Before Fashion Tech: The Force Behind Lyst, Hilary Peterson

Before Fashion Tech: The Force Behind Lyst, Hilary Peterson

British Journalist David Frost once said, “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe it, and it will come naturally.” Hilary Peterson, of UK-based social shopping site, Lystis a living example of this. Having started her career importing Hollywood Fashion Tape to Australia, and later working in advertising, Hilary’s unique career path has led to her role as VP of Business Development for this fast-growing fashion tech company.

With over $1M in sales last month, 1.3M unique views and over 120 countries buying each month (not to mention they just won a Europa for Best Culture/Fashion Start-up), Lyst is truly changing the way people shop. The company brings inventory from thousands of brands and retailers, combines it with many of the other players in the online fashion world (bloggers and online magazines) and even adds a social element to the experience by allowing users to share their opinions on items. Rather than visiting 10 different sites, Lyst allows users to follow brands, shopping only the designers they care about.

As VP of Business Development, Hilary is constantly looking to grow the idea of personalized shopping, while building partnerships with the most recognized labels from around the world. And this girl has it all: a career built around fashion and full of travel.  She’s fueled by hard work, and we must say, her laugh that is entirely contagious.

Inspired by her passion and love for the industry, we were excited to sit down with our good friend Hilary to get the inside scoop on background, past career milestones, future goals and exciting business endeavors.

TWF: What drew you to your current position?

HP: First and foremost, my love for fashion and shopping. I lived in Australia and at the time the only luxury e-commerce option was NET-A-PORTER. Other companies didn’t ship to Australia or, if they did, had massive duties attached. Now, e-ommerce is the main way I consume fashion. So, for me, this career is built on my love for fashion and technology. I met with Lyst — which was looking to make shopping for fashion online easier — and it was a perfect match.

TWF: Take us down your career memory lane.

HP: After graduating from college, I moved to Australia and started my career importing Hollywood Fashion Tape. I did that for about a year before moving back to California, where I spent a year before moving back to Australia. I worked for advertising firm, DDB, doing business development and after five years in advertising, I moved to New York in the summer of 2008. I landed a job at a small consulting firm working with brands and licensing — mostly in beauty and fragrance. Frustrated with the existing advertising channels, I began to look for more social media and technology opportunities. Then I met an investor of Lyst, and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.

TWF: What was a career obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

HP: Not having a traditional background in e-commerce was a challenge in the beginning. I didn’t really know what to do, and had a lot of short career experiences, but not a lot of depth in one place. Without the proven experience, I had to work a little harder to prove my worth.

TWF: What do you love most about working for Lyst?

HP: The product. I am so excited about the problem solving aspect of my job. Secondly, the team. I have never worked with a better one. I’m fortunate to say that not one day at Lyst has felt like work; I’m learning every day, experiencing something new every day, and that in and of itself is great.

TWF: What about the travel?

HP: I love to travel, and thankfully my job allows me I get to travel a lot. It’s exhausting at times, but I get to do things like go to Paris and meet with Balenciaga… talk about a dream!

TWF: What does your average day look like?

HP: My day starts with the gym in the morning. I used to be a competitive swimmer, so waking up early has always been a part of my routine. I get to the office around 8:30am and try to keep my mornings free so I can connect with our team in the UK. Most of the day is spent in back-to-back meetings and on calls with our partners.  Usually, I have meetings for business development or press in the afternoons, followed by drinks with people and networking events in the evening.

TWF: You travel a lot, what are the items you need to have with you at all times?

HP: 1. Layers of cashmere – multiple layers! Sweaters, scarves, wraps. You can never anticipate the temperature on a plane, versus a meeting room, versus a hotel room. Best to be prepared!

2. Sticking to a diet when traveling is not easy, but I always bring Power Greens powder and Vitamin C with me so I know I’m always meeting my daily vegetable value.

3. A good playlist is essential. My brother usually makes me a playlist that I can listen to on long flights.
4. Vitamin C face cream and Clarins brightening mask. I use the mask the first night in a hotel room; it makes all the difference in the world.
TWF: What advice would you give young girls trying to break into the fashion tech space?

HP: If you really want to get into the industry, you should be open and look for any way in. Don’t worry about the specific role, just work your hardest. Also, think about the value that you add — it’s important that you remind your employer of this. Obviously passion is important, but having an idea of what you want to do or what area you’d be good in shows a lot. Also, be willing to get your hands dirty. Be one of those people who are happy to do just about anything.

TWF: Mobile was a huge trend in 2012, how is Lyst using mobile to take the company to the next level?

HP: We have an app launching in about two weeks, which is really exciting. Lyst’s mobile traffic went from 8% to 25% in 2012 without an app. We’re really excited to launch and can’t wait for our shoppers to start using it.

TWF: What do you think the biggest fashion tech trends will be in 2013? Any ideas or predictions?

HP: Mobile will definitely continue to be big in 2013, and I also think personalization will be a big trend. I think we’ll see more and more sites focus on personalizing the experience, since the opportunity is so huge right now.  That being said, things are changing. There were such fertile grounds for startups for years, then a huge Series A crunch. There are really only a handful of different core problems that people need solved, and a lot of sites are tracking those problems. For 2013, we’re going to see the cream rise to the top.

TWF: So much of what you do revolves around fashion and shopping. What are your favorite labels/designers?

HP: Artizia. I love Derek Lam, The Row, Nina Ricci, Vanessa Bruno, Monroe T-shirts (out of Los Angeles), Current Elliot, and Balenciaga of course.

TWF: What are Lyst’s big goals in 2013?

HP: We’re always looking at ways to make shopping easier and more personalized. Our main goal for this year is mobile. We are really focusing on what’s going to make the experience feel even more relevant and customized, while monitoring the effect of that.

Currently, Lyst works with over 300 brands, with a waiting list of another 100+ to join the platform. We are really careful about who we let on the site and draw the line at fashion (focusing on the Topshops, Zaras, Gaps, and H&Ms of the world). We want to have a full range of products available, but can’t include those that don’t make sense for our audience.

TFW: Do you have any personal goals for the New Year?

HP: I would like to have a more structured schedule and definitely focus more on health & wellness. Health is a big passion of mine (besides fashion of course), so focusing on taking care of myself is important to me. Whether that means more holidays, or yoga, I would like to do that. I also would love to travel to Istanbul and finally finish my needlepoint rug! //

Proof that loving what you do makes all the difference, Hilary is showing the fashion tech world how it’s done. She is successful, has a great attitude and an uncanny ability to balance such a busy schedule. With the New Year in full swing, and an app launching in a few weeks, we are excited to see what 2013 brings for Lyst and Hilary.

Kellie Friedman was a Research & Editorial Intern for TWF. Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.

Image via Hilary Peterson.