In Dubai entrepreneur Heidi Shara's experience, the run-up to a fun night out often entails girls congregating at one friend's house to get dressed for the evening together. Out come backup trousers, alternative dresses and another pair of shoes from tote bags full to the brim with these second-choice outfits, along with a cosmetics bag bulging with make-up. "Should I wear this, or that?" is a question often posed to the group met with a resounding "that" as friends point to the winning number.
Played out weekend after weekend, this scenario inspired Shara to name her fashion venture Wear That.
Connect with stylists
The online personal-styling business allows users to create their profiles, chat with stylists and receive a box full of hand-picked fashion items. They can try everything on from the comfort of their homes, keep what they like and return the rest. It’s a service aimed to appeal to those who are short on time, lack the confidence to style trendy outfits, or don’t enjoy going to shopping malls where the choices can often seem overwhelming.
"Wherever I've worked, I've always heard the same statements from women: 'I don't know what to wear' and, 'I don't know what suits me'. So I created Wear That to solve this problem on a large scale. I knew there was a gap in the market for online styling as I was already helping out my friends for work and parties. However, I wanted to create a platform that allowed women to look and feel amazing with the help of technology and data," says Shara, who worked as a fashion buyer for 14 years – most recently at Chalhoub Group and MaxMara Group – before launching her start-up.
Choose your aesthetic
With a stylish and minimalist aesthetic, the Wear That interface is designed in a palette of millennial pink and pistachio green, and the language is kept snappy with phrases such as “Where life gets good” and “Start the magic”. Shara wanted to keep the process simple, and clients who visit Wearthat.me start by creating their style profile through a survey that takes about three minutes to complete.
Questions involve determining the user's body shape, colouring, budget, style and mood. A one-time fee of Dh105 provides the opportunity to chat to the stylist assigned to each person (Shara currently has a team of four, each an expert in a different theme, such as bohemian, streetwear and classic), to begin "building outfits". A week later, clients can expect to receive a box delivered to their door made up of about 10 pieces. "You keep what you love, return what you don't," says Shara, adding that users are only billed for what they keep and returns are collected free of charge.
Aimed at 'real girls'
This type of personalised shopping service was usually reserved for wealthy VIP consumers, but Shara says making her business accessible to mainstream women has been a priority. Pop-ups are one way in which she introduces the brand to potential clients. "They're definitely part of our offline marketing strategy as it is a great way to put a face to our online brand. It is super-important for us to engage with our #realgirls – what we call our clients as they are super-cool girls with real jobs doing real things – and see what they are looking for," she explains.
While some clients may use the service for general, everyday clothing, others seek Wear That's services for occasions such as a birthday party, holiday or formal event. "If you want to focus on looks for work in your first box and casual for your second, you can advise your stylist, who will personalise it for you," says Shara. "You can also tell us how many items you wish to receive, how frequently you want your boxes, and add Pinterest links and screenshots, so it is really personal. With your first box, we also offer the chance to come meet your stylist in a one-to-one session, so she can give you styling tips and tricks."
High street meets designer
While UAE residents are typically perceived as brand-conscious, Shara says so far clients have sought out a combination of designer and high-street brands. "We can offer you a really cool designer tee, but put it with jeans from the high street or vice versa. It's about building up essentials in your wardrobe, investing in key pieces and knowing the items to save on," she says. Wear That currently has an ever-growing variety of brands in its portfolio, such as Nobody Denim and Astr The Label, with different prices and styles to cater to diverse tastes.
Shara is confident the UAE has an appetite for her concept. “Aside from the demand for a service that provides convenience, people are open to and excited about revolutionising the way we shop,” she says. Between recruiting fashion labels, seeking out more stylists to add to the team, organising pop-ups and developing the tech side of her website, Shara has her work cut out for her. “Start-up life is crazy – no day, week or month is ever the same,” she says. One thing’s for sure: the Wear That founder is sure to have stylish outfits at the ready for whatever the rest of the year has in store for her.