November 1, 2014

German Indie Fashion Go-To nelou Lands In Silicon Valley

Co-Founders Regine Harr and Boris Berghammer (photo courtesy of nelou)

When the Berlin-based independent fashion startup nelou began in 2011, there were few places people could go to find the latest in indie fashion from all across the globe. So with the innovative company’s recent move to the Silicon Valley, you can bet that our indie fashion radar detectors were going off.

With nelou’s unique concept of creating a single platform from which independent designers from all corners of the world can showcase and sell their designs directly to the customer, not to mention the company’s emphasis on sustainability and concern for global consumption habits, we see many reasons to tip our hats to them.

We spoke with co-founder Regine Harr for some insight into what we can look forward to with their presence here in the United States.

How did nelou get its start? What led you into the realm of online, independent fashion?

All girls can recall situations where we were wearing the same or similar dress as someone else during an event. We also see people on the street and think to ourselves, I have the same jumper or jacket. This is when I thought that there needed to be a solution to the problem. Where are all the independent designers, those who produce in small quantities and have great inspiring designs. This got us started, and 18 months later we have close to 500 designers from 30 countries.

What kind of designs can shoppers find on nelou?

On nelou you can find designers from around the world. You can shop for anything from clothes and accessories, to scarves, handbags, and jewelry. The idea is really that everyone can find their favorite items on nelou. We not only have women’s clothes, but we also cater to men and children. Besides all areas of fashion, we also cover the world. You can find designers from Germany, Spain, Israel, South Africa, USA, UK, Australia, and 25 other countries on nelou.

What sets you apart from other online marketplaces that specialize in independent apparel and accessories?

In the United States, most websites focus on American designers. We really bring the world of fashion onto a single platform. Especially interesting to the U.S. market is our European angle. If you are looking to find items from overseas you can now find them on nelou.

How does shopping from independent designers tie in with the ideas of sustainability and taking responsibility for our consumption habits?

By supporting independent designers, you support local production. Through nelou you can strengthen small business which is so important to any society. Furthermore, the customer pays a fair price which helps to stop the cycle of throwing things away after one season. We can see that people who buy on nelou are much more attached to their products. This is because they know there is a real person behind the label who has shipped it to them, and who put a lot of love and care into the product.

What is the process like for designers hoping to join your fashion community?

That is easy. All they need to do is apply to our website. We then make sure that the photos and products match the quality standard on our website. The designer can then upload all their products and set up shop on nelou. That is it, all free and easy. We only charge a commission when an item is sold.

Any tips for designers who join your fashion community? How can they be successful on nelou?

The designers who are most successful are those who link back from their website to nelou and who understand social media. Using tools like Facebook and Pinterest are important.

Your website provides such a great platform for independent designers from all over the world, what kind of impact would you like nelou to have on the fashion industry?

Our ultimate goal would be to really get people to understand that supporting local production and paying fair prices is important. We cannot maintain our attitude of disposing things we no longer like just because they were so cheap. I remember back in the days how my mum would fix socks when they had holes. It is important that we value other people’s work and our money and lives much more than we do right now. The way we consume fashion will and has to clearly change.

What’s next for nelou? Any exciting future projects or news you can tell us about?

We will be part of the Passport to Rio Fashion Show in the Clift Hotel on the 28th of July, which we are really excited about! We are also in talks with some other major fashion shows, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that those fall into place as well.

More San Francisco independent fashion

Sneak Peek: Can Shopilly End Daily Deal Email Inbox Madness?

A sneak peek at Shopilly, a promising new shopping tool from former eBay execs, left me doing what the welcome screen suggests: reserving my Shopilly ID…before it’s taken. While the allure of being the only “Lorraine” ID (no random numbers at the end! no weird underscores!) was, in and of itself, too good to pass up, I am looking forward to using soon-to-launch tool for other reasons. At the top of the list: if Shopilly works like it’s supposed to, it could mean I never have to look at another deal-related email again.

Of course, I could make that happen for myself next week, if I felt like unsubscribing from about 700,000 email lists. But here’s the thing: I like getting all those deal notifications, newsletters and emails. They save me money. I also write about them, tweet them, share them with readers. So for that, I like them. I just don’t like actually looking at them in my inbox. It’s the information, the discount codes, the dates of the in-store sales themselves that I want – not the actual communique getting them to me.

When it takes on its first members in the next month or so, the San Jose-based company will pull deals from the email accounts you give it access to, save them on Shopilly and even filter the emails from your inbox if you’d that to happen, Shopilly CEO Anirban Datta explained to me as he showed me screenshots of the forthcoming site. While the company wasn’t ready to release screenshots publicly just yet, I can tell you that it looks something like a cleaner, more streamlined version of Pinterest, with each deal or promotional email indicated by an image and saved in a nice scrollable grid format. It means being able to pull anything from the day’s Groupon deal to a sale at Bloomingdale’s into one place, get it out of your email and have access to it on a mobile device when you are shopping I.R.L.

In addition to just saving deals, Shopilly will also have a great many other bells and whistles, including the ability, should you choose to allow it, to alert stores of your presence via mobile device when you are shopping in person and offer you deals based on your purchasing history.

I thought it was an compelling enough idea on its own, but the team behind the project adds to the intrigue: the technical co-founder is eBay’s former chief engineer, Randy Shoup, and there are lots of other interesting folks involved, including people from places like Wharton, StumbleUpon and even a former prof of mine from Stanford.

The company is hoping to amass its beta tester pool from the people signing up to reserve IDs, so if getting in on something early and beta testing like only a shopping bandit can sounds like fun, it could be worth signing up.

For more news and updates about fashion and technology, keep your eyes on @InStyleandTech, a new project from SF Indie Fashion founder Lorraine Sanders. Online home coming soon…

SF Startup with Small Designers in Mind: Stitch Labs

When it comes to success in a creative field, there’s no question that ‘ole Edison’s one percent inspiration vs. 99 percent perspiration maxim applies. Hoping to wipe some of the sweat off designers’ furrowed brows is San Francisco-based startup Stitch Labs and its web-based platform for managing product lines, inventory and sales.

Launched by Brandon Levey (who earned his chops founding and growing Bay Area label Naked Cotton), Jake Gasaway and Michelle Laham earlier this year, the company has steadily attracted small apparel and accessories businesses looking to streamline the cumbersome processes involved in running their businesses.

In the past, small apparel companies mainly sold wholesale or in retail stores. Now, it’s not uncommon for a single designer to sell her creations in five or more different ways.

“They sell consignment, they sell wholesale, they have a web store, but they don’t just have a web store, they have an etsy shop,” says Gasaway.

And that’s to say nothing of selling at trunk shows, pop-up shops or other shopping events. Due out in the coming weeks, the company is also launching automated tools for managing and updating product in etsy shops – a boon for designers with numerous listings and steady sales.

For designers, the allure is clear: a practical way to manage multiple sales channels and automate what can easily become a cumbersome tangle of competing spreadsheets.

But for the rest of us? Why should the average consumer care? It’s actually quite simple for fans of independent fashion and design. Innovative, web-based, cost-effective tools for independent businesses mean more opportunity for emerging and small labels to compete – and, we’d hope, succeed – in the crowded fashion landscape.

It’s also only the latest example of fashion and technology colliding for a net positive in the Bay Area.

For more on Stitch Labs and its tools for designers, you can hear Brandon Levey speak Thursday during the free TechShop event Bazaar Bizarre SF Presents: Effective Apps to Manage Your Business.