This Startup Spotlight features Boutine. Boutine is a place to discover emerging designers, share their designs and shop with your friends. Sina sat down and spoke with founder Pramod Dabir to talk about inspiration, the Boutine shopping experience and stylist and what lies ahead.
1. What inspired you to create Boutine?
While my then-girlfriend attended Stanford Business School we lived in a house with 6 other women. It seemed like every other day that these women were going to parties or other events where they would ask each other, “How does this look?” or, “How does this match?”. Little by little I noticed how these women were influencing each others’ style. They really loved finding unique designers and wearing their outfits effectively becoming the designers’ ambassadors. That was the inspiration for the idea that later became Boutine. We wanted to create an online platform that allowed any woman to build her own virtual boutique and share it with all of her friends. A place where she can not only pick items she likes but also buy them in an easy way.
2. What was the impetus to make Boutine designer-focused? So far what have you learned about the designers who utilize your site and how have they helped shape Boutine?
There are some amazing designers out there. The challenge for them is to go out and market their fashion lines and share those products with everybody. We wanted a platform for these designers to allow them to do just that. We offer this platform for them for free and take a commission on the sales.
The designers who use our site hail from all over the world. From various cultures and backgrounds. We’ve learned a lot from them and they have helped shape Boutine as you see it today. We’re all about figuring out how to make their products stand out more and how to best market them. The designers have some great ideas but they don’t always necessarily have the capital or technology background to implement these ideas. That’s where Boutine comes in.
3. How do you go about picking the designers for your site?
We actually spend quite a bit of time researching the designers that apply. Of the many many designers who have applied almost half of them have come to us but we’ve only accepted a fraction of them. We’re looking for designers that are reliable, respond quickly, have high quality products and have some sort of validation meaning they have either already have been selling their products in brick and mortar boutiques or have generated some notable attention from the press. When we start generating sales and volume we want design partners that can manage that. We’re also looking for semi-established brands who we can work with. All that stuff is very important to us because we want to make the most of promoting a designer or brand.
4. A lot of fashtech companies are trying to work directly with designers, what challenges have you faced? And what opportunities have you identified?
The issues we have at the beginning when we’re getting the designers on board is that often times their product descriptions were not as extensive as we would like them to be. We help outline all the different things that we need in the product description. This is to basically show them how to sell in volumes online. At the end of the day, up and coming designers are small businesses who struggle to sell through multiple channels while at the same time providing excellent customer service. Boutine is there to help them work through these issues and to hold them to a higher standard. It’s a tough challenge but one we gladly accept.
The opportunities we’ve identified have been from the designers themselves. They have amazing stories and products and we want to share them with the world.
5. Who is the typical Boutine shopper and based on their feedback what have you learned about their shopping habits?
The typical Boutine shopper is a 28-30 year old woman who loves fashion, follows fashion bloggers, and is open to discovering new styles. On our site they browse a lot. They have a style they like and they go after it with little in the way of compromise. Having said that they have the ability to be influenced. Shoppers online or off love discovering new styles.
6. In addition to designers and shoppers Boutine also has a significant social media aspect where visitors can follow those whose fashion they admire. How have these users contributed to the Boutine experience?
The users that engage with our site are what makes Boutine, well Boutine. They are the ones that are creating content, building this community and improving each others’ style. Our whole community is based on the stylists that are coming onto our site and building and creating content for users to like, share, discover and shop. We’re looking at every possible way of improving the stylist community experience.
7. Boutine allows users to follow influencers. What type of data is Boutine able to gather about trends and how are you planning on using that information to help brands and retailers?
We are capturing a lot of data like a lot of fashion tech startups. Things like how much time people are spending on specific products, what they like and what they are commenting on. That allows Boutine to learn more about our users and our designers’ consumers. Capturing this data is all about allowing us to create a better experience for our users. With all that data at some point we can share it with larger retailers. They are mainly looking to understand where trends are going.
8. Fashion bloggers are growing in influence as movers and shakers. How has Boutine engaged with bloggers?
We’ve been having lots of conversations with bloggers who have been using our site. The bloggers have really helped us shape the Boutine experience as well. They have told us what they would like to see in Boutine. For example, they were instrumental in helping us create our collection creation system. A lot of them have started blogging about us already which is awesome! We’ve returned the favor by providing widgets exclusively for bloggers so they can add a link or a button on their blog that sends users directly to their Boutine page.
9. Are you currently building any ties with other fashion tech startups? What are your future plans?
We’d like to build partnerships with other fashion tech startups. We’ve already had conversations with quite a few. Generally speaking we’re looking for startups that are synergistic with Boutine. As for future plans, we have an iPad application that is coming out very soon that will allow users to view collections and shop directly through the app.
10. Outside of Boutine, what other technologies at the intersection of fashion and technology personally excite you?
I like the whole virtual fitting room concept. Ditto.com is one such website where users can virtually try on regular glasses and sunglasses to find your best fit before you buy. Things like that are just interesting. It’s stuff you can do at home to get a better feel for the product and that’s a little of what we’re trying to do. Taking a product and matching it with different products that you can buy and share. It’s all in an effort to give the user a more engaged experience.