Liam Houlahan, who studied software development at Manukau Institute of Technology, is the founder of the Wear It Her Way website.
He says he had a light-bulb moment when he observed the shopping habits of a friend in a relationship.
The friend’s girlfriend would suggest clothes for him, and then he picked his preferred items from the range of choices she provided.
“As a single guy, I thought, ‘How could I do that easily and how do I make that accessible to all guys?’ In general, guys value girls’ opinions on what they wear,” Houlahan says.
“As we’ve gotten deeper into it, we found there are pains as to why guys don’t like shopping.”
He says it’s a culture thing with Kiwi males, as they generally don’t care enough to spend time researching new trends and browsing clothes in stores.
“The platform takes away those pains, as it allows guys to put in minimal time,” he says.
The website launched last year in November and now has over 1300 users.
The process is as follows: guys do a style request and refine what clothes they’re after through a set of filters, such as if they want dressy or casual-style clothes, warm or cool coloured clothes, and what their price range is.
They also have a profile, which gives potential buyers basic personal information such as their height, age and what their dress style is like.
Clothes are then pre-filtered to fit their choices, and girls make recommendations from the selection available as to which items they think match what the guy is after.
If the guy likes a girl’s recommendation and buys the item, it’s a win-win.
She gets store credit to use online at a website of her choice and he gets a properly-vetted piece of clothing.
It’s also a win-win for retailers who partner with Wear it Her Way, says Houlahan.
He says the platform drives sales and generates interest around featured products.
Currently, Hallensteins, FCUK, Topman and Asos are some of the retailers on board as affiliates.
Houlahan is keen to team up with more and form direct partnerships.
“We want to talk to New Zealand retailers and look at what opportunities we can create for them through our platform,” he says.
Houlahan and Amaka Gessler, who’s in charge of business development and marketing at Wear it Her Way, are two weeks into a three-month mentoring programme with Lightning Lab, a digital accelerator.
Pictured: Houlahan and Gessler
Wear it Her Way was one of nine businesses selected from over 200 applicants.
It received an initial $18,000 in seed funding from Lightning Lab and gets to pitch to potential investors for more funding at the end of the course.
“The Lightning Lab is going to help us develop the company so it’s in line with what each part of our markets need or want,” Houlahan says.
“We’re going to work out what guys, girls and retailers want, then we’ll raise investment, scale it up and take it global.”
There are other companies overseas that offer similar services.
Trunkclub, a personal styling service for men, was acquired by Nordstrom in 2014 for reportedly US$350 million.
Another similar business is Threads Styling, a styling service for both men and women in the UK.
Houlahan says Wear it Her Way is unique from its overseas competitors in its use of social media as a tool.
Site users can sign up using their Facebook accounts, and guys can crowdsource girls via Facebook by sending their Facebook friends a request to sign up.
Houlahan says he also plans on making an app for the site in the near future.
He is keen to hear from any retailers who are interested in being a part of the site or want to chat about what the website could offer them.
To get in touch with him, email Liam@wearitherway.com.