Style inspired sites have certainly become a dime a dozen, but when my friend introduced me to Style Like U a couple of years ago, I was instantly intrigued with their form of online art and knew that I wanted to interview the founders themselves one day. My first thought was, “Why hasn’t anyone really done this before?” Recording people in their own homes certainly allows for shields to be dropped and honest behavior to ensue. What makes this website so successful is not the fact that they’re interviewing men and women with boldly eclectic style, but the fact that they have a network of people that embody walking art, give off a specific sensibility, and have that certain x-factor. Their documentary-style portrayals are honest and inspirational. It’s interviewing in it’s rawest form.
This time around, the mother/daughter duo had the questions turned on them. We joined them at Elisa Goodkind’s stunning LES home / StyleLikeU headquarters to ask them questions on business, what stories have inspired them, and the “F word”- fashion.
TWF: Tell us about your company.
LM: We started back in 2009, and it’s been super organic. I was just finishing school, and my mom was a fashion stylist. Neither of us knew what we were doing. We literally just picked up my Dad’s old video camera and started interviewing people that we knew or had referred to us, and it has just spiraled from there. We realized how valuable this content was because it was so deep and heavy. People don’t really get to know someone anymore. We were getting beneath the surface, and we wanted to share it. Our interviews are cathartic for both parties involved, and we’re addicted.
EG: SLU is really about de-mistifying fashion. Our goal is to make the joy of dressing something that people feel inspired to do. So that it’s not boring, but uplifting. At the same time we want people to feel that they can do it themselves. We feel that pre-existing models are very pretentious. It’s a very small group of people that have access to designer clothes and can get them for free. Meanwhile, everyone else just sits around staring at them and wishes they were them instead of feeling good about themselves. So SLU is about addressing that. Fashion’s at the point where Kim Kardashian is considered as someone who has style, which I find sort of sad when there’s an endless amount of these people – the people that we feature. We just shot this woman who said how she loves fads, but she doesn’t participate in them because she has her own style. The people we feature are just their own individuals.
TWF: Do you guys have a business model yet?
LM: We’re just figuring that out now. We might potentially work with brands to produce videos with the same SLU feel. Also, casting. We have this network of people that fill this niche where they’re not models, not celebrities, but they’re beautiful in their own way. There’s a trend now of using real people – people who are just as beautiful as models in their own way, only they have a story to tell. We would like to monetize that network.
TWF: Can you tell us about any other future plans?
EG: We’re going to curate about 30 bloggers where they’ll have their own SLU blog. Lily mentioned a couple of potential revenue streams. The whole point of SLU is to get the message across, but now how do we synthesize through all of that, connect all of it together, and make it easily digestible? A 360 has to happen; where do you get it, how do you wear it, and how does it all relate? The tricky part is growing and keeping the integrity.
TWF: Tell us about your team.
EG: At first we were like this kooky-creative Andy Warhol factory, but now there’s a core team. There’s Mona who I’d say is an equal to us in terms of importance. She just gets it. We have someone who’s in charge of casting and all of the back-end work in terms of that, our graphics and video team, a lot of interns, and we have three people on the outside that are going to take us to another level.
TWF: Tell us five words that describe SLU.
EG: Soulful, empowering, democratizing, diversity, authentic. Diversity, especially, is a big part of our message. We try to erase all the boxes and labeling by giving you the opportunity to be inspired by someone who is completely different than you.
TWF: Tell us about your target market.
EG: Our target market is definitely like the people we shoot. People who have an outward expression and aren’t afraid to be themselves. They’re not brainwashed by marketing and what society expects them to buy. So while that’s certainly our market, we want to expand past that. We want people to come on our site and leave feeling good about themselves and to stop feeling like shit because they’re not Cameron Diaz.
LM: Also, we want people who don’t necessarily like fashion, or think they’re a part of it, to be like “Oh, wait. I am.” I have a lot of friends that don’t consider themselves fashionable but through this have realized that they do have their own personal style. We want to bring that kind of enlightenment to everyone.
TWF: What inspires you the most?
EG: Wow, we are overwhelmed with inspiration because of what we do. We’re inspired by these people (she motions to the billboard of portraits.) By people that are free enough in themselves that they allow us to record them and allow themselves to be vulnerable. People who are okay to be alone, stand alone, and don’t give power outside of themselves. Someone who can turn a horrific situation into a positive one and still want to co-exist in this world. That inspires me.
TWF: Is there one particular feature/story that resonates with you and that you’d like to share with us?
At the same time, they both call out: Fatima Robinson!
EG: Fatima is a director/choreographer. She was one of our standouts. She has an amazing house in California, incredible style, and was just extremely open. She broke down when telling us about her childhood; how she felt like clubs and dancing was her church and where she felt most connected to God. Just all around ridiculous.
To say that Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum left Liza and I feeling inspired is an understatement. Everything about these ladies from their business model, beliefs, even personal style, is a direct result of their obsession with people. People who are free, enthralling, and have an amazing outlook on life.
“Fashion has become a dirty word. The whole thing has become so broken, that’s why I stopped styling. The best dressed people are people who dress themselves. People who don’t follow. They are who inspire us.” Elisa Goodkind.
Those are the people who make up Style Like U.
(Elisa Goodkind, me, and Liza Kindred at the Style Like U party at Open House in NYC.)