Archive | September 2012

WTH is an Accelerator??

Shawn and I have mentioned a few times that we’re currently taking part in a business accelerator in order to grow SeamBLiSS into a successful business; however, we never explained what the heck that meant! So sorry about that, in retrospect. Well, no more keeping you in suspense – I’m here to give our readers super-quick crash course on what a business accelerator is and what it does.

Srsly, what’s an accelerator?

An accelerator is a multi-month program during which very early stage startups are given business instruction, access to mentors and a small amount of startup capital in exchange for a percentage of equity (usually comparatively small). At the end of the program, the founders typically present their business at an event called “Demo Day”, which is attended by investors. If investors are interested in the venture, they can start makin’ a deal 🙂

How do accelerators benefit the entrepreneur?

Accelerators give the following to the accepted entrepreneurs:

  • Cash Money!! Well, in the form of an investment…
  • Industry Connections
  • Free office space, wifi, etc.
  • Access to mentors (shout out to the fab Jennifer Crews!) and angel investors
  • Legal and accounting advice
  • Instruction on business concepts like operations management, product plans, etc.
  • Feedback from real investors on decks and presentations
  • The chance to collaborate with the other entrepreneurs and bounce ideas off one another
  • Free food!!

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, look for accelerators that are in your geographic area and/or that are specific to your industry. Then get that business plan ready!! 🙂

Want to learn more about accelerators?

Check out SeamBLiSS’s accelerator, TechLaunch, based out of Clifton, NJ and Montclair State University. In fact, you can read this great article about TechLaunch from yesterday’s issue of the NJ Star Ledger – there’s a nice mention of SeamBLiSS in there!

Stay tuned for more updates on our “Adventures in Entrepreneurship”, especially as Demo Day approaches on November 1!!

Kristen P.

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Are Malls on the Way Out?

If you’re like me, the word “mall” conjures up images of teenage fun and good times with girlfriends. If you’re NOT like me, malls probably remind you of crowds, obnoxious young’ins, and pretty much general annoyance.  If you fall into the second camp, you might be pleased to know that malls as we know them are facing some serious challenges. But don’t get too excited – malls may yet have staying power!

“Let’s Go to the Mall…or Not”

Back in the day, the mall was where you could do all of your shopping. Also, it was pretty much the ONLY place where you could do all your shopping. Now you can pop online and buy whatever you want with the click of a button. While online shopping currently only makes up about 9% of retail sales, it certainly provides a challenge for traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Plus, getting to the nearest mall can be a real pain. You probably have to drive there, and if you’re trying to save on gas, you might choose to stay in your fuzzy slippies and hop online instead. I know that in my case, the coolest nearby mall is the Palisades in West Nyack, NY. In addition to paying for gas, we also have to pay a TOLL to get there!

Some shoppers are also finding malls less and less exciting. Many malls have the same stores, so it’s hard to find unique styles that no one else will have. Some consumers are turning to boutiques or vintage stores to find one-of-a-kind items and forgoing malls altogether. This is even true of teens, formerly malls’ biggest patrons, who are more and more seeking clothing that expresses their individuality (as discussed in this post about the decline of Abercombie & Fitch).

So What are Malls Doing About It?

While these challenges may seem pretty daunting, malls aren’t goin’ out like that. Malls are now focusing on the experience of shopping at the mall and the fun/socialization it can provide. Many malls, including the Palisades, are offering unique and exciting experiences OTHER than shopping, such as bowling, ice skating, and even a Ferris wheel, along with the usual restaurants and movie theaters. Malls are not just about the stores anymore!

Also, several malls are changing the type of stores that they include. Remember when the anchor stores in malls used to be department stores, and pretty high-end ones at that? Now anchor stores may not be clothing-related at all! For example, the Palisades has The Home Depot and Target as two of its anchor stores. Stores like these are bringing in different kinds of customers than malls have seen previously.

Will malls succeed in staying relevant in the face of recent challenges? Do you guys still shop at malls? What do you buy? Let us know in the comments!

Annnndddd here’s a video of Robin’s “Let’s Go to the Mall” from How I Met Your Mother, just ‘cause it’s funny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8pEzi1E5Og

Kristen P.

Bad Fit? Not Surprising…

Ever have trouble finding clothes that fit well? Well, you’re not alone. Also, it’s not your fault – the American sizing system is full of inconsistencies and just plain ridiculousness! Check out the following facts and stats:

  • 2/3 of all females consider themselves “special sized” or difficult to fit.
  • More than 60% of all American women are “plus size” i.e. size 14 or larger, but the plus size market only makes up 18% of total revenue in the apparel market for women.
  • 43% of American women are petite-sized, but petite clothing is hard to find, especially in” grown-up” stores. (MAN am I sick of punching 12-year old girls over sale jeans at Delia’s…)
  • Ill fit is the reason for about 40% of retail store apparel returns
  • 60% of all online apparel returns are due to fit problems
  • Most companies don’t follow standard sizing. Vanity sizing is also on the rise. For example, a woman who is a size 14 with regard to exact measurements may be able to fit into a size 10 at some stores.
  • Sizes vary even within a single brand! Some brands offer a variety of “fits” for the same size of jean, and these fits actually use different measurements.
  • A size 8 for one brand is likely NOT the same as the size 8 for another brand. If you don’t believe me, check out this chart.

So, next time you can’t find something that fits, don’t blame yourself for gaining/losing weight, being too short/tall or whatevs, blame the craziness of the current non-standardized sizing system. To get around the fit problem, get yourself measured by a professional or learn to take your own measurements. Go online to find the exact measurements for specific clothing items for specific brands – what exactly IS the bust measurement for a Ralph Lauren size-medium tee? Remember those brands that fit you well. Or consider buying custom-fitted clothing!

