William McComb, former chief executive officer of Kate Spade & Co.’s predecessors, Fifth & Pacific Cos. and Liz Claiborne Inc., is nestling into the fashion tech space.
His latest role is as an investor and adviser to mobile app Snap + Style, which launches in the Apple app store today (an Android and desktop version will roll out at the end of the month). The app’s primary goal is to help women make smarter styling decisions — whether this means finding fresh ways to wear items already in their closets or purchasing new fashions. Users fill out a style profile and populate a virtual closet with inspirational looks and pictures of items they own and can use the app to get sartorial advise from stylists, who respond queries in an hour or less.
The app’s other investors include Raul Fernandez, cofounder of Proxicom, Todd Bradley, former TIBCO president and a Hewlett Packard executive, and Marc McMorris, managing director of Carrick Capital Partners. Although the group declined to reveal how much capital they’ve pumped into the venture, sources close to the project estimate that the seed round is sizable, ranging between $7 million and $10 million.
“There is an opportunity to create a real community that is putting professionals in touch with people who want inspiration,” McComb told WWD. “There isn’t a structured place that puts this all together.”
Snap + Style is not alone in trying to help shoppers put together outfits or find new looks: Keaton Row, ASAP54, House Account and others have tried to insert themselves into users’ fashion process, with varying degrees of success.
The company is betting that its initial funding, coupled with strong social media presence and social media advertising as well as a splashy launch party at Milk Studios before New York Fashion Week, will help get its message out. Snap + Style is also partnering with online influencers, with an eye toward turning them into evangelists for the service.
“Anthropologically, one thing I can’t believe is the number of bloggers and celebrities who have emerged with credibility and style that they themselves started [online],” McComb said.
The company has 12 full-time employees split between offices in New York and Washington, D.C. with 40 part-time stylists who work remotely. Stylists are paid an hourly wage that varies based on experience and location.
The app will get a cut of any sales it facilitates and will eventually provide a home for advertising and sponsored content.
But stylists’ advice can’t be bought, McComb said.
“They [stylists] are unaffiliated and giving you great advice,” he said. “There are a lot of ways [for brands] to advertise their message, but the point will be that it’s an advertisement and not crossing into advertorial. The stylist has to remain independent.”
The company currently has a dozen advertising and affiliate relationships with brands, but expects this number to grow. McComb also envisions Snap + Style serving as a white label technology that any retailer can use to deepen its sales associate and consumer relationships.
In the eighteen months since he exited the top post at Fifth & Pacific, McComb said he’s been “downshifting” and keeping himself “a little uncommitted.” In addition to his work on Snap + Style, he’s spending time advising a few tech startups and working on the board of online journalism nonprofit The Marshall Project.