Featured on Jul 07, 2011
"Life is not about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself. - George Bernard Shaw"
I don't wait around for the perfect "thing" or "opportunity", I create it for myself. I'm the founder of StyleMusée, a social shopping platform that connects you with designers that match your personal style. It's a tailored solution for an industry that is ripe for a bit of innovation and represents the culmination of everything I've been passionate about throughout my career and education. My life has taken me down some interesting paths, so why stop now? I started out in art school to become a fashion designer, but eventually ended up in tech M&A for Goldman Sachs. I moved on to build retail ventures for Gap Inc. and had a stint at Harvard Business School where I took time to search for lions in South Africa and sail through the British Virgin Islands with 200 of my closest classmates. Oh yes, I studied a bit too -- dabbled in some research on multi-channel retailing, luxury diffusion brands and a fashion incubator idea I kicked around for a bit. Post HBS, I worked at Goode Partners where I invested in SkullCandy (awesome company that injected creativity into the electronic accessories market) and worked on the turnaround for a luxury retail portfolio company. I've also informally advised independent designers and did some strategy work for a department store. I "heart" people with passion whether they entrepreneurs in fashion, tech or social ventures.
What led you out of the design side of fashion and into the business side?
While I was in art school, I realized that the most likely post-graduation scenario would be designing the left pocket of men's shirts rather than gracing the catwalks of Milan with my artistic creations. Realizing that the path towards creative freedom in product was a long shot, I figured it might be more interesting to strategically impact and shape a creative business at some point in my life. Tech banking did not seem to be the most obvious path at the time but it worked as a starting point. I actually had a great experience at Goldman and cherish the relationships I cultivated there. I totally drank the kool-aid.
What do you think is the most important aspect of the connection between tech and fashion?
Tech provides a global platform to access, discover, search and share fashion efficiently but the potential has been untapped. For many years, the connection between tech and fashion has been purely transactional and void of innovation. For instance, online shopping has traditionally focused on search as a price comparison play while stripping out critical aspects of the offline experience: discovery, visual merchandising and social interaction. Efficiency is critical for my target demographic and I fundamentally believe that personalization and designing a user experience based on how people shop is a better way to streamline the online shopping process.
Online shopping has the opportunity to be better than or at least complement the offline experience. Brands and retailers are finally leveraging technology to provide a better consumer experience. For the fashion industry, it's just the beginning.
What is your favorite part of working with brands like the Gap? What brands have you worked with so far in setting up StyleMusée?
My favorite part about working at Gap Inc. was incubating innovative retail concepts. Instead working with our existing brand portfolio, I identified promising brands and new retail concepts that could leverage Gap Inc.'s infrastructure (e.g., supply chain, real estate relationships, sourcing, etc). Some of the projects I worked on were essentially start ups but within a big company. For example, I worked with the Internet team to evaluate the market opportunity for an online multi-branded footwear play which lead to the launch of www.Piperlime.com. On the creative side of things, I loved collaborating with Store Design - I'm still a designer at heart.
I started pitching StyleMusée to brands very early on - from initial concept ideation and through out the process to date. Some of my earliest supporters, including Steven Alan and Marchesa, immediately grasped the vision and opportunity based on a couple of powerpoint slides. They gave me validation and credibility when pitching to other brands such as Tory Burch, Valentino and Donna Karan. There are times when I think I should wait until I'm "ready" to speak with brands and retailers, but engaging my partners and target demographic from the beginning has helped to refine the concept and identify long-term value creation opportunities.
What’s your favorite thing to shop for? What’s your favorite outfit, currently?
I "heart" shopping for home accessories because I love beautifully designed things. Also, if I'm tired, I can chill out on a sofa, which is a nice plus. As far as fashion, what woman doesn't love shoes? I've evaluated a number of fashion focus groups and it's amazing to witness the emotional tie consumers have to accessories and fashion brands. I'm no exception.
Currently, my favorite outfit is a knee-length, white Thakoon shift dress with black leather trim paired with my Giuseppe Zanotti cage stilettos. The dress is elegant and conservative enough for the office but has a subtle edge which easily transitions for a night out. The look is effortless and has a bit of style that is timeless.