Is that a stylist in your pocket? Wearit aims to become a middleman for fashion advice

A Kiwi startup that gets girls who love shopping to give fashion advice to guys that don’t is moving into mobile apps. It’s part of a global trend of weird and wonderful online fashion advice and new retail models. 

Imagine having your own personal stylist in your pocket, like a Siri for style that can recommend what to buy when you feel all hope is lost for your next date-night outfit. Well, now you can. 

Liam Houlahan is a software developer who had “absolutely no clue how to dress to impress” before he created a fun way to solve his style problem, Wearit. Noticing how happy  girlfriends seemed to be when it came to helping with the shopping he set up the styling service hub where guys choose their own stylist online, from a selection of around 4,000 female stylists. They chat about their style preferences with their new personal shopper, who then recommends looks from a large clothing catalogue, including Topman, The Iconic, Hallensteins and Asos. 

The iOS app for Wearit is soft-launching on the App Store, with an Android app in the works for 2017. Since the website launched last year the service has attracted 7,000 registered users, including stylists, and 15,000 styles have been created.

Although he has not developed a revenue model for the free service yet, Houlahan says he is beginning to work closely with retailers (The Wirecutter, an exemplar of service journalism that offers recommendations on all kinds of products after in-depth reviews, recently sold to The New York Times for more than $30 million, so the affiliate model can work). Style recommendations on the app are directly linked to retailers’ websites, making the advice process smooth for shoppers and increasing retailers' connection with shoppers.

What’s in it for the girls? Houlahan says the stylists genuinely like to help the less stylish. “We’ve found there are different kinds of users but the core stylists enjoying helping and styling."

They also make their own profiles to promote their own sense of style. And although the stylists are all female for now, Houlahan hopes to open the app up to male users in time and include clothing for female shoppers.

He says the app is part of the social media movement as it’s “all about connecting”.

Houlahan compares Wearit to overseas, online style hubs such as Pinterest's 'catalogue of ideas' and Trunk Club – a personalised styling service that links shoppers with specialist stylists either online or at a physical ‘Clubhouse’, where shoppers can shop a handpicked fashion selection with a glass of wine in-hand. However, he says Trunk Club is for older, higher-end shoppers and Wearit “is more for the youth market and more of a social app”.

With a number of social media shopping apps popping up, it seems consumers enjoy seeking second opinions from virtual strangers.

Last year the FittingRoom – Fashion Advice app launched to help shoppers who are stuck in a store’s fitting room, hanging out for advice. Users upload a photo on the Instagram-esque feed and a community of supportive shoppers share their opinion in a comment section and vote whether they like the look.

But one of the most successful fashion community apps is The Hunt. Users with fashion envy post a picture of a garment they hope to purchase and an online community go-forth and find it like a human-sourced reverse photo search. So, why not use said photo search instead? The community is a supportive one that loves to help you shop, and you can check out what is in hot demand by other fashion gurus.

And of course, artificial personal shoppers are now at your finger tips as well. Amazon.com has built Mona, an ‘artificial intelligence based personal shopping assistant’. The personified app simplifies mobile shopping by providing the best and most relevant products tailored to a person’s preferences. And, like most Ex Machina-esque films, the more you interact with Mona, ‘the better she will get to know you’.

Most shopping still happens in a fairly traditional way. But it's nice to know that consumers can call on a computer, a supportive online community or a group of amateur stylists to help them make those tough buying decisions.