This Startup Spotlight features Urban Darling, a website that serves both aspring stylists and clients who want to get out of their regular clothing routines. Sina spoke with founder Corinne Phipps to talk about inspiration, the Urban Darling client and stylist and what lies ahead.
1. What inspired you to create Urban Darling?
A few years ago after a series of dead end jobs, I was at a loss as to what I should do next. So I hired a business consultant. She asked me in general what I really like to do. I realized that I always loved shopping. She said, “That’s great! I hate to shop.” But at that point I had no idea wardrobe stylists or personal shoppers existed. My husband encouraged me to pursue my passion. At that moment the lightbulb went off and I realized what I needed to do. From there the inspiration for Urban Darling was born.
2. Helping women find their own personal style and getting them out of their clothing routines is a big challenge. What makes the Urban Darling model unique?
Urban Darling is unique in that we serve both clients and our stylists. With clients we meet with them one-on-one and figure out what style personality they have; whether they are a working woman, dating, recently divorced or a woman who recently lost some weight after giving birth. In other words, we help put them in the appropriate clothing for their lifestyle. And then there are the stylists who are our licensees. They want to join a company that has a good reputation and that allows them to leverage themselves with our national brand.
3. Urban Darling has a unique business model with the associated stylists, can you share with us how the Urban Darling’s business model works and the potential for future growth?
We’re a good company for the woman (or man) that wants to be a wardrobe stylist but isn’t quite sure how to start out. Typically they will Google ‘becoming a wardrobe stylist’ and Urban Darling pops up. We’re at the top of the Google Search Engine for stylists and I think that has helped Urban Darling with our organic reach as we don’t spend anything on marketing. If after visiting our website they are interested in becoming an Urban Darling Stylist they apply and we put them through our vetting process. If they are chosen, Urban Darling offers a wide range of marketing material to get their name out there. I’ve seen our stylists pair up with local boutiques and offer their styling services. It’s up to the stylists to market themselves locally and Urban Darling offers them a national brand to do it.
Potential clients will typically Google ‘where can I find a wardrobe stylist?’ and again we pop up. From our website they can look for local Urban Darling Stylists or choose from some of our online styling options.
When we get funding we’ll be interested in hiring a marketing expert but for now our best marketing tool is word of mouth both for our clients and our stylists.
4. Urban Darling Stylists are all over the country and of course the website is available to everyone. Who is the typical Urban Darling Stylist client and based on their feedback what have you learned about them?
The typical Urban Darling client is generally a woman in her late-thirties to mid-forties with some discretionary income and who is in the middle of some sort of transition, professional or personal. Some of our clients simply have challenging body types and need help finding tasteful clothes that fit. I’m also a stylist and what I’ve been hearing from women is that when they reach forty they no longer want to dress like they did in their twenties wearing tight, uncomfortable jeans all day. They typically don’t know what a forty year old should dress like. It could be confusing for a woman that age.
Our clients really want to be listened to about what their challenges with their bodies are and how to dress appropriately. Our job as stylists is to listen to them and make them feel comfortable in the new outfits we choose together with them. And comfort is key for women in this age group. This is the age group I’m a part of and based on my own experience if you’re not comfortable wearing something, you’re not going to grab it from the closet.
5. Urban Darling has a presence on Pinterest, which is a social networking site with a visually-pleasing “virtual pinboard” interface. What kind of engagement have you seen being on Pinterest and how has it helped build the Urban Darling brand?
Pinterest is great for our clients. It’s a way for them to show us what they like. For example, I have a male client in London (Corinne is based in Santa Clara). He pins outfits he likes on his own Pinterest page. This allows me to get an idea of what his style personality is. Before Pinterest, I and other stylists would ask clients to buy fashion magazines and cut out the pages of outfits they like. Now we can simply ask them to post styles they like on their pinterest page. It’s a whole lot easier than clipping photos from magazines. We also have our own Pinterest page for Urban Darling. Content for our page comes from our blog.
6. UrbanDarling.com visitors can also shop from your website. You have some unique offerings like the Capsule Collections and the Virtual Fashion Friends. Could you briefly explain these two? What was the impetus for them and what kind of a reaction have received from customers?
We’re not in every home. Unless the client is willing to work with us virtually like my client in London, our services are limited to where an Urban Darling stylist lives. So when we were brainstorming ways to get into every home we came up with Virtual Styling. We tested it out with clients that we had worked with in the past and they loved it! We then decided to launch Event Styling. For $45 we come up for an entire head to toe outfit for any occasion. The Capsule Collection is another offering. The term ‘capsule collection’ which is an industry term referring to the 10-15 clothing items that we use time and time again. These are typically your blue jeans, white t-shirts, pullovers and other items that end up in outfits over and over again. These products serve as the backbone of our upcoming mobile app which we look forward to launching in August.
7. Are you currently building any ties with other fashion tech startups or brand retailers? What are your future plans?
We would love to partner with other like-minded retailers, brands and fashion tech companies. By that we mean companies that really speak to the real woman. Typically these would include local boutiques, mid-sized chain retailers catering to the Urban Darling demographic and even department stores. We’d love to partner with them and be able to take our clients straight to the stores they would normally shop. We’d also like to partner with designers whose price points are around $200 for each piece of clothing.
On the tech side, there are a number of companies I’ve been speaking to that have some innovative solutions to the problems the Urban Darling woman and man is facing.
As for our future plans, again we have a mobile app in the works. It won’t be just another app that helps you manage the clothes in your closet. There are several outstanding ones out there. Our app will focus on helping the user determine if they look in outfits. We believe you still need a professional to give you styling advice on whether your outfit looks good or not. That is basically what we hope the mobile app will achieve.
8. Outside of Urban Darling, what other technologies at the intersection of fashion and technology personally excite you?
There are a few websites out there that allow you to create your own custom-fit jeans. I had a client that wanted to try one of their services. Although I was skeptical, I helped get her measurements and we submitted them. She told me that the jeans that she received were the best fitting jeans she has ever owned and I was delighted. I’ve been recommending these custom-fit jean websites to lots of my clients. It’s amazing when you can get affordable handmade clothing by just entering your measurements to these sites. I think it’s going to be life-changing for all those that have challenging proportions like a long torso, a skinny waist or some other uncommon body type. It’s a service that can change their whole outlook and self image.