E-tailer TopShelf Makes Debut

Hoping to be to fashion what Pandora is to music, the new members-only e-commerce site offers users recommendations based on what they have bought in the past.

Katie Nadler in her TopShelf offices.

NEW YORK — More than just a novel idea, Katie Nadler’s new members-only e-commerce site, TopShelf, is a blueprint of a start-up.

This story first appeared in the April 2, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Hoping to be to fashion what Pandora is to music, TopShelf offers users recommendations based on what they have bought in the past from a variety of sites, not just TopShelf. With a member’s consent, TopShelf will use an OAuth to access previous fashion-related receipts to determine what brands and styles a member would be inclined to buy again. “The idea was born out of the notion that you might not need to see 500 pairs of jeans to find one pair you would like to buy,” she said.

Nadler got into fashion by way of finance, working for two years in Merrill Lynch’s mergers and acquisitions division and two years before that at BlackRock Solutions. A self-described “career switcher,” the native New Yorker graduated from Harvard Business School last May and then returned to Manhattan to participate in Dreamit Ventures’ accelerator start-up program. In addition to mentoring, legal and administrative support, Dreamit provides up to $25,000 in seed money, though Nadler declined to say how much she received for TopShelf. What she did say is that TopShelf was started with less than $50,000 from about eight friends and family members as well as Dreamit. (Through Dreamit, Nadler befriended the founders of Bazaart, the Israel-based start-up behind the app that allows users to create communal photo collages.)

For now, she works out of WeWork’s shared office space in SoHo here. Aside from an engineer who helps with the site and a stylist, Nadler works on her own. Having seen how it took her father, David, years to build the Delta Consulting Group, she knows TopShelf will take time and is intent on getting traction and traffic before seeking a second round of financing.

Through rewardStyle, an invitation-only Web tool that helps style publishers find and monetize their content, TopShelf shoppers get recommendations from 200 online stores. Should they choose to purchase those items, TopShelf gets 6 to 15 percent of the sale, but some retailers offer up to 20 percent, Nadler said. Each week members receive a look book with five suggested outfits to buy, based on their personal preferences. For an introductory fee of $25, they can consult with a stylist online or by phone. As of Monday, TopShelf’s average purchase was $475, with Michael Kors, Rebecca Taylor, Vince and Diane von Furstenberg among the top-selling labels. “So many sites are fighting for a shopper’s time — we want to save her time,” said Nadler, though she declined to pinpoint the current customer base or the projected one for 2013.