What are two things people love? I know the answer to that question could be millions of different combinations, but for the purpose of this article lets focus on shopping and selfies.
Now before you start protesting that you hate shopping and that you’ve never taken a selfie, I’d like to point out two things:
1. I didn’t say YOU love shopping; I said PEOPLE love shopping.
2. Don’t lie. Everyone has taken at least one selfie.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the reason I’m bringing up these two self-indulgences is because I’ve stumbled across a startup that combines both of them in one place. Modreal is a Canadian startup that’s looking to disrupt how the fashion industry does its thing by putting the power to influence brands directly in the hands of consumers.
How do they do it? Keep reading to find out.
What’s Modreal’s vision?
At Modreal, we believe in people’s will to dress well and always improve their style. We are looking to create an online lookbook that will allow them to become fashion influencers for the brands and designers they love, all around the world, and help them build the next trends – clothes that everyday people would love to see in stores or online.
What’s the story behind Modreal?
That is a good one. Modreal was originally called younique and we wanted to create an online blog where our users would be able to share the trends when it comes to fashion or places in the cities that people hadn’t yet discovered.
After three weeks of research and meetings with some serial entrepreneurs, we decided to pivot. Three months ago, we had the wake up call. We were shopping in a retail store, and we could not stop thinking about how there were so many cool clothes on the shelves but that, sometimes, some pieces that were just not right for the current trends.
That is why we decided to build Modreal: to let the users, but also the brands, solve that problem. Today, we are incubated in Toronto by INcubes and we are looking forward to showing what we are building for the fashion industry.
Where’d you get the name?
I believe that was the hardest task on our list. We had different names in the past, and we finally decided to go with Modreal.
Every fashionista, model, designer and fashion-lover I approach, always sees the link with Montréal. That is the first thing that comes in mind, which is what we wanted. Montréal is a beautiful city and the fashion community is insane. There are over 1,000 specialized shops all around the city, and we are proud to be from there.
The second meaning of our name is not always easy to see. Modreal comes from two words: Mode – the French word for fashion, and real, as “Real Fashion” – everyday people, everyday styles.
How many people are on your team? How many were on it when you started?
When I started younique, I had two co-founders with me, but they are no longer with us. We are currently a team of four. Alexander Ostrow is our Chief Technical Officer and he is a machine. He can code 12 hours straight, and when I ask him: “Do you want a beer?” he responds “Yes”… two hours later.
We also brought a great addition to our team during INcubes, our Digital Media Director, Madison Adrian Adapoe. Adrian worked with some global brands such as Buffalo Jeans, and has years of experience in social media. He is also a hilarious dude who loves to have fun.
During INcubes, we also had the chance to add (finally) a female touch to our team when we got Arielle Domb on board. She is our Brand & Marketing Manager, and is in charge of our social presence, events, and coming up with some out of the box ideas to promote Modreal in a near future.
I know you guys are tapping into the “selfies” phenomenon, which, by the way, I think is brilliant. One little issue comes to mind and that’s the fact that a lot of selfies are highly sexualized or show only the face and upper body. Is that something you guys have thought about?
If so, how are you dealing with it?
There are different kinds of selfies out there. We are targeting more the mico-communities that are currently in different sub-reddits, Instagram and Tumblr hashtags. Those people are used to uploading pictures of themselves in their outfits and seeking advice. If we bring them on board at an early stage, they will be the ones showing all of the new users how the pictures must look.
I believe face and upper body only photos will still be posted, but most of the time, they will end up by not being popular because they are not featuring the designers and brands enough for people to comment, and give you feedback, or recommend pieces.
When it comes to the sexual aspect: we realized that issue a long time ago. We saw how girls on Facebook or other social networks are always receiving weird and creepy comments from guys. Modreal will introduce a way to block people, report them, but also if you want, simply disable/enable the comment field.
Do people upload their own photos to the site? Do you filter through them?
Modreal is a user-generated platform. All of the photos uploaded are via the web or (coming soon) mobile app. We give them a first look to insure that there is nothing vulgar, sexual or racist about it, but we cannot monitor everything, obviously. So the users will be the ones reporting the posts by flagging them and we will be taking care of unwanted content pretty quick.
How exactly does the connection between what people are wearing and the brands work? Did you write an algorithm or is it something you have to do manually?
When the user creates a new outfit, he will import or upload his photo and as soon as the photo is uploaded/imported, he will be able to tag the designers or the brands he is currently wearing. We created our own database of brands and designers, so they will easily be able to find the right ones.
If the designer and the brand do not exist, they can always request an addition to the list, and we will jump right on it. Each tag will create a unique page for each brand and designer, where all content, products and users will be featured in different categories. The initial connection has been created.
Now, it is your time to shine, and influence other people all around the network. Build your fan base, upload more outfits for those brands, and be rewarded with a gift! Everything you comment and give advice on regarding the products will be noticed by the brands in their own customized Modreal dashboards. By being an influencer, everything you say will help the brands release new lines that are more appropriate to your needs. The next trends are in your hands.
How has your experience been with INcubes?
A lot of up and downs during the program. Sometimes I can work twelve hours straight in the office and end up sleeping there. Now that you remind me, I feel like they need to get some couches there, because sleeping on the chairs, or the conference room table with some t-shirts on it, is not always cool!
But, yeah, the experience so far has been very, very great. We had the chance to meet so many great entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors who have helped us build different aspects of our business. The exec team is a bunch of very nice dudes who are always around to help us with anything we need.
I believe that any startup should participate in an accelerator program, because it is definitely a good learning experience, and a good boost for your business.
When are you guys looking to launch?
We are looking to release an early stage product by Demo Day (September 10, 2013) and release weekly updates for a month or two before releasing the public beta. We believe in the whole community-driven concept. We know the future features and where we are going, however our users will be able to give us feedback and suggestions, and any users will be able to see them, and up-vote the best ideas, and comment on them. The most popular features will be discussed within our team, and be eventually added to the shit-to-do list. The future of Modreal is in our early stage user’s hands.
Anything else you’d like to add before I let you go?
There is always something to add! I would not because it will be considered as another interview. Just wanted to thank you for this interview, and hope that you and your readers will be looking forward using Modreal as soon as it is out. We appreciate all feedback we get from people, and we are definitely pumped to see how it turns out. If you want to be the first one to use Modreal Alpha, make sure you register on Modreal.com