Smartphones and social media apps have changed the way people find fashion inspiration. The ability to quickly scroll through various clothing options spawned the original idea for Glamhive, a 6-year-old startup that rewarded fashionistas with gift cards for sharing their favorite outfits online.
But Stephanie Sprangers wasn’t seeing enough traction with that model, so the entrepreneur and CEO decided to turn the platform into a personal styling service.
It was a key pivot — Glamhive is now growing and has attracted personal stylists who work with the likes of Angelina Jolie, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Brady, and other celebrities. They use the on-demand platform to reach new customers in search of fashion advice.
Sprangers’ mission, though, is to give everyday people access to professional fashion experts — to democratize something previously only available to those who could afford it, she says. Glamhive does this by offering different tiers, including a “classic” option for customers who want help building out their wardrobe but can’t break the bank.
Glamhive is still riding the trend of online fashion inspiration from apps such as Instagram, but it’s found a niche by connecting people to professional, tailored advice online.
“People love fashion inspiration,” Sprangers said. “But as retail moves to online and e-commerce, people really need 1-on-1 help.”
Glamhive’s marketplace business earns revenue by taking a cut of each service transaction while also charging stylists to use Glamhive. The company does not use subscriptions but rather a fee-for-service model, depending on the customer’s need. Prices vary based on the stylist and service. A video chat consultation generally starts at $25; a “closet detox” goes for $400-to-$600 and an “executive styling” can reach $1,000.
“We make it possible to connect with a stylist — which is a fancy name for a person with good taste — from anywhere in the world,” Sprangers said.
Sprangers described the personal styling space as “disconnected.” Outside of places such as New York or Los Angeles, there aren’t many available stylists. In a city such as Seattle, consumers are typically forced to go a place like Nordstrom.
“Many of the people there are great, but they are also biased to you buying stuff in their store,” Sprangers said, which limits potential options.
There are also online companies such as StitchFix that have seen massive growth with a “try-before-you-buy” model, but don’t provide the 1-on-1 help that comes with a personal stylist.
Sprangers said the service appeals to working women who are too busy to shop; women who don’t love the process of shopping; women returning to the workforce; a recent grad needing clothes for her first job; someone putting together outfits for a special trip; and other use cases.
The target market overlaps with that of Armoire, another growing Seattle fashion startup that uses a high-tech rental model. Armoire follows a similar playbook to Rent the Runway, the 10-year-old New York City-based company that was recently valued at more than $1 billion.
Instagram, meanwhile, has aggressively rolled out shopping-related features and integrations over the past year.
Glamhive has around 200 stylists on its marketplace. It also has a third revenue arm with a new events business; the first Glamhive Live is slated for Aug. 24 in Los Angeles. It’s a “style summit” featuring big names from across the industry. Another is scheduled for New York this November.
Editor’s Note: Jonathan Sposato, GeekWire chairman, is an investor in Glamhive.