Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

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Virtual-Closet Web Sites Revise Online Fashion Shopping

The Essential Sites:

THE VIRTUAL CLOSETS Track how often you wear what’s in your closet, the cost-per-wear of items, and the weather the day you wore them. Upload and share outfits; virtually try on potential purchases with a Webcam. Catalogue your closet, layer outfits, and post images to Facebook. Organize and share — what else? — your wardrobe.

TouchCloset: Lets you flip through your clothes like album covers on an iPod.

THE SCRAPBOOKERS Surf, catalogue and buy from glossy images of fashions, gadgets, trips. Design collages of clothes and accessories. “Pin” images from the Web on digital bulletin boards.

THE CRITICS Upload a photo of your outfit, ask a question (“Can I meet his parents in this?”), receive advice you may or may not want to hear. Are those leather leggings flattering? Get an opinion, fast.

THE SOCIAL SHOPPERS Arty, unique finds culled by a shop-happy community. Share and buy items from around the Web in this “social store.” Flash-sale shopping that feels more like perusing an indie magazine. Follow and shop your favorite designers, boutiques, stylists.

THE STYLISTS Show off outfits. Share photos of shoes, bags.

Read the Entire article here on the NewYork Times, (more pictures, links to apps, and other articles) from

Published: February 29, 2012

I will put the text in below the break for use in class.

YEARS before Facebook and YouTube, Joseph Einhorn would spend hours on eBay — not bidding (he was only a teenager) but searching for people who shared his passion for vintage comic books.

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Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Zach Davis, left, and Rohan Deuskar of Stylitics.

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Erin Baiano for The New York Times

Joseph Einhorn of The Fancy.

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Deidre Schoo for The New York Times

Elena Silenok, of, says she was inspired by the touch-screen closet system of Alicia Silverstone’s character in the 1995 film “Clueless.”

“That was the original social network around commerce,” said Mr. Einhorn, now 30.

Today he is the founder, a new scrapbooking and shopping site, where users can share photographs of covetable objects and experiences — a velvet Burberry trench coat, sparkly gold nail polish, a room at the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong — and, it is hoped, buy them.

Kanye West, Diddy and David Blaine are among those who have signed up, Mr. Einhorn said; the site is still in its testing, or beta, phase. Ashton Kutcher and Robert W. Pittman, the founder of MTV, are shareholders. And board members include François-Henri Pinault, the chairman and chief executive of PPR (which owns luxury brands like Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen); Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter; and Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook and a coordinator of President Obama’s social networking campaign during his presidential bid.

In the race to be the Facebook of style, it helps to have an all-star team. The Internet today is littered with would-be Rachel Zoes posting the contents of their closets and swapping styling tips on sites like Pinterest, Clothia, Stylitics and Polyvore. Advice sites like Go Try It On and Fashism deliver instant feedback on whether one ought to walk out the door wearing Uggs with a miniskirt. Wanelo, Lyst, Fab and Svpply are trying to make buying as brisk as E-ZPass. And each week seems to deliver a new fashion app, be it for street-style inspiration (Pose and Snapette) or virtual wardrobe organization (Cloth, Stylebook, Touch Closet).

In January, visits from the United States to some of these fashion-conscious sites increased exponentially compared with the previous year, according to Experian Hitwise, the Internet tracking firm. About 60 percent of the visits were from women. Pinterest, the scrapbooking site where members post to virtual boards their favorite images from around the Web, has much of this traffic. It is now among the 10 most-visited social networks, along with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, even though it’s not yet officially out of beta either.

One would think that these sites, with their legions of followers, would be among the most monetizable areas of the Web, because browsing them can lead directly to online retail portals. And certainly some small businesses and artists have benefited from the links posted on sites like Pinterest and Polyvore. But industry observers say there is still a gulf between browsing and buying; consumers may be flinging open their closets online, but their wallets have yet to follow. Internet start-ups are experimenting with business models: advertising, selling access to analytics, creating contest platforms. The field is crowded and can be confusing.

“There’s going to end up being a shake-up,” said Shel Holtz, a principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, which helps companies communicate more effectively online. He sees tremendous potential in Pinterest (his daughter is using it to plan her wedding, and he himself is a member) but is concerned that some of its beloved features, like “pinning” items to a virtual bulletin board, are not proprietary.

“It reminds me of Groupon,” said Mr. Holtz, referring to the site that spawned imitators like Jewpon (for kosher deals, of course). “You wonder who’s going to end up on top of this.”

Darika Ahrens, an interactive marketing analyst with Forrester Research, also thinks Pinterest’s financial success is not a foregone conclusion.

“You can’t necessarily correlate people who like collecting stuff with people who like buying stuff,” she said, adding that the growth of Pinterest is nothing compared with that of Google+, the search engine giant’s answer to Facebook; and that cataloging items from across the Web, as Pinterest users love to do, is one of the least popular social behaviors online. Pinterest may simply be satisfying “a niche behavior that hasn’t been serviced really well,” Ms. Ahrens said.

An even newer contender,, began testing during New York Fashion Week. The site enables users to populate a virtual closet with items from their real one, arrange a mood board of outfits, create a clothing wish list and glean how they might look in a garment they see online by using the site’s “virtual fitting room” feature. All of the clothes on the site have a buy button next to them that links to a retailer’s Web site.

