Outfittery is an online and app-based personal shopping service for men that allows customers to talk with a stylist, upload a few selfies and receive a personalized box of two to three full outfits in the mail, which they can keep or send back.
Alex, 30, co-founded the company with former Zalando colleague Julia Bösch just three years ago.
They have since expanded into eight countries with 100,000 customers total and recently launched an English-language site for expats.
What was your experience before Outfittery and what inspired you to create it?
I was working for Rocket Internet, and that’s where I got to know e-commerce. I saw this huge potential in the menswear market, but what really inspired Outfittery was when we were actually in New York and a friend of ours used a personal shopper for himself.
After a few hours, he was coming out of the shop and was totally amazed, happy and said ‘This is such a cool experience, I now have everything I need for the next six months. I don’t need to do any shopping anymore.’
We recognized that this could really be the perfect male-user experience and then we tried to figure out how we could bring this online.
Julia and I, in the years before, would talk in the middle of the night and figure out business ideas and so on. At a certain point we said ‘Okay, let’s do it. Let’s quit our jobs and start.’
I still remember New Year’s Eve 2011 and we were celebrating together and saying ‘Okay, this is going to be the year and we’re starting tomorrow.’
You started the company when you were both in your twenties, at 27. What was that like?
I never cared about age that much, but it was good for me that I at least had some working experience before I started this company. This is what I would advise anybody as well who wants to found their own company, to have this first because you just recognize a little bit how businesses work and learn about the tools that you need if you want to found a start-up.
In the end, as soon as you feel comfortable and you’re eager enough and you just want to do it, then the age doesn’t matter.
Why did you decide to focus on menswear?
We saw a huge potential in the menswear space. Men have been neglected for a long time in fashion.
It’s just now actually that the brands are realizing that this whole menswear space, there’s so much in it and it’s really, really heating up as well from the brand side.
Back then, it was like ‘Okay, men don’t like shopping.’ Most online shops still today focus on womenswear and we saw that men are just a great target group and there’s no need to neglect them in terms of fashion. You just need to understand them.
Men are a very, very loyal target group if you get them right, in terms of fashion. With a male customer, you see the kind of thinking more often of ‘first, I want to buy everything and then I want to have this off my to-do list for the next few months.’
On the other hand, women enjoy going out and buying one piece here and another piece there. It’s kind of different shopping behavior, and this is not just the cliché, but what you see in reality.
When did you start to see the company become more popular?
We saw customers who came back and said, ‘I got one box and now I want another box’, which is the highest sign of quality that you could have for your service.
I have been asked, ‘When did you know that you were going to be successful’, and my answer is that we still see so many things and we internally just know how much we want to grow.
We don’t say we are successful now. We want to go even further, and I think that is what really drives us.
Has starting this company impacted your own ideas on fashion?
Totally, I learned so much about it. It’s a very interesting industry. You need to get it right, you need to have good relationships with the brands since this plays a very important role in the quality of the stock that you get from them.
It has also influenced my own style as well, since Julia and I are actually the only women who have their own stylists here. We wanted to get the same experience as our customers.
The tech scene tends to be more male-dominated and you are two women, founding a start-up in men’s fashion. How has that been?
To be honest, it has been great fun. There are so many men who think they know what women want, so we said we are doing it the other way around. It could really be an advantage if you are at so many events and you are the only women.
But across the whole start-up scene, having female founders is heating up as well, it’s taking off, and we see more and more women.
If we could contribute a little bit at least to being role models for strong women out there and to encourage them to found their own companies, I’d be very happy about that.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Work in some start-ups for a few years. Learn how things work and what’s happening in the company and with outside partners and investors as well. And then, just do it.