Feb 6 2014, 1:44pm CST | by Forbes
Wouldn’t it be great if online shopping was a more personal experience? As if someone magically knew your ever-evolving style preferences, your various clothing and shoe sizes, plus the foundation pieces you already have in your closet and, then, with only a few clicks, feature a selection of unique complimentary goods available for immediate purchase – all for free and with very little effort on your part.
Twitter’s former fashion marketing executive, Francesca Helina, just may have made your fantasy online shopping experience a reality with her new fashion venture, Live The Look.
From Tweetwalking to, now, customized shopping, she’s once again bringing the latest in high-tech to the fashion front with a mission to make style economically accessible, but still appropriate and flattering to the professional woman.
Let’s find out more about this pioneering e-commerce approach directly from Francesca, Founder & CEO of Live The Look:
DS: Twitter has a fashion department? Most of us don’t think of tech and fashion in the same thought bubble. Tell us how that happened and what role you played? Any examples of how you merged these two worlds?
Francesca: You are right! Fashion and tech don’t usually go hand in hand although I find the fashion community always wants to get more technically adventurous and the tech community always wants to create products that have a very refined design aesthetic, so there are some parallels.
I naturally started working with a few large fashion entities on Twitter out of my own interest and instinct. I knew that fashion was one of the top followed areas on the platform and understood that the community would drive phenomenal content as well as potential revenue on the commerce side. As I educated and activated key brands, media, influencers and designers, I found myself drawn to helping people get more technically creative with integrating Twitter into their traditional efforts. The best example I can think of is when I worked with the social team at Burberry to create the first “Tweetwalk.” They wanted to create a digital edge that appealed to their followers at their traditional runway show. We came up with the idea that they could Tweet out a photo of the model from backstage just prior to her hitting the catwalk. Twitter followers would get first access to the looks and the photo content was only proprietary for a few moments, creating a sense of urgency to tune in. Needless to say, it was a huge success.
DS: What inspired you to found Live The Look? Were your efforts to democratize fashion through the use of Twitter a factor?
Francesca: I wanted to create Live the Look because I felt that women deserved more from an e-commerce experience. Every day we all get up, head to our closet and wonder what outfit to put together on our bodies. We may feel adventurous or safe or cold or sassy or spontaneous, but we all have to still get dressed. There was no option out there that actually tried to help women make that choice and took into account that we already have clothes – most likely quite a lot of them – sitting around.
There are a ton of pages and sites out there meant to inspire us through photos and media into copying what they wear, but I find them to be overall very aspirational instead of realistic in price or in wearability. I wanted to take what I did at Twitter with democratizing fashion experiences or content and try to democratize fashion commerce by making it reflective of real women and real choices.
DS: Professional women are incredibly busy and want easy to use online shopping tools that quickly give us accurate results. How does LTL support us and in what ways is it different from other curated ecommerce sites? Explain your pioneering use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Live The Look?
Francesca: Live the Look is unique in that it creates a personalized shopping page for each customer that reflects the styles she likes and the key basics she owns in her closet. There is no guesswork around the products since everything is visually associated with your preferences. You are not left on a product page wondering what you would wear with a new top, because we show you that it would look great with your black pants you told us about when you took our quick quiz to sign up.
We can do this via our unique product categorization schema, a styling engine that utilizes algorithmic AI to create the custom experiences. We spent many months prior to launch testing and running the engine with over 1,000 different items to ensure we could generate quality results every time. From our current beta site, we intend to increase the specificity of the engine and the breadth of items offered.
DS: Why is it important to you to introduce and support indie brands and ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ clothing and accessories to your Live The Look customer?
Francesca: I am a big believer in the courage and scrappiness of new brands and designers. I want to be able to support and discover them via a growing platform like Live the Look.
We currently carry a set of fantastic brands made in the U.S., but another important factor is that they also create high quality, unique, on trend, wearable items that you are not going to see your friends in or find on a stranger walking towards you down the street. If that roster starts to include international brands that meet our quality and style bar, I am happy to include them in the future and increase our selection.
DS: Live The Look is making its transition from beta to a full launch in March. What are some upcoming features, products and more that shoppers can expect?
Francesca: I would say that we are working very hard to broaden out our roster of items and make the styling engine even more useful. We also intend to go beyond only driving commerce on the site. Coming from a social background, I always look to create a product that people want to visit every day. We are going to launch features that create a destination where people want to visit us more frequently. We will create styling resources, fun and community on the site as well as unique items to purchase.
DS: I noticed you’re on the International Olympic Committee…is this a passion for you? How else do you enjoy spending your time and expressing/sharing your interests and talents with the world?
Francesca: I have worked as a consultant for the International Olympic Committee for a few years now and truly enjoy it. The team and sense of innovation is phenomenal – I find myself inspired as well as educated each time we complete a project together. I actually created an Olympic Fashion Tumblr for them and have such a blast running it during the Games!
I also love to spend time with young female women in business and try to take a few coffee dates a month to sit down and talk. I think there are so many choices out there and learning experiences to be had – I try to encourage younger women to really think through what’s important as they navigate their early career.
For more information on Francesca & Live The Look, visit www.livethelook.com.
Do you have a fashion designer, brand or company you would like featured on Forbes Style File: Designer Spotlight? Let us know in the comments section.
Kristina Moore is a style expert focusing on visual presentation as a dynamic professional tool. She is the founder and editor of Corporate Fashionista. Kristina welcomes your comments and questions.
Source: Forbes Business
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