tastes and values. This is why the boutique matching aspect of OpenStile is key! We currently alert shoppers if a store is out of their typical price or size range, and we plan to grow this matching algorithm to help shoppers hone in on the best store for their specific body type, budget, and style.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Within the next six months we plan to grow from our initial New York City boutique offering to partner stores and shoppers nation-wide. We also plan to partner with an accelerator program to strategically grow our business.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Finding partners that that are experts in areas we aren’t. Having those key people brings great value, and can help our company grow.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Definitely Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, founders of Rent the Runway. As fashion-tech pioneers and kick-ass women entrepreneurs they are and inspiration to us at OpenStile.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York, specifically Brooklyn, has such a great diversity of fashion retailers which was critical for OpenStile. NY also offers an amazing creative culture blended with serious tech breeding ground which makes it a great place to cultivate our product.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
We love Sugarcane bar in Prospect Heights. With our Caribbean backgrounds the music, food, and vibe feels like home.