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Looking for a personalized wardrobe picked out by your very own stylist? Seeking beauty and lifestyle goods on a budget? Or maybe you’re just looking to shop the latest indie designs from around the world? Whatever the case, a new crop of tech-centric fashion startups are stitching together solutions that are putting a new look on a centuries-old industry.
When entrepreneurs Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss launched Rent the Runway in 2008, they gave women the opportunity to borrow high-end apparel and accessories at relatively affordable prices. The so-called “Airbnb of couture” has merged technology and fashion to create a winning business platform that delivers bridesmaid dresses, shawls for prom, and pumps for fancy work functions right to a customer’s front door.
The startup handles everything from dry cleaning to styling advice. It even offers an optional $5 insurance policy so fashionistas can sashay in style without worrying about spilling red wine on their designer gowns.
“The first woman who came in and tried on a dress was totally transformed. She had more confidence,” Fleiss said earlier this year. “That emotional transformation that women have when they wear an amazing dress is really what we built our business off of.”
The Manhattan-based company connects consumers who are eager to buy trendy, one-of-a kind clothing with emerging designers from around the globe.
Founded in 2012 by Amanda Curtis and Gemma Sole, the custom platform lets shoppers purchase unique fashion items online, while giving smaller, lesser-known designers exposure to a large customer base.
The site’s focus on helping independent designers and its commitment to manufacturing all internationally designed goods in the United States has earned the startup’s founders plenty of accolades. The duo were recently included in the Forbes 30 under 30 list and Nina Garcia, a fashion editor for Marie Claire and judge on reality series Project Runway, recently announced she would be joining the startup as an advisor.
Meanwhile, the digital company is making inroads into the world of brick-and-mortar. Last year, Nineteenth Amendment signed a deal with Macy’s.com to showcase a group of designers on the retail giant’s website.
“Our goal is to give shoppers access to these amazing designs, and what better than to partner with one of the largest retailers in the U.S.?” Sole said. “It gives our designers access to a level of audience and distribution they could never dream of.”
Celebrities aren’t the only ones benefiting from personal stylists these days.
Entrepreneur Katrina Lake is giving women on the go a helping hand by connecting them with stylists that pick out curated boxes of trendy clothes based on a customer’s age, size and weight. The goods are then delivered to their front door on a bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. Customers pay $20 for personal styling services, as well as the cost of the clothes they like—the rest, they ship back.
“The concept has always been personalization,” Lake recently explained to Forbes. “There are millions and millions of products out there. You can look at eBay and Amazon. You can look at every product on the planet, but trying to figure out which one is best for you is really the challenge.”
Lake launched the business in 2011 out of her Cambridge, Massachusetts’s apartment and has parlayed the online shopping business into a retail empire. The company now owns five distribution centers and employs thousands of stylists across the country.
Though not technically a fashion startup, Birchbox has similarly used technology to transform the way many consumers think about beauty products.
Founded in 2010 by Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox delivers a mix of sample-sized men’s and women’s beauty, skin and hair products for $10 a month. The samples allow customers try out an array of products without the commitment or expense of buying a huge tube or jar of a new potion. Customers can also opt to purchase full-sized versions of the things they like either through Birchbox or other retail outlets.
“We really want to change the potential customer for the beauty industry. We want to change her relationship with beauty,” Beauchamp said earlier this year about the company’s approach to cosmetic and beauty retail. “She doesn’t have to have this boring, errand, I-have-to-do-this experience.”