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Street Style for Sale: Like.com and Weardrobe Sell Blogger's Looks

A quiet revolution is taking place in the world's blogs. Munjal Shah, CEO of shopping network Like.com, explains, "Fashion used to be about a monarchy. Then it was about the elite, but today, the action is much more grassroots and the street style culture is on the front line." Street style, for those who aren't a part of the community, rejects glossy mag aesthetics and expensive, top-brand fetishism for the idea that the coolest and most fashionable individuals are on the street. Photographers and bloggers snap smart-looking passersby, then write about what they like about their respective looks. Some, like Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist or pre-teen prodigy Tavi Williams' of Style Rookie, have made a lucrative career out of it.

So when Like.com, a visual search engine that has generated over $100 million in sales, wanted to transform itself into a more organic, user-friendly community, Shah went right to the source. Today, Like.com announced its acquisition of Weardrobe, a street-style community that connects novice and popular bloggers, allowing burgeoning fashionistas to post and comment on each others' looks. Now, thanks to the partnership, Like.com's search capability (titled 'Likesense,' a la Google's AdSense) aesthetically identifies items in street images, and then offers browsers the opportunity to buy online.

Initially, only the front page, which features selected "looks of the day," will get the Likesense treatment. Weardrobe founder Suzanne Xie explains that eventually the entire site will be searchable using Like.com. "I think it's a great fit," Xie explains. "Of course, we will continue to refine." Her method for finding what works? "Our community is very vocal, so we are going to really be testing it on them." Shah thinks this is the best way for natural growth as well, stating, "Style bloggers are really a different kind of shopper. They are knowledgeable, but they might want something that resembles or has the same type of vibe of a garment, but with a tweak."

Like.com sought out Switched to explain its new venture after we covered its e-shopping site Covet. Like Covet, Likesense hopes to impose an exact science onto a fickle practice: choosing clothes. "(Word) tags aren't necessarily that helpful," Shah says. "Stripes can be thin or thick, horizontal or vertical. A picture is worth more, and Likesense goes in, defines similar shapes, and selects similarities from our database." That database benefits from the service's 5,000 suppliers, which include Delia*s and Nordstrom. Unfortunately, because style bloggers are some of the most voracious and knowledgeable sartorialists out there, tastes do tend toward more independent or high-end designers, as opposed to Sears, for instance (although Shah explains more retailers are coming shortly).


The service, for the most part, works. When a user scrolls through featured looks, two items are highlighted by Likesense. When of the two is clicked, variations on the article are shown. Decent facsimiles appear, but every now and then, strange items pop up (like an inappropriate pair of jogging pants or construction boots). The real problem, of course, is that part of street style's charm is its frequent inclusion of vintage or custom-made clothes. For instance, a search for "vintage leather skirt" yields a Nike tennis skirt and a couple floor-length numbers, alongside a gorgeous wrap miniskirt (albeit a $400 one). After narrowing down the price (to not $400) and the material (not polyester), we received a fair number of similar skirts. However, to get the real McCoy, any budget style maven knows to head to eBay -- a service from which Like.com doesn't cull.

That being said, Weardrobe does represent the first step toward a world in which you could see an attractive dress on the street, and buy it immediately. Though only featured looks are currently available on Weardrobe, the entire site will soon have access to Likesense, meaning that you'll be able to simply snap a picture, upload it, and leave the equation to do its work. Of course, vigilant browsing will never become obsolete, as Likesense works best as an exploration tool, unfolding different products and search categories. Yet, remember, as we've said before, no matter how advanced the equation, program, or e-shopper becomes, there will never be a stand-in for pure good taste.


Tags: covet, e-shopping, fashion, features, geek chic, GeekChic, like.com, shopping, top, weardrobe

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