Keaton Row has added a new twist to online shopping.
The website, created by Harvard Business School graduates Cheryl Han and Elenor Mak, pairs shoppers with fashion advisors from all over the country, based on a personal style Q&A given to each new member who signs onto the site. Think online dating but with a refreshed and personalized wardrobe, not a first date, as the goal.
"What we realized is that people want a back-to-basics, personal touch when shopping online," Han says.
The advisors — called stylists — receive commissions on items sold, making the experience a virtual take on the direct-marketing model employed by businesses such as cosmetics firms Avon and Mary Kay.
Han was working in e-commerce at L'Oreal and Mak in operations finance at
Keaton Row, which they launched in January, aims to streamline the online shopping experience for busy, professional women by pairing them with stylists who can advise on how to keep their wardrobes on trend and up to date. Once a client and stylist are matched, the stylist curates a look book to show a selection of clothing and accessories chosen to suit the client's individual style. Clients pick the items they want to see in person, which are sent to them with no obligation to buy. Stylists and clients may continue to work together via online correspondence, based on the customer's ongoing styling needs.
Han compares the experience to "that relationship that already exists between women who have been receiving shopping and style advice from friends and family for years."
Anyone can apply to be a Keaton Row stylist. Candidates are screened by Keaton Row's style director, who selects stylists based on the individual's eye for fashion, tech savviness, active social media presence and ability to be a "fashion influencer" within her or his social circle. Currently the website has about 2,000 stylists.
"We're creating a sales force of outsourced stylists for the retailers we work with," which include Les Nouvelles and Shopbop, Mak says.
Keaton Row stylists can be compared to Avon ladies of a generation ago, leveraging their social circles and contacts to attract new business. But unlike the direct-selling force of 20 years ago, these stylists are utilizing social media and online correspondence to cultivate clients and make sales.
The new model also expands opportunities, Mak points out: "Now a New York stylist can actually work with someone in Kansas."
Working with a stylist at http://www.KeatonRow.com is free. Recently the site implemented a premium selection of established stylists, including Thomas Carter Phillips (who has worked with celebrity stylist Brad Goreski), Logan Horne (who styles Leighton Meester) and editorial stylist Nicole Fasolino. Working with these name stylists is also free of charge, though clients must agree to buy a certain number of the items presented in their look books.
Phillips is high on the concept. "A site that connects fashion industry professionals with the everyday woman who doesn't necessarily have time to shop, much less put together ensembles, seemed to me like the best service in e-commerce," he says.