–By Sally O’Dowd
Ever wanted to see how that flouncy skirt on your favorite retailer’s website would look with the patterned blouse that you saw another page?
Isn’t it frustrating when you can’t see which shoes look best with the ensemble?
Well, if you’ve ever wanted to complete an entire look online, read on.
It is a pleasure to interview Jutta Haaramo, a former gaming executive who is now founder and CEO of Helsinki-based Stylewhile. As both sales and business-development director at San Mateo-based Digital Chocolate (2008-2011), she was behind some of the company’s major growth and awards. Interestingly, Digital Chocolate’s founder, Trip Hawkins, also founded gaming giant Electronic Arts, further illustrating Jutta’s work at the echelon of the gaming industry.
Why is that relevant to this blog? Well, like all leaders and innovators, she has been able to apply her imagination, skills and knowledge to transform her life. But one thing has remained the same: her love of technology and focus on the customer experience.
With Stylewhile, which launched in 2013 on the iPad, women can choose from a variety of well-known and indie designers. What’s more, shoppers can create an entire look of their choosing, down to the earrings, then buy through the designers’ websites.
Sally: Jutta, you’ve done a 180 in terms of industry. How did you go from “Army Attack” to a fashion app?
Jutta: Well, for starters, I am a woman and I love shopping. But I have always wondered why the gaming industry has been consistently focused on innovation and the user experience—which has led to all the interactivity that makes games so appealing–while digital fashion experiences haven’t evolved.
Fashion Is Content
Sally: How did your years in gaming affect the origins of Stylewhile?
Jutta: Fashion is content. So just like games and every other piece of content out there, it needs to become more multimedia, more high-tech. Shoppers deserve a way to interact with clothes and accessories. With Stylewhile, shoppers can visualize different outfits, just like gamers can affect the outcome of the game.
Sally: How did you get Stylewhile off the ground? Like all innovators, you didn’t have a precedent.
Jutta: I had to trust my imagination and believe in the notion that we could help people pick the right top for the right pair of pants without trying either of them on. I wanted to help women make better shopping decisions and reduce all those annoying returns. To get there, I put my faith in highly qualified engineers to arrive at the right solution.
Sally: With Stylewhile, a woman can pick a body type, complexion and hair style that most resembles her. I even added my own photo, which led to a really individual experience. What led you to that?
Jutta: If you’re preparing for a business trip, which will include meetings and dinners, you’ve got to look put-together all day and night long. And busy women often don’t have time to hit multiple stores or run around a big department store. I wanted to give them a quick, digital experience customized just for them.
Sally: As I witnessed first hand, women can put together outfits from a variety of designers and retailers—just as if they did go around town for hours and hours. But they have to buy from each designer’s or retailer’s site, making it a multistep process. How are you simplifying that?
Jutta: Yes, we realize we need to simplify the buying process. When you’re in the mood, you just want to buy it without thinking too much.
Sally: What’s the process for getting there?
Jutta: My tech team is working on a program where shoppers can buy right through our site. In addition, we are conducting user interviews and lots of tests to make sure the experience will work. At the same time, our engineers are developing a way for women to add their measurements to get at an even closer fit.
High-Tech Indie Designers
Sally: You’ve told me about plans to add more indie designers to the site. Can you tell our audience more about that?
Jutta: Currently, we feature numerous well-known designers such as Michael Kors and Alexander Wang, and also indie designers such as By Smith and D.Brand. We’re gong to add 15 more indie designers in mid-July.
Sally: Stylewhile provides a new way for indie designers to expand their audience…
Jutta: Indeed. They don’t have major retail channels for exposure. We provide them their own landing page, giving them a lot of visibility. We’re building an ecosystem, where people can get to know several indie designers at one time and complete an ensemble. So one designer starts to help another…And here again, in mid-July shoppers will be able to buy right through our app.
Sally: These indie designers are up and coming. Tell us what makes them tick.
Jutta: Yes, some of them come from Fashion Runway. They’re young and experimental. They’re open-minded. They also grew up with technology so they welcome this in–app experience. They represent the fashion-tech convergence that’s going to get better and better and more interactive with time.
Stylewhile is available on the iPad and will soon be available on the iPhone.
Sally O’Dowd is CEO of Sally On Media LLC, an integrated marketing and PR firm in New York. Contact Sally on sally at sallyonmedia dot net.