Clothia Lets Users Take Their Closets Online

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Elena Silenok
Elena Silenok
To all the former adolescents of the '90s who watched "Clueless" countless times and wondered if Cher Horowitz's digitized closet could be real in some parallel universe: There's a startup for you now.

Among the ranks of startups competing in the increasingly crowded "fashion-tech" space in New York like Stylyt, which lets the fashion-obsessed lend their design eye to brands, Clothia enables users to build an online closet out of pieces they own as well as items they covet. It allows them to solicit advice on how to mix and match items to create a look for a special occasion, or to peek into their friends' closets and peruse their wishlists, which founder Elena Silenok says would appeal to the sort of woman for whom shopping is a "competitive sport." It's in beta with both a website and an iPad application.

"The idea is that you can have a virtual closet where you can upload pictures of things you own and create a wishlist of things all over the web," said Ms. Silenok, who noted that, by and large, the online-shopping experience is the same as it was 15 years ago, with no way to gather opinions to make it more like shopping offline. Facebook might not be the right place to make shopping social, since the well-documented struggles of Facebook commerce suggest that users there are more comfortable with playing games or posting photos than they are with buying things, she added.

Clothia also includes augmented-reality technology to allow users to virtually try on a piece of clothing, simulating the experience of posing in front of a mirror with a hanger draped in front of you. There's a selection from about 100 different brands including Prada, Topshop and ModCloth, and users can use gesture control to take pictures of themselves with their webcam.

The Russian-born Ms. Silenok said the inspiration for Clothia (which she began developing in 2010) came from many viewings of "Clueless," but also from a problem she confronted when she moved to New York in 2006. Straight out of grad school at the University of California at San Diego, where she had gotten her master's in computer science, she had taken a job as lead developer for a startup funded by Bessemer Venture Partners and was struggling to figure out how to dress for work. The grad-school uniform of jeans would clearly never work for meetings with executives from financial-services firms.

"It was hard to strike that balance where I didn't look boring and corporate, but at the same time I didn't look like a slacker," she said. "I started shopping much more online and thought it would be so fun if I had a virtual closet."

Like the founder of almost any early-stage startup, Ms. Silenok is emphatic about nailing down the user experience before publicly discussing a revenue model, but noted that the rapid growth of e-commerce presents an obvious opportunity. From there, it's easy to imagine a future iteration where brands would pay to have their goods featured on Clothia or even where sales could happen on the platform itself. Retail brands are seeing the potential in the intersection of commerce and social experiences online, evidenced by their fascination with Pinterest.

Clothia has five employees and seed funding from a group that includes General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, angel investor Chris Dixon and David Kidder, co-founder of the ad-tech company Clickable. While she now has developers on her team, Ms. Silenok says she coded much of it herself.

"I don't just wear 5-inch heels -- I can actually code," she said.

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