In the past few months we’ve profiled a number of fashion startups in Boston, and we’re really excited to share yet another one. ShopRagHouse–deemed “a fashion collective” by its founders, Harvard Law graduates Joana Florez and Bridgette L. Hylton–allows users to both upload their own clothing designs, and vote for their favorite design submissions from others. The sketches with the most votes actually get made, and the designer gets a cut of the profits.
The best part? “Designers” actually need no fashion or design experience at all, just a point of view or a great idea. So, if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “If Jessica Simpson can design clothes, I can design clothes,” you’ve finally got a chance to prove it. Ahead of their upcoming Kickstarter campaign, we took some time to chat with ShopRagHouse, and here’s what they had to say.
SHOPRAGHOUSE IS A “FASHION COLLECTIVE.” WHAT IS A FASHION COLLECTIVE?
We coined the term fashion collective as we started refining our business model. We think it evokes the idea that fashion belongs to the people who love it. We aim to make our users feel like they are in control of the direction that our product takes by submitting their designs and voting and funding new pieces, they are the “we” behind ShopRagHouse. We think the days of editors and stylists dictating what style is are over. We want to hear from the people!
WHERE DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE COMPANY?
It was in the throes of launching our own fashion line that we came up with the concept for ShopRagHouse. We saw first hand how difficult it was to break into the industry and how expensive. For some emerging designers, the costs can be prohibitive. For others, they lack the industry know how – how to get high quality patterns and samples made. We wanted to make the industry more accessible for fashion lovers everywhere.
More than that, at the root of our desire to launch a line was our belief that we had something to say when it came to fashion and style, and that would be true even if we weren’t interested in launching an entire collection. We believe, and we now know from talking to fashion enthusiasts all over the world, that many of us feel that way – that we have something to add to the conversation. We want fashion lovers to have a fun and easy way to share their ids. Even if you upload just one dress or vote in one competition, you can let your voice be heard and we can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
IS IT TRUE YOU STARTED WITH JUST $1,000 IN FUNDING?
That’s right. We’re a lean startup. Each month we try to spend less than $1000 on making the business go. That includes web hosting and publicity. We’ll be launching our kickstarter in a few weeks and even if we get funding, we plan to continue to operate using lean principles.
CAN ANYONE SUBMIT A DESIGN?
Yes. Literally anyone. We believe that anyone – literally anyone- can be a designer – even two retired lawyers with a penchant for bold prints and high-end fashion at cutthroat prices and no formal design experience whatsoever. That’s why we’ve made the design process as straightforward as possible. If you can draw a stick figure and explain what she’s wearing, you can be a designer on ShopRagHouse. We’ve even hired artists to turn your fashion scratches into fashion sketches so you don’t have to be self-conscious about your artistic ability. It’s a little known fact, but some of the greatest designers in the world aren’t necessarily world-class artists. We’re working hard every day to make the process even more accessible. We just launched an integrated paint application on our page called Sumopaint – users can design right on our site using our template or their own. Stay tuned for more updates soon!
The beauty of ShopRagHouse is that you don’t need to know how to draw, sketch, sew, make a pattern – we do all the heavy lifting because we want to see beautiful designs turned into reality. We want to work together to take them from sketch to closet.
WHAT SORTS OF DESIGNS ARE MOST POPULAR RIGHT NOW?
Right now we are focused on dresses. Our first capsule collection that we are hoping to fund through our kickstarter features 3-5 dresses. But we’re hoping to expand into other arenas as well – like children’s and menswear.
ARE THE PIECES SOLD ON YOUR SITE, TOO?
Absolutely. Designs that win any of our Project Runway style competitions will be turned into samples and be made available for pledging on our site. Any time a design gets enough pledges, it’s sold and shipped to the people who have pledged to buy it.
WHAT’S YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR COMPANY?
Our hope is that ShopRagHouse will be a creative outlet and powerhouse for fashion enthusiasts like us everywhere. Of course we would love to find the next great designer, but more importantly, we want to have fun with fashion, because for us, that’s what fashion is all about.
WHY WILL FASHIONISTAS LOVE THIS SITE?
Fashion enthusiasts will love our site because it lets you be the designer, the editor, and the buyer. You tell us what you want to wear.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE BOSTON FOR THE LOCATION OF YOUR COMPANY, OVER MORE FASHION-FORWARD CITIES LIKE, SAY, NEW YORK?
Boston made sense for us for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that there is a growing fashion startup community here. We really see this as a growing hub for fashion tech and wanted to be a part of the action. Also, we’re close enough here to access the New York City fashion world if we need to, without being caught up in the middle of it, which sort of fits in with what we are trying to do, if you think about: we’re industry outsiders trying to show that fashion doesn’t belong to NYC. It belongs with the people who love it.
HOW CAN READERS SUPPORT SHOPRAGHOUSE?
We’re launching our Kickstarter campaign soon. You can also show us some love by registering at www.shopraghouse.com and connecting with us on social media www.facebook.com/shopraghouse, www.twitter.com/theraghouse, www.pinterest.com/shopraghouse