As many can attest, living in New York City means having very little free time. Here at Third Wave we are constantly trying to find ways to cut down on wasted time in all areas of our life. However, as fashion lovers we can’t help but want to devote much (or all) our energies to curating covetable closets. Reality is we simply cannot dedicate the time.
Seeing this trend among many consumers, companies like Shopilly and WiShi has sprouted up to help time-starved women cut through the trouble of shopping online. Today we feature another innovative startup in this space: TopShelf Clothes. TopShelf Clothes is a premium search and discovery tool. After answering a few quick style questions, members can virtually upload their closets to the site and have an assigned TopShelf stylist assist them in scouring the web for outfit enhancing products. Simple and reliable, using customers’ existing clothes as a base for suggestions, TopShelf Clothes gives women a luxury service often missing from the online experience.
We reached out to Founder & CEO Katie Nadler to find out more:
TW: What inspired you to start TopShelf Clothes?
KN: I started TopShelf Clothes to solve a real pain felt by the time-starved woman: online shopping is overwhelming and incredibly time consuming. I used to spend hours searching for the “perfect purchase” only to wind up empty handed or with a huge box of regrettable buys waiting at my front door. I even once re-purchased a pair of pants I already owned without realizing it. There was just too much choice and it was all on me to filter and sort through it; with 2,500+ tops at bloomingdales.com alone, finding what I wanted always seemed daunting.
TopShelf was created to provide women like myself with insightful purchase recommendations that work our individual styles and budgets. It’s acts as your very own personal stylist who knows what’s in your closet and will find you the perfect outfit.
TW: How do you differentiate yourself from other fashion tech companies?
KN: We provide a whole new way for people to think about online shopping. It’s not just about curation, but about personalization. As a member, the content in your account is uniquely there for you.
There is a ton of automation from beginning to end. We don’t require you to commit your own time in order to have a fantastic experience. You can see all your past online clothing purchases in one place without having to photograph them on your own. You can improve your weekly recommendations by simple voting on the clothes on our site. You can create a wishlist that is not limited to a specific retailer. You can even receive one-on-one styling advice from the comfort of behind your computer.
TW: What has been one of the most challenging parts of getting started? How did you overcome this and what did you learn?
KN: One of the most challenging parts of getting started was learning how to prioritize what needed to get done, manage my time, and determine what did NOT deserve my focus. When you’re a solo founder without a team, product or money, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed and feel alone. It can be scary!
I overcame this by making it a priority to find a support network. I joined an incubator program and gained access to mentors who had built successful companies. I reached out to alumni from business school to ask for feedback and advice on my new business. I went to every startup networking event I could find in NYC (too many!) I did whatever I could to get the guidance of more experienced entrepreneurs and investors. The people I met helped me recruit my team, refine my pitch, evaluate my business model and prepare to fundraise. I learned that the startup world is fantastically generous with time and advice. There is a real pay it forward attitude. People are willing to talk to you if you ask.
TW: What has been one of the most rewarding aspects and why?
KN: The most rewarding aspects is when you talk to people about your business and you see their eyes light up. They immediately get the value of what you’re doing and can’t wait to learn more. It’s the same type of rewarding feeling (probably even more rewarding) when you look your team and they have the same glow of excitement about what they’re doing. They believe in your vision and share in your optimism that you’re creating something of importance.
TW: What companies have you looked to for inspiration and why?
KN: I’ve been inspired by a long list of companies so it’s hard to pick just a few. I’d say that Rent the Runway and Gilt Groupe clearly changed how women think about “shopping.” They caught everyone’s interest because they were providing something of value and something that was needed at the time they were founded. I like to think we’re doing the same at TopShelf!
TW: What can we expect next from TopShelf Clothes?
KN: We will be partnering more closely with brands to provide our shoppers with exclusive access and personalized deals. We will continue to focus on quality over quantity with stylists so that every member can have a high quality experience on our site. But we will start allowing access to more and more people (we’re currently an invite-only members site). For Third Wave readers we’ve created a special signup code to bypass the wait list. Just go to topshelfclothes.com/invite, click signup and enter the code ThirdWave.
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. Christi Reid is an Editorial Intern for TWF.
Image via TopShelf Clothes