Author's blurb: I am someone who hates shopping for clothes. The idea of spending hours in a mall browsing through clothes that I wouldn't end up buying is why I only buy clothes when I need them, not something I do in my spare time.
Gwen Delhumeau believes that's why her online personal styling and fashion technology startup, Ellegra, operates on a subscription fashion model.
Customers can order a Style Box at any time and as often as they want and need, with no monthly commitment.
"So we are really there when customers need us, whether they want to refresh their wardrobe regularly or are looking for a new outfit for a special occasion." For many of our customers, this is the new way to shop for clothes, ”she told Vulcan Post.
Fill out a quiz to try
On Ellegra, buyers take a style quiz about their fashion preferences and the platform's algorithm and personal stylists generate a selection of 5 items for your style box.
Some questions involve showing you different styles for an item of clothing, such as a skirt, and asking you to pick the ones that you would personally wear.
- Choose what type of skirt you are most likely to wear.
- Some of these mood boards allow you to choose your preferred style.
- You can tell them which store you visit frequently so that the stylists can assess your taste in clothes.
- This is where you indicate which sizes will fit you best, depending on which brand you think will suit you well.
You can also let the Ellegra team know how far from your comfort zone you are so they can offer some items in addition to your usual style that you may not have tried before.
Once you've completed the quiz, you'll pay an upfront styling fee of RM50 to cover the cost of your personal stylist. Your style box will then be delivered with 5 items specially selected for you.
You have 3 days to try out your selection and decide which items to keep or return.
After you have decided which items to keep, you can go to the checkout on the website where you will receive an invoice for the items on hold. The same card that you used to prepay the styling fee will be charged 24 hours later.
When the whole process is complete, customers can provide feedback on each box, which will allow Ellegra to improve its algorithm.
“The more data we get, the better our algorithms get. As a result, we've managed to improve our retention rate (the number of items a customer holds out of their box) by 60% in the last few months alone, ”said Gwen.
The personal stylists do all the shopping for you / Photo credit: Ellegra
But this buy and return model made me wonder how they stored and managed the returned items in their inventory.
Gwen told the Vulcan Post that Ellegra doesn't have one. Instead, they work with brands on a shipment basis to offer a variety of clothing items to their customers.
When customers return the clothes, Ellegra only has to send them back within the agreed timeframe so that the partner brands can put them back on their shelves and find a new home.
Born after their second child
Gwen shared that the idea for Ellegra came about six months after the birth of their second child.
Since she couldn't jump back into her body before the baby as quickly as hoped, her slow weight loss meant she had to buy new clothes.
Like me, Gwen is not a fan of long shopping malls herself. So she turned to online shopping and realized how difficult it was to pick the right size, style, and fit for brands that would flatter her new body.
Even after the time consuming and stressful experience, she still returned 70% of her orders.
Gwen works with a team of 5 and personal stylists that she hires part time. Image credit: Ellegra
"Given my digital background, I had to wonder what if there was a personal styling buddy online who could help me out when needed without spending an afternoon in a mall?" she asked.
"And what if I could share all of my preferences and sizes so that they really know me and help me choose items that I not only want but also fit?"
Confident that she wasn't the only one facing this problem and that there was still no ideal solution, she used her expertise from working at iflix in capturing content through data-driven recommendations to create Ellegra.
Right place at the right time
In the true startup spirit, Ellegra started a few beta tests. First with her friends, then with strangers from Facebook groups.
The second test took place in the middle of the first MCO when the changing rooms were closed and people were longing to shop but couldn't.
“So it was a little bit to be in the right place at the right time. We were initially concerned that this would be a passing trend, but our orders have grown since then, ”said Gwen.
Since the launch in Malaysia in June 2020, 12,000 customers have signed up with Ellegra. Many were acquired through word of mouth and referrals.
You have also had returning customers who have already ordered up to 6 boxes, sometimes even more than once a month.
Ellegra is also now receiving requests from potential customers in Sabah and Sarawak to expand their business there, which they will hopefully do in the future.
Gwen announced that at some point they will also offer styling services for men and children as she sees a great opportunity in this market.
"Malaysia has also been a fantastic launch pad for other technology companies in the region, and we hope to replicate their success in delivering 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 envision using their service if I ever need to shop for a special occasion. I find it best when I have to look for evening or evening wear as these are two models that I don't know where to shop for.
- You can find out more about Ellegra here.
- You can find more startups we've written about here.
Selected image source: Gwen Delhumeau, founder and CEO of Ellegra