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Stitsh’s Street Beat

For people who feel like copping a look from London?s fashion-forward street styles, there?s Stitsh.

What?s clicking at Stitsh? London street styles.

For people who feel like copping a look from London’s fashion-forward street styles, there’s Stitsh, a new Web site launched last month that’s keeping an eye on the city’s myriad style tribes.

Dom Fendius, a former investment banker, coined the word Stitsh intending it as a memorable variation on the word stitch — and an online destination where digital denizens can click their mouse on the apparel some stylish Londoners are wearing, learn of stores carrying those items or similar ones and link with e-commerce sites where they can purchase the pieces of clothing.

Every time a visitor to Stitsh also visits online stores such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge, House of Fraser and French Connection via the links on the site and buys apparel, those stores will pay the new Web venture a commission of up to 12 percent. Some of these online shops will pay Fendius a fee if a shopper who was introduced to their site by Stitsh returns to the e-commerce destination up to 30 days later and buys an article of clothing.

“The way I shop is I look at what people are wearing,” said Fendius, who has invested roughly $20,000 into the self-financed effort. “When the street-style blogs came online, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could buy the clothing worn in those photos?”

Does Fendius think the stylish folk featured on Stitsh will regret that others can easily replicate a hard-won look? Not likely. “We ask people to write down where they got their clothes, but a lot of the time they’ll say ‘From a flea market in L.A.,’ or ‘My grandmother’s wardrobe,’” Fendius recounted. “We try and find the most suitable, closest match [from the stores we link to].”

Many of the e-commerce links show pieces with a similar feeling, rather than an exact match of a featured item — a patterned T-shirt dress pictured on the Web site links to a plain black Helmut Lang T-shirt dress sold on Net-a-porter.com, for example. As people are photographed for Stitsh and tell of the different labels they’re wearing, Stitsh endeavors to sign those labels up as partners with e-commerce links.

The project’s launch comes as shoppers in the U.K. are turning to online retail in growing numbers. According to a June report by London-based retail analyst Verdict, spending online by consumers in the U.K. increased 35 percent to 14.7 billion pounds, or $29 billion, in 2007. Online purchasing in the U.K is projected by Verdict to hit 44.9 billion pounds, or $87.6 billion, by 2012.

A Topshop spokeswoman said the fast-fashion chain welcomed being associated with a street-style Web site such as Stitsh. “We’re very much into looking at the different scenes in London,” said the spokeswoman. “[These sites] put the clothes into context, and to see them in real life gives them real endorsement.” Topshop.com hasn’t yet recorded significant retail traffic via Stitsh, she added.

Noting a “gap in the market” for a site such as Stitsh, Malcolm Pinkerton, a senior retail analyst at Verdict, predicted retailers will evolve their own online presence to include similar editorial content.

Fendius declined to provide the number of visitors to the online destination or the sales it has generated in the three weeks since it went live. Currently, Stitsh carries Google advertisements and banner ads might be carried as well, so long as they do not compromise the editorially independent environment the site is seeking to create.

Most of the subjects photographed for Stitsh haven’t objected to their images being used to market clothing, albeit indirectly, Fendius said. After the site’s photographers have shot a subject’s picture, they ask that person to sign a release form to allow their image to be used on Stitsh.

For now, Stitsh’s photographers are shooting strictly in London, but photographers have recently been recruited to shoot in Manchester, England, and now are being sought in Stockholm and in New York, where the street portraits would be linked to the e-commerce sites of American stores.