One of the nice thing about start-ups is that they change constantly. I like change in young companies, because it normally means that you are improving things. In most businesses that I have been involved in the original business plan changed radically over the years. The same happened to UnitedStyles. When we launched earlier this year it was a website where kids could design their own clothes in 3D. A great idea (I still think so), but not one that we executed well enough and not one with enough conversion.
In April/May we realized that we made our lives, and especially that of the technical team, too difficult by letting kids and their moms design clothes in 3D. After doing more market research we found out that if you want to do it in 3D the quality has to be much better than what we had. And that was impossible with the funding we had… But we also found out that people actually prefer to design in 2D, using sketches that look like real fashion design sketches. That was good news, because that is something we could change without spending too much time and money.
What we also did realize is that kids love to design, but that they don’t necessarily buy. Originally we had expected that they would convince their parents to pay for them, but it turned out that that was a bit too optimistic. It did happen of course, but most kids that designed never got to the point that they would order a garment. We had ideas on how to improve this, but it would take too much time to implement to make it feasible. Even though kids fashion is huge online, it doesn’t work (yet) in the way we did it.
There were a couple of other things we learned that I won’t go into detail about here, but our conclusion was that we had to make some radical changes in order to become more successful. So that’s what we did! We decided to sit down with the core team and look at our options. On May 1 UnitedStyles officially relaunched as a company, this time focusing on women wear (so not kids wear anymore, although that will be added again in the future) and with a very different design process. On that day we started redeveloping our site, our engine and our fashion designs.
We see May 1 as a real new beginning, except for the name of the site everything changed. We even added a new co-founder: Joop Dorresteijin, our CTO, is now officially a co-founder of UnitedStyles.com.
On July 1 we closed an angel round for the company and from that moment on things went very fast. The new UnitedStyles (or UnitedStyles 2.0 as we call it) will be launched today in private beta, meaning that the site is open to the public, but that some functions are not visible to all users yet. We plan to be out of private beta in early November.
What is the new UnitedStyles? In our internal business plan we describe ourselves as follows:
Would it not be great if there was a “place” where you can realize your own fashion ideas? UnitedStyles created a free online app that lets consumers design their own fashion, customize their own prints, and preview their design in 3D. Customers can buy their self-designed fashion at UnitedStyles and have it produced (using the coolest industry technologies) and delivered anywhere in the world.
People who like to design can use the UnitedStyles app to start their own fashion brand – for free. Anyone can share their fashion collection with their friends and followers, and sell it in their personalized UnitedStyles web shop.
Basically the original focus will be on woman wear, to start with dresses, that you can design yourself. Not only the style, trim and things like sleeve length, but you can also design your own print in our print editor. The process is quite easy, so that everybody can use the designer, whether you are a pro or whether you try out your designer skills for the very first time. You design in 2D but you can see the end result in 3D, in a much better quality than UnitedStyles 1.0
In the current phase you can only design, but cannot order the physical product yet. Production will go live in early November, so stay tuned!
What makes us extra special is that you can design your own collection on UnitedStyles and can sell this in your own showroom on UnitedStyles. This function will be rolled out to all users after we are out of private beta.
Please try out our app and website and let us know what you think, we love to get feedback – also negative feedback that we can learn from. The site is certainly not finished yet, but we believe that you can never launch too early. The earlier the better, that’s how you are forced to find your mistakes and learn from them. If you have any suggestions for the site please let us know!