Clothia was founded by Elena Silenok, 30, after she moved from San Diego to New York only to face the harsh reality that flip-flops and pastel sportswear are not in vogue here.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, my pink thing is not working,’ ” said Ms. Silenok, who was born in Kaliningrad, Russia, to a family of engineers and has a master’s in computer science from the University of California, San Diego. She decided to build a new wardrobe and wanted input from her friends. But e-mailing and instant messaging photos while slogging around stores was a chore. And she wanted to call up mental images of her entire closet at all times. “As a girl, you don’t think of just an item you buy,” Ms. Silenok said. “You think of an outfit.” She cited as inspiration the computer touch-screen that Cher Horowitz pressed to mix and match the contents of her closet in the 1995 film “Clueless.”

“That scene was only 17 seconds,” Ms. Silenok said. (She timed it.) “And people still remember the clothes closet. Women everywhere always wondered, Why don’t we have something like this?”

Clothia also has some experienced investors, including Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, a founder of the flash sales site But how the new site will make money is unclear.

“Right now we’re really focusing on a product that our users love,” Ms. Silenok said. “We’re not focusing on one particular business model.”, yet another site in beta, is the brainchild of a Wharton graduate, Rohan Deuskar, 29, and a University of Iowa graduate, Zach Davis, 31. Users there create virtual closets and chronicle what they wear on the site’s “style calendar,” where they can also see each day’s weather. The site keeps track of the brands, colors and styles you wear, as well as — gulp — the money you’ve spent on all the clothes in your closet. Users can learn how often they wore red or a scoop-neck shirt in the last month. In addition to preventing you from wearing the same skirt on Date 3 that you wore on Date 1, that site can also identify the items from which you’re getting the most mileage. (If you’re wearing an $800 pair of shoes twice a week for a year, with two weeks off, that’s $8 a wearing — cheaper than a movie ticket!)

Mr. Deuskar compared his site to, the personal-finance tracking site. Once Stylitics’s algorithms become familiar with a user’s taste, it can make personalized recommendations, like a sartorial Netflix. A mobile app will be introduced this month.

Unlike many tech start-ups, which adopt a “do what the user loves and the money will follow” mantra, the founders of Stylitics have begun putting a specific cash-flow strategy in effect. The virtual closet is an elegant way for brands and retailers to gather real-time market research. The founders, who won the top prize at the 2011 Wharton Business Plan Competition for Stylitics and refer to themselves as the Nielsen of fashion, said that individual users’ private information was not shared. So J. Crew will not learn that you, Jane Doe, wore the same brown blazer four times last week. But brands and retailers that subscribe to the service will learn what is being bought and worn in aggregate, as well as users’ favorite fashion sites and bloggers, which they specify on a public profile page.

“We were somewhat surprised that people were willing to give information and talk about the brands that they love,” Mr. Davis said. But he noted that they were willing to do so if it meant they would be rewarded with discounts and freebies from brands, about two dozen of which are already working with the site.

Unlike these competitors, Mr. Einhorn of Fancy did not attend college, yet by age 16 he was working with Capital IQ in New York, helping to build a data management system for financial companies. A few years later, Standard & Poor’s bought the business.

Mr. Einhorn, who commutes to offices in the meatpacking district from his home in Brooklyn, likens Fancy to an Internet version of Colette, the eclectic Paris boutique that stocks T-shirts near Jil Sander jackets. “I want everybody to feel the way you feel when you walk into such a highly curated store like that,” he said. The idea is for the site to have a more refined aesthetic than that of Pinterest so that luxury brands, historically reluctant to participate in e-commerce, are not tarnished. (Polyvore’s users also gravitate to tony labels, but the company has changed chief executives several times in the last couple of years and its board isn’t, well, quite so fancy.)

“We have been studying the evolution of these themes online: self-expression, curation and discovery,” Mr. Pinault, of PPR, said in an e-mail message. “What we were waiting for was the emergence of commerce and convenience in these areas.”

Mr. Einhorn said that while consumers enjoyed browsing sites like Pinterest, they did not want to follow links out to hundreds of different Web sites if they want to purchase what they see, and enter their credit-card and billing information over and over again.

“We all want the Amazon-level convenience,” he said, adding that Fancy has just begun to offer a similar service. Consumers can shop easily within the confines of the site, not for paper towels or batteries, but for fashions, vacations and other things you discover by following people whose taste you admire (eventually, everything on the site will be sold this way). There are rewards for devotees of certain brands, devotion that users demonstrate by “fancying” (akin to “liking”) the brand’s products.

Meanwhile, aspiring Alexander Wangs can sign up for a merchant account and post designs for sale, offer discounts on popular items, manage orders, and print UPS shipping labels from Mr. Einhorn said the site would take a 10-percent flat commission from these sales, a model similar to Groupon’s.

Despite his familiarity with sophisticated boutiques, Mr. Einhorn himself is no clotheshorse. But he said proffering fashion on Fancy is inextricably linked to the human connections he made trawling eBay when he was 14.

“There are people who are passionate about comic books,” he said. “And there are people who are passionate about shoes.”