Do you have trouble finding clothes that fit well? How do you get around the problem? What are your go-to brands that fit you best? Let us know in the comments 🙂

Kristen P.

P.S. Here are my reference articles in case anyone wants to read more about apparel sizing:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2006/10/17/faith-based-sizing.html

http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/consuming-interests-blog/bal-consuming-retailers-fall-short-plus-size-women-20120914,0,5411461.story?track=rss

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/magazine/01plussize-t.html?pagewanted=all

Why Buy Handmade? Five Fast Reasons!

Ever think about buying handmade clothing? Maybe you’ve always wanted to, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Well, time to get on it (no pressure though)! Here are five quick reasons to buy handmade:

  1. It’s sustainable! When you buy handmade, you’re getting a one-of-kind piece, not a cheap mass-produced item. Also, you’re likely to hold on to it for awhile, rather than wearing it like once and then ripping it and having to toss it.
  2. It’s unique! Ever worry that you’ll show up at a party or event and some other chick will be wearing the same dress as you? Yeah, buying handmade can help you avoid that.
  3. It’s supportive of small/local businesses! By buying from a handmade artisan, you’re supporting his or her craft and livelihood.
  4. It’s cost-effective! Sure, maybe you’ll spend more initially on something handmade rather than something from Forever 21 or H&M. But since handmade items are higher quality, you’ll get more use out of it, which saves ya in the long run.
  5. It’s sweatshop-free! Mass-produced clothing tends to be manufactured in sub-standard conditions. By buying handmade, you’ll know that your clothing was produced ethically.

Well, there you go! Why do you buy handmade? Is it one or more of the reasons listed, or do you have other reasons? Let us know in the comments!

Kristen P.

Soles4Souls: Walking the Extra Mile for Those in Need

We’ve all heard the saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. While many charities and non-profits tend to focus on the “giving” part, Soles4Souls does both the giving AND the teaching; in fact, this company has made this proverb its mission.

Founder Wayne Elsy was inspired to give shoes to those in need after the Southeast Asia tsunami in 2004. The company distributes shoes to those in poverty and those affected by natural disasters; however, it ALSO delivers shoes as a means for those in developing economies to build their own businesses.

When I read that on the company’s website, I thought “How in the heck do they do that”? I mean, I understood the donation of shoes to the needy, as this is done by many charities, from the Salvation Army to TOMS Shoes. However, this “micro-enterprise” support is what makes Soles4Souls truly stand out. Not all shoes that are donated are usable right away– some are impractical, like most of my shoes would be if I gave them away! Others need repair. Soles4Souls distributes these shoes at a low cost to small businesses in developing areas, who then sell them for a profit.

What impresses me the most about Soles4Souls is the sustainability of its model; sustainability both in the environmental and economic sense of the word. Reusing and recycling unwanted shoes and apparel prevents these items from ending up in trash bags and landfills. The distribution of shoes to micro-businesses sustains families, and in turn, local economies in developing areas. By both giving and teaching, Soles4Souls is supporting a sustainable future for shoe donations around the world.

You can donate to Soles4Souls here.

Kristen P.

Where to Buy Handmade and One-of-a-Kind Apparel in NYC!

We at SeamBLiSS are passionate about emerging, independent and local designers! Whether through our site or through other means, we want ordinary people like us to have access to unique, one-of-a-kind fashion. Luckily for us, we live in the “cool fashion” capital of the world! Check out our top five NYC boutiques for unique, indie designs:

The Market NYC

“Mega” pop-up boutique showcasing the work of independent designers based in NYC. Offers not only apparel, but also accessories and home goods.

The Dressing Room

This awesome location is a combo between an emerging designer boutique, a bar, and a clothing exchange. Those are three things I like in one place…

Duo

Boutique offering a combination of vintage items and locally made apparel. Several labels, such as Haiiku and Bodkin, are also sustainably produced.

Kaight

This boutique is known for its green mission: to showcase one-of-a-kind, sustainably produced, and eco-friendly clothing.

Flirt Brooklyn

Not only can you buy handmade apparel at this charming boutique, you can also learn to sew your own at their Sewing Studio!

Did we leave anyone out? Where’s your favorite place to buy handmade or one-of-a-kind items? Let us know in the comments!

Kristen P.

Hot Models are not Enough! The Decline of A&F

Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek published this article about clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s current financial woes. The brand, known for its logoed tees and shirtless, ripped male models, is apparently not the teen favorite that it used to be. In fact, the company has lost about a third of its market value and plans to close up to 180 stores by the end of 2015.

Granted, I haven’t shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch since I was like 14, but I remember it being all the rage back in the day. All of the popular kids at my high school wore Abercrombie-emblazoned tees and hoodies, and the A&F and Hollister stores in my area mall were always incredibly crowded. I even remember that pop song where they sang “I like girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch” or something like that. Not so much anymore, apparently.

According to the Bloomberg article, the reason for this steep decline is the changing desires of Abercrombie’s youthful target market. Teens aren’t into fashion conformity anymore; they would rather stand out than blend in when it comes to their fashion choices. When I was in high school, which seems like forever ago after reading this article, you weren’t part of the in-crowd if you weren’t wearing the “right” label. Today’s youth don’t care about logos, and I say good for them!

This younger consumer’s desire for unique and one-of-a-kind clothing presents a real opportunity for SeamBLiSS and companies like us. We offer apparel items that are truly special, and that can even be altered to better fit the wearer’s style. SeamBLiSS hopes to offer an online marketplace that appeals to a wide variety of consumers, including teens and college students, the former target market of logo-heavy retailers like A&F.

Who knows? Maybe there’ll be a pop hit entitled “I like girls who wear clothes they got at SeamBLiSS” in the next couple of years!

Kristen P.