Today, Examiner.com had the opportunity to interview Stylinity founder Tadd Spering. Check out what he had to say about designing this interesting new product.
Q: What is stylinity?
Tadd Spering: Stylinity is the fusion of fashion with social media, uniting the online and offline shopping experience. We leverage technology - our Style Stage, website, and mobile tools - to make shopping more fun, social, and informative. The Style Stage is a small square structure that sits near the dressing room in retail stores. It's about 6 feet on each side, and it uses portrait quality lighting and state of the art optics to let shoppers capture perfectly lit high-resolution photographs of themselves from all four sides simultaneously, so they can see how they look from all angles. It makes shopping a lot more fun and helps with peace of mind that the ensembles people are putting together really work. They can then their pictures instantly, if they choose, with friends and peers on our website or other social media for instant feedback, helping them make better shopping decisions and making the whole process more social.
Q: What inspired you to invent Stylinity?
Tadd Spering: I noticed people using cell phones to take pictures of themselves in the mirror and texting them to their friends. They were looking for a second opinion, and wanted validation that something looked great on them. Then I started thinking about how cell phone cameras don't really take very good pictures. The lighting was poor, they were standing awkwardly trying to frame the shot, and they couldn't see how something looked from behind - which is pretty important. I realized there had to be a better way, and Stylinity is really the result of working all of that out.
Q: What was the creative process like?
Tadd Spering: It's been really fun. It started with just some ideas, but as they came together and coalesced, that really led to the name. Stylinity represents the infinite possibilities that grow out of something that at its core is simple, but that unlocks all this potential. Designing the Style Stage and figuring out what we want to do with the website and mobile was just awesome. My team has been tremendous, and it’s great being around really bright, enthusiastic people, bouncing ideas off of one another.
We wanted the Style Stage to look great, since it's all about style. I discussed it with a bunch of people and had this picture in my head, and it came out looking a lot like that. It was a ton of work, but also lots of fun figuring out how to fit all the components together while keeping it small and looking awesome. We wanted to bathe the user in perfectly diffused light so they'd look great just standing there. We first had to build a prototype, and there was this amazing moment when we first turned it on. A young woman who did some modeling us stood on it and just looked like she was glowing, and everyone was just staring in awe. We made a few more tweaks based on what we learned, and then when we built the production model that we installed at Limelight, it was just phenomenal. Along the way, we've been working towards the longer-term goals, like adding RFID so the images can all be fully tagged and searchable by item data, and we've built out most of the tech as well, at least for what we'll need in the next year or so (the possibilities further along really are infinite). It's just mind-boggling to realize what this offers for retailers in terms of better understanding their customers, who buys what, and why. But the biggest and most exciting part is what it will do for consumers. We've got a huge focus on privacy - we are really focused on the consumer, as we don't want them to ever have to worry their pictures are being used in a way they don't like. We can't even see their images without their approval. We want to build trust with them so that down the road we can collaborate with retailers to offer customized sizing to consumers. There are a lot of privacy and tech issues involved, but we know where we’re going and it’s fun figuring all of this out and building for the future.
Q: How did you get involved in the tech/social media realms?
Tadd Spering: I’ve always been interested in technology and social media. Stylinity in many ways evolved from a business plan I wrote back in college, during the dot com boom (and bust). Social media didn’t really exist then, but we had Instant Messenger, and I was fascinated by how people used it to plan events and keep in touch. I knew I wanted to do something involving tech that let people communicate with their friends while shopping, and this was just the natural outgrowth of that. The idea had been in my head for years, and when I saw a woman texting a picture of herself trying on a dress a while back, I knew it was time.
Q: What are your hopes for Stylinity?
Tadd Spering: I have very high hopes for Stylinity. There are 100,000 clothing stores just in the US, and I really expect that in the future most will offer a Style Stage. Once people get used to it, it’s hard going back to a three-way mirror. People who have used it have told me they’re less comfortable buying things at stores that don’t have a Style Stage, as they don’t have that same sense of confidence that comes from seeing themselves perfectly lit from every angle, and knowing how something actually looks on them. Along the way I want to expand internationally – everyone around the world wants to look their best, and we can help them. We also want to be the premier online destination for shopping. Once we link RFID in with stores, people will be able to search public images on our site by all kinds of criteria to find images of real people who look like them, looking fantastic in outfits that match their own size, shape, and style. If they like what they see, they’ll be able to click a link and get to the retailer’s site to buy those items online. They’ll also be able to add items to wish lists for holidays and birthdays, so gift givers can buy them awesome outfits that they know will look great, because they’ve seen pictures from every angle. It will be great for bridal and formalwear, too, as bridesmaids will be able to perfectly match colors, brides can really compare dresses, prom-goers will be able to coordinate so they don’t wear the same dress, and groomsmen can make sure the suits all work together. The combination of everything will give us huge insights that we can share with retailers so they can better serve their customers and carry clothes they actually want to buy, as we’ll be able to tell them who likes and buys what, and why, in a very scientific fashion, without ever compromising consumers’ privacy. I really hope, and expect, that we’re going to revolutionize retail.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Tadd Spering: I’m very exciting about 2013. We had a huge year building out all of these tools. Retailers struggled with a weak economy in 2012 and are looking to regain lost ground and remain relevant – they need to remind shoppers why they come into a store in the first place instead of buying online: you can actually see how something really looks on you! Their shoppers already use cell phones to take pictures, and we’re just providing a much, much better tool to help them do something they’re doing already. I think retailers are going to embrace this in a big way, and those that do will see huge results as consumers come back to their store, confidently buying clothes that they know really look great on them.