The fashion marketplace
The online commerce boom has given a big boost to the sales of many different product categories, but perhaps none more so than fashion. Be it high street or fast fashion, the online marketplace for apparel is packed with multi-category giants, specialist fashion portals, boutique designers, and garage outfits, all competing for a share of the market that has been forecast to grow at a CAGR of 63.45 percent in the next four years [Source].
Elanstreet steps in
While consumers are spoilt for choice, keeping up with fashion trends, developing a personal style quotient, and selecting the appropriate clothing or accessories can still be quite vexing. This is where a new-generation startup like Elanstreet comes into the picture. While personal styling has always been the domain of the rich and famous, Elanstreet aims to make it more accessible to consumers at large. They not only offer various types of personal stylists who can guide buyers but have also worked out affordable fee structures to keep it light on the pocket.
However, Elanstreet is not only about hiring personal stylists — it is a portal for online shopping as well. According to Gargi Banerjee Koul, Co-founder, Elanstreet, “We offer a styling experience that brings together the luxury of personalised shopping and the ease and access of e-commerce. Our style partners offer bespoke sartorial advice and product recommendations depending on customers’ personal tastes and preferences.”
How does it work?
Elanstreet offers two types of services. The first one is a subscription model package (monthly or annual) where one can appoint a dedicated personal stylist. The stylist offers one free style consultation per month, unlimited on-demand style advisory through chat, and unlimited curated lookbooks from around the web on request. The second is a one-time package (and this has some variations as well) called Style 911, where a customer can get style and lifestyle evaluations, basic colour and body type analysis, personalised style recommendations, and a certain number of curated or individualised lookbooks. So, all one has to do is select the type of service, consult a stylist, and start building a wardrobe that is personalised to the individual’s tastes and preferences.
What’s in it for the stylists?
This is the exact question I posed to Gargi, who is actually. very interested playing a big role for talented individual stylists around the country. She says, “Elanstreet is a platform for all stylists to increase their reach and augment their earning potential. They basically get to monetise their advice, become style influencers in society, and build long-term relationships with clients who are not located in their hometown. They also get access to the tools and technology developed by Elanstreet for facilitating the consultation process.” Elanstreet has empanelled a host of stylists with different types of expertise: image consultants, makeup artists, colour analysts, wardrobe experts, lookbook creators, and even fashion bloggers.
While Elanstreet offers many curated styles and trends, they also have an impressive array of brands on their website. Some of the brands they partner with in the categories of men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, accessories, and jewellery are Manoviraj Khosla, Dash of Vodka, House of Fett, Nuteez, Sheer Bliss, Remanika, Anju Agarwal, Prym, Shuffle, and Amrita Singh Jewelry amongst many others.
Back to the beginning
Gargi did her post graduation from Symbiosis and then worked for 12 years with HDFC Bank, rising up to the level of a regional head. But in early 2015, when Gargi was on a sabbatical and at a crossroads in her career, the idea to start Elanstreet was born. Gargi says she always felt strongly about making first impressions: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. As someone who was in a senior management role in a large consumer-facing bank, there were several instances when the opportunity to build a relationship with a customer was established within the first five minutes of a meeting. It’s all about confidence and overall presence. While most people recognise this, very few actually look for guidance as they don’t know whom they should reach out to, or they think that such personalised advice would come at a price. On the other side, there is a growing community of fashion stylists and image consultants who are passionate about their work and would like to see their knowledge and experience add value to peoples’ lives.”
Funding and scaling
Rahul Koul, also a co-founder and Gargi’s husband, says that Elanstreet is bootstrapped by choice. They have put in a sizeable investment and are prepared to rough it out while building the complex platform and acquiring the right partners. At the moment they have 18 employees on board and have arrangements with a host of stylists and brand partners.
There is no like-to-like competitor in this category in India, though some online fashion retailers partially try to address the personal style advisory angle by curating fashion trends across the e-commerce marketplace and offering them to customers. The notable ones among them are Limeroad (founded in 2012, $50 million funding in three rounds), Voonik ($20 million in Series B funding), StyleCracker ($1 million in seed funding) and 20Dresses ($1 million in seed funding). At Voonik and StyleCracker, shoppers can get answers to their fashion-related queries. At 20Dresses, consumers can take a quiz to help find their style quotient. However, none of them offer a personal stylist that one can sign up for and interact with for any length of time.
According to ASSOCHAM in a YourStory report, the apparel segment had the highest growth in 2015 at 69.5 percent, higher than even electronic goods which clocked 62 percent [Source: http://yourstory.com/2016/01/indias-e-commerce-assocham/]. This augurs well for all sorts of players in the online fashion retail space, and judging by the trend in the US, the personal styling market should be able to attract sizeable funding. However, with so many fashion retailers entering the fray, Elanstreet might have to step on the gas to scale in a big way in the immediate future.
Gargi and Rahul are very focused on building the platform right to become a complete one-stop-shop for everyday fashionistas. With dynamic market trends and the galloping nature of e-commerce the stakes are high and competition severe. Still, I manage to ask them about their retirement plans. Not in a long time, there’s so much to do — their expressions said it all.