For nelou Co-Founder Regine Harr, what started as a passing thought has grown into an international fashion community for independent designers. Harr and Co-Founder Boris Berghammer have created a retail site that features nearly 500 independent designers from all over the globe.
While numerous sites these days specialize in fashion by independent designers, nelou stands out for offering a retail site, print magazine and nelou.tv alongside a wide variety of designers from 30 countries.
Founded and based in Berlin, Harr and Berghammer made the move this spring to Silicon Valley as part of the German Silicon Valley Accelerator program. We recently got the chance to chat with Harr about technology’s influence on the way we shop, Silicon Valley culture and the ever-evolving fashion landscape.
Read on for more from this style-savvy entrepreneur.
How did nelou get its start? What led you into the realm of online, independent fashion?
All girls can recall situations where we were wearing the same or similar dress as someone else during an event. We also see people on the street and think to ourselves, I have the same jumper or jacket. This is when I thought that there needed to be a solution to the problem. Where are all the independent designers, those who produce in small quantities and have great inspiring designs? This got us started, and 18 months later we have close to 500 designers from 30 countries.
You’re in Silicon Valley as part of the German Silicon Valley Accelerator program. What’s different about the technology and fashion scenes here compared with back home?
Here, everything is MUCH bigger. Here, if you have an idea – go for it, just do it. No one looks at you like you are completely crazy. Being published almost ensures that many people will read about you. Yet with that said, people seem to be more laid back at the same time.
With your move to the Valley, how do you hope to expand the business from here in the States?
We acknowledge the fact that there are better places in the United States from which we should expand the business. Hence, we are thinking of moving to New York eventually. Right now we are working on cooperating with bigger fashion brands, as well as celebrities.
As a company at the intersection of fashion and technology, how do you think technology is changing fashion and vice versa?
Technology is clearly changing the way we perceive the world, as it allows us to have access to what is happening on other side of the globe at any given moment. If I can see a beautiful dress from Australia on Facebook, why not purchase it as well? Technology has also changed the way we are influenced by fashion. Today, people blog about everything and anything they find and love. People are not concerned about being someone else’s billboard any more, but expressing themselves. The internet has clearly supported that trend. Consumers vote with their dollars, because they want to set trends themselves.
How do you think social media is changing the way consumers shop today?
Social media is democratizing the way fashion is consumed. Everyone can share pictures of what they like or what they wear. They can ask their friends for opinions on what looks better on them and people love that. In addition, blogging really changed the fashion world. Everyone can express an opinion nowadays, and magazines are reacting to that trend.
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of social media to growing a fashion brand today. In what ways has social media had a positive effect on nelou’s growth?
Social media has changed the way we perceive fashion. In the 80’s and 90’s, we were very brand-conscious society. We would stress our parents to give us more money in order to be able to buy a certain brand. Today, it is clear that those times are over. Nowadays, consumers want to discover and not be told. You are what you eat, but you are also what you wear. It is important that we make sure we express our view of the world by what we consume and how we move through the world. The food industry is clearly ahead with people really caring for what they eat; but fashion is now following, and social media is the driver behind it.
You’ve likened nelou to a YouTube for discovering designers. What is similar about the YouTube experience and shopping on nelou?
YouTube allows emerging music artists to upload their music to be discovered, so anyone who wants to discover music trends from around the world will first search on YouTube. nelou provides that in fashion. Anyone who wants to discover and set trends comes to nelou. And as a designer, you have finally found a platform on which you can present your work.
With your web site, magazine and nelou.tv, you have multiple channels through which consumers can access your business. How has offering a variety of entry points benefited shoppers and designers?
Experience has shown us that consumers love a great shopping experience. Knowing who a designer is behind a label creates that much more trust. In addition, being entertained while shopping is important, which is why all our channels are relevant.
What’s next for nelou? Any exciting future projects or news you can tell us about?
We will be part of the Fashion Show in the Clift Hotel on the 28th of July, which we are really excited about. We are also in talks with some other major fashion shows, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that those fall into place as well.