Let the shop come to you: an online personal stylist for men

Enclothed.co.uk combines the convenience of online shopping with sartorial assistance

Is there any need for all that old-fashioned going outdoors these days? Photograph: Thinkstock

Is there any need for all that old-fashioned going outdoors these days? Photograph: Thinkstock

 

It all started with a measuring tape in a kitchen. When Levi Young and Dana Zingher decided to set up an online style and shopping service for men, they began by measuring as many men as they could. “We started with my father [the musician Paul Young], my brothers and as many others as possible: what size T-shirts they wore, inside leg, waist and chest measurements, sleeve lengths, neck and shoe size,” says Young.

Enclothed.co.uk was launched just over a year ago,and it has gone from small beginnings to a thriving online business. It was recently selected as one of the top 100 start-ups in 2014 by Startups.co.uk. Customers who sign up for the service input their size, style and preferences. An algorithm turns that information into a profile of the shopper for the in-house stylists. The clients are asked about preferred brands and a box of clothes is then dispatched to them.

“One of the first things we realised was that brand sizes are all different, and we knew that was going to be a significant issue – we ask customers for a basic idea of what brands fit them well. For instance, a Ted Baker shirt might be shorter on the sleeve than one from Hackett,” says Young. The women – who have backgrounds in finance, fashion and marketing – aimed their site at men who don’t necessarily hate shopping but who want to look well, have little time or inclination for trawling shops and are overwhelmed by shopping online.

Enclothed has about 30 premium brands from which it draws items for customers starting from high-end high-street names such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ted Baker up to Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and some boutique labels. “It’s really about staple pieces; the essential items a man might need,” says Young. “It’s not necessarily fast fashion, but [finding that] navy blazer or the right chinos: versatile items that last.”

The site targets men from their late 20s to mid-40s. Enclothed has a 70 per cent return rate; the 30 per cent of purchases that are kept comprise an average of three to four items, usually an outfit. Prices are the same as shop prices and there’s free delivery and collection service. “Customers like the ease of everything coming to them and trying clothes on at home instead of queuing for a changing room,” says Young.

We put it to the test with two guinea pigs in the office. Here are their reports.

 

XConor Pope

When a woman called Sara Jane offers to buy me clothes, I say yes, but I’m pretty sure it won’t pan out well. I am sure she’s going to get it all wrong. How can she not? Sara Jane is no doubt very stylish and clued-in to the latest trends, but she has never met me.

She knows nothing about me, apart from my basic measurements, a couple of shops I visit when the money gods smile and the fact I would rather not be dressed like Alan Partridge (aha).

But as I rummage through the box of clothes she has delivered a week later, it quickly becomes clear that not only has she been able to identify clothes I will like, she has also picked things I am sure I am going to love, actually. It is almost as if she knows me better than I know myself.

There are a dozen items in the big Enclothed box, from high-end outlets such as Ted Baker, All Saints and Reiss – shops I had ticked when doing my online assessment. But while I am familiar with all the labels she sends, at least half the box is made up of things I would never have bothered to try on, mostly because I am an impatient shopper who thinks he know what he likes. But it is these items that please me most.

The tan brogue-style boots from H by Hudson, which would never have caught my eye had they been in a shop, turn me into some class of 21st-century male Cinderella the moment I slip them on. I would have looked at the Ted Baker chinos with suspicion – they are burgundy, after all – but it turns out that I love them too.

And I would have turned my nose up at the navy Reiss blazer because of the grey flecks, but, once I have it on in the comfort of my own living room, I can identify its charms far more clearly than if it were hanging on a clothes rack.

There are some misses, for sure. A pair of slim-fitting All Saints chinos look great before I try them on – almost identical to at least three pairs I already own, in fact – but once on, I realise they are so tight on the leg that they make me look like Rod Stewart and I can’t pull them off (in more ways than one). I wouldn’t be one for button-down-collared polo shirts – or any class of polo shirt – but Sara Jane couldn’t have known.

Enclothed is not a model for everyone, but if you have the money it is a great service that takes the hassle out of shopping. It introduces you to new things in the comfort of your home as opposed to cramped changing rooms policed by unctuous sales assistants who will tell you black is white to get a sale.

Unlike Sara Jane. She would never do that. She knows best.

 

FDan Griffin

On the subject of Irish men’s dress sense, a female friend once remarked: “Irish men would be fine if they just let their girlfriends dress them.” Bootcut jeans, tracksuits, football jerseys – we Irish men can’t dress ourselves properly, it seems.

So for those of us without girlfriends, or with girlfriends who couldn’t be bothered choosing our clothes, this online menswear retailer could solve our sartorial problems.

I fill out the survey on the website, ticking the photos of outfits that most closely resembled my style, which, if I was to describe it in a word, would be “Calvinist”: solid blacks, whites and greys with no patterns, branding or other distractions. A word others might use would be “boring”.

I think that a bit too nuanced for the online survey so I just put down “dark colours, no branding, no cardigans”.

A short while later my stylist gets in touch to ask whether I want to add anything before she picks out a selection of items for me. I reiterate the point about the cardigans and leave it at that.

The clothes arrive a week later and are fine – pretty much in keeping with what I have specified (except, that is, for a pyrotechnic pair of shoes straight out of some 1980s pimp movie). There is nothing wrong with the pieces, but there is just something about them that doesn’t quite suit me: Tommy Hilfiger jeans; a Hackett quilted jacket. It is all a bit “after-work pints with the guys in Doheny & Nesbitt”.But then, the more you use the service the better your stylist gets to know yours. I do like some items: a pair of grey trousers, one of the shirts. But would I use Enclothed again? Probably not. Irish men might be crap dressers, but we know what we like (and what we don’t). enclothed.co.uk

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