NEW YORK — Stacy London’s digital venture Style for Hire will make its official launch Monday.
Billed by co-founder and chief executive officer Cindy McLaughlin as a “turbocharged agency with a celebrity face,” the Web site serves as a network of independent wardrobe stylists located in 24 cities nationwide that offer their fashion expertise to “real” people.
This story first appeared in the April 13, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
This ranges from personal shopping (either with or for the client) to a closet audit that donates discarded clothing to Goodwill (through one of a few corporate partnerships McLaughlin and London have secured thus far). There’s also “closet shopping,” where a stylist might come in and put together outfits with one’s existing wardrobe and even shopping tourism, where an individual or group can book a stylist for a retail tour of stores in a city.
“Style isn’t a privilege of the young, skinny and wealthy. It’s a right, and everyone is entitled to it,” London told WWD as she geared up for the site to go live, a passion project for the host of TLC’s “What Not to Wear” that’s been nearly four years in the making. “People thought personal shoppers in a particular store were the closest they could get [to this], and they thought it was a splurge. Or, if a shopper didn’t have a fee, you became wary they would get a commission based on what you would buy.”
The 130 stylists currently on the site go through a two-day workshop where they are schooled by London in her body-centric “science of styling” method that’s based on geometry and the “basic understanding of shape.” They are also trained in strategizing a budget for a potential client to avoid impulse buys or purchasing something too trendy.
Stylists meet all clients for a consultation so they can document who they are, take measurements and get a feel for personal style, London said. The stylists each work as independent contractors with hourly rates from $65 to more than $300 (based on experience and location). Style for Hire takes a cut of this — ranging from 25 percent if the stylist introduced the client to the network to a third of the hourly rate if the stylist worked with an existing Style for Hire member. Stylists, on average, charge $120 an hour with appointments lasting 2.5 hours each.
The Web site has been in beta since 2010 in Washington, D.C., but the initial business plan was hatched in 2008. London admits the project’s launch took longer than expected, partially because it took time to figure out the right way to pitch the concept to investors. In November, the company revealed that Golden Seeds led a $1.5 million round of financing along with other independent investors — a year after the initial launch in D.C. entered the trial phase.
In the past 18 months, McLaughlin has found that nearly 50 percent of clients returned to book additional appointments and 25 percent have come back three or more times. McLaughlin also has worked with London to build affiliate retail partnerships that give discounts or access to special services at places like saks.com, Lord & Taylor, Net-a-Porter, Ann Taylor, frenchconnection.com and Rent the Runway. The two also work with Westfield nationwide where a pilot to launch Style Lounges and Ask a Stylist programs are being tested in locations in New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland.