Anwar Ali, Special to the Star, writes about the launch of StyleID and speaks with a Toronto fashion blogger, a costume designer and one of StyleID’s co-founders. Read on to see how StyleID brings users a TV star wardrobe available at their fingertips.
July 7, 2014
Fashion blogger Angie Thevarajan is always on the prowl for style. The 23-year-old is equally at ease with dainty or tomboyish looks. She splits time between browsing racks at global chains such as Zara and independent shops like Spoof on Queen St. W.
“I like to have my own style and put things together you might not see on a regular basis,” says Thevarajan, a Markham resident.
Television actresses are valuable spools of inspiration for her, particularly Sofia Vergara’s Gloria on Modern Family. “First of all she’s just drop-dead gorgeous. Anything that she wears just looks amazing. She’s always really colourful.”
TV fans like Thevarajan who behold Vergara’s flamboyant character as a muse — and who believe her attire to be a well-guarded trick of the trade — might be pleasantly surprised that they too can now have her look.
Entrepreneur Sarah Juma just launched StyleID, a free app that helps fashionistas track down and purchase coveted outfits seen on their TV scenes, at Set on King St. W.
It works like this: Let’s say you, a Gloria copycat, yearn for the nautical-patterned, short-sleeved wrap dress worn in season 5, episode 15; or a $158 Cache Animal print dress (season 5 episode 12); or, if your budget is elastic, a $1,500 Roberto Cavalli dress (season 5 episode 24).
Once you have downloaded the app, (available onAndroid/Blackberry devices now and for Apple iOS in mid-July) you navigate to the episode you’re watching (or one that’s cached), choose Gloria from the list of characters, and all the outfits she wears are displayed. Another click and you’re buying your dream gown.
It’s similar to the Shazam-meets-Instagram fashion app Trendabl, but for TV. So far, StyleID is one of a kind. It doesn’t depend on image recognition, like other fashion apps, and it’s focused only on television shows. At the moment it includes a collection of nearly two-dozen popular shows including Girls, Glee, The Vampire Diaries and The Crazy Ones.
StyleID is an unlikely venture for founder Juma. When she came up with the idea more than two years ago, it was partially a fix for her own wardrobe dilemma.
“I’m probably the least fashionable person you’ll meet,” Juma says. “When I see a look on TV that would be perfect for me, I want that look. But I could never pull it together on my own.”
While doing her research, Juma was surprised to learn TV stylists aren’t just foraging the racks at the High Street retailers, but pulled from a variety of price points.
Take Olivia Miles-Payne, who dressed actors Sarah Michelle Gellar and Robin Williams for the first 15 episodes of The Crazy Ones. Typically her budget is somewhere in the $15,000 to $20,000 range per episode.
Her wardrobe considerations depend, unsurprisingly, on the amount of money she has to spend. But beyond that, she needs to make sure the whims of actors are consistent with reality.
“There’s nothing worse than watching a teen show and you know they’re wearing Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, things that are out of reach for most kids that age,” says Miles-Payne, who’s based in Los Angeles but is currently on location in Miami for Ride Along 2.
Miles-Payne spends as much time in department stores like Barneys, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s as indie boutiques. To make her outfits stand out, she mixes in custom pieces and vintage.
Her favourite brands for Michelle Gellar, whose style she describes on The Crazy Onesas a “fun mix and match casual office look,” include Parker, Tibi, Rebecca Taylor, J Brand Jeans, Ted Baker, Rag & Bone and Helmut Lang.
“If I splurged on an item for an actor, there’s usually a less expensive version that can be had,” Miles-Payne says. “I’m trying to help people find that.”
To the undiscerning eye, what an actor wears could be seen as limited edition haute couture and priced out of reach for an aspirational stargazer. But take Gloria’s marine-inspired garment: It’s actually part of Vergara’s own line at K-Mart, Sofia, and it sells for less than $30.
Even with the high-end offerings, like Michelle Gellar’s $475 Marc Jacobs Isa print silk top (season 1, episode 18), there’s a silver lining. Typically, clothing is at least a season behind by the time an episode airs, meaning it’s already heavily discounted when bargain hunters see it on StyleID.
While the app caters to a predominantly female audience, Juma would like to expand the list to TV shows, geared toward men and, eventually music videos. Beyond clothing, she hopes to showcase set designs.
Juma, who previously worked in the music industry, was able to tap into connections to build her StyleID network. Costume designers have embraced the idea, mostly because they’re getting accolades for what they do.
She made up for her lack of technical expertise by joining Kitchener startup hub Communitech in 2012 and recruiting her brother-in-law, a developer, as a co-founder. Revenue comes from three different streams. Every time someone clicks on a link to a retailer, she earns four to eight cents. She also gets a commission on sales and sells data back to brands.