Author’s blurb: I’m someone who hates the process of shopping for clothes. The idea of spending hours in a mall browsing through clothing I wouldn’t end up purchasing in the end is why I only buy clothes as-and-when I need it, not something I do for leisure.
Gwen Delhumeau thinks this is the reason why her online personal styling service and fashion tech startup, Ellegra, works over a subscription model for fashion.
Customers can order a Style Box whenever and as often as they want and need to, with no monthly commitment.
“So we’re really there when customers need us, whether they want to regularly refresh their wardrobe or are looking for a new outfit for a special occasion. For many of our customers, they’re seeing this could be their new way of doing clothes shopping,” she told Vulcan Post.
Fill In A Quiz To Try
On Ellegra, shoppers will take a style quiz on their fashion preferences and the platform’s algorithm and personal stylists will generate a selection of 5 items for your Style Box.
Some questions include showing you a range of different styles for an item of clothing, like a skirt, and asking you to pick those that you’d personally wear.
You can also let the Ellegra team know how far out of your comfort zone you’re willing to go, so they can offer a couple of items you may not have tried before in addition to your usual style.
Once you’ve completed the quiz, you’ll pay an upfront styling fee of RM50 to cover the costs of their personal stylists. Your Style Box will then be delivered with 5 items chosen specifically for you.
You have 3 days to try on your selections and decide which items you’d like to keep or send back.
After deciding which items you’re keeping, you can head to the site’s checkout where you’ll be sent an invoice for the kept items. The same card you’ve used to pay for the upfront styling fee will be charged instantly.
Editor’s Note: Information in the above paragraphs have been edited to reflect greater factual accuracy.
When the whole process is completed, customers can provide feedback on each box, which will help Ellegra improve its algorithm.
“The more data we get, the better our algorithms become. As a result, we’ve been successful in improving our keep rate (the number of items a customer keeps from their box) by 60% over the last few months alone,” Gwen shared.
But this buy-and-return model made me wonder how they stored and managed the returned items in their inventory.
Gwen told Vulcan Post that Ellegra doesn’t have one. Instead, they partner with brands on a consignment basis to offer a wide variety of attire for their customers.
So when customers return the clothing, Ellegra just needs to send them back within the agreed timeline so that the partner brands can put it back on their shelves and find it a new home.
Born After Her Second Child
Gwen shared that the idea for Ellegra came about six months after giving birth to her second child.
Unable to bounce back into her pre-baby body as quickly as she hoped, her slow weight loss progress meant that she had to buy new clothes.
Like me, Gwen herself isn’t a fan of long shopping runs in malls, so she turned to online shopping and realised how difficult it was to pick the right size, style, and fit across brands that would be flattering on her new body.
Even after the time-consuming and stressful experience, she still ended up returning 70% of her orders.
“Given my background in digital, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if there was a personal styling buddy online that could help me when I needed it, without the need to spend an afternoon trekking a mall?” she questioned.
“And what if I could tell it all my preferences and sizes, so it really knew me and could help me choose items I would not only like but which would also fit?”
Confident that she wasn’t the only one facing this problem and seeing that an ideal solution didn’t exist yet, she used her expertise from working at iflix in acquiring content through data-backed recommendations to create Ellegra.
Right Place At The Right Time
In true startup spirit, Ellegra started out with a couple of beta tests. First with their friends, then with strangers from Facebook groups.
The second test took place in the middle of the first MCO when fitting rooms were closed and people were longing to shop but couldn’t.
“So there was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. We were initially concerned this would be a temporary trend but our orders have increased ever since,” said Gwen.
Ellegra’s had 12,000 customers sign up to their service since launching in Malaysia in June 2020. Many were acquired through word of mouth and referrals.
They’ve also had returning customers who’ve ordered up to 6 boxes already, sometimes even more than once a month.
Ellegra is also now getting demands from potential customers from Sabah and Sarawak to expand their business there, which they hope to do so in the future.
Gwen shared that they will eventually tap into providing styling services for men and children too, as she sees a huge opportunity in that market.
“Also, looking at other tech companies, Malaysia has been a fantastic launchpad to other countries in the region and we hope to emulate their success in bringing our service to the whole of Southeast Asia,” Gwen told Vulcan Post.
Bottom line: I wouldn’t be a frequent customer, but I can definitely see myself using their service if I ever need to shop for a special occasion. I see it most fitting for when I’ll have to look for formal or evening wear, as those are two styles that I do not know where to shop for.
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Featured Image Credit: Gwen Delhumeau, founder and CEO of Ellegra