How Cladwell is Disrupting the Fashion Industry One Closet at a Time
Elisabeth Brier and Erin Flynn

Turns out, you don’t need your own 2007 version of Kim Kardashian to help you make the most of your closet.

Cladwell, a mobile app founded in 2013 is helping users revamp and revive their style without emptying their wallets.

The company has grown exponentially since its inception, having raised ~$2.8 million from angels in the Midwest as well as 500 Startups.

Erin Flynn, Cladwell’s CMO sat down with TechDay to explain how the company was able to achieve such success, what it does differently than others in the fashion industry, and what we can expect next.

As a disruptor in the fashion tech space, how do you go about defining Cladwell, demonstrating its capabilities, and reinforcing a need for the platform?

Unlike the rest of the fashion industry, Cladwell focuses on what people wear everyday, not on what to buy. We do not sell clothes, which makes us unique. Instead, we built an app that allows you to discover new outfit ideas. We give you daily outfit recommendations from the weather and the clothes you already own.

You can learn what you love, and what you should remove. We help you make the most of what you already own. This is why we created Cladwell. We wanted to help you discover your personal style and unlock endless outfit ideas.

Cladwell has, rather quickly, gone from a bootstrapped company to one worth millions. To what extent can you attribute the modern millennial sensibility of minimalism and social consciousness to the company's success?

Millennials are certainly driving a huge shift in the fashion industry. They are spending more money on fewer, quality items. This is a reversal vs. the past 50 years of clothing which drove higher volume and lower quality. This industry shift provided a huge opportunity for Cladwell to enter the market.

99% of the fashion industry is focused on the moment you buy clothes in a store...but 99% of humanity’s focus on clothing takes place each morning getting dressed. It is a fundamental misalignment of attention. We’ve decided to build a business around humanity’s daily interaction with clothing.

Millennial trends like spending money on experiences over things, moving to urban areas with less storage space, and tighter discretionary spending has resulted in double digit drops in U.S. clothing purchases. At a time that retail and subscriptions services are shrinking and consolidating, Cladwell has found a way to embrace those trends and grow.

Cladwell is unique in being a B2C company that is subscription based. What was the thinking behind this and how does this financial structure align with the company's values?

We really wanted to align our business model (subscription) with our values (pursue less but better). Rather than monetize through selling clothing and encouraging the customer to buy more and more clothes they may not actually need, Cladwell charges weekly, monthly, and annual subscriptions for as low as $3.34 per month.

We don’t sell ads or clothes which allows us to authentically guide people to make the most of the closet they already own. We hope to inspire people by showing new outfits they didn’t know were possible.

Major social media players such as Instagram's, beigecardigan, have promoted Cladwell on their platforms. How do partnerships such as these enhance the brand and which have proven to be most valuable?

Finding partnerships that embody our brand and are authentic is the key to whether or not it will manifest in new leads. The reality and challenging part as a startup is having the budget to work with certain partners which is why it’s extremely valuable to build relationships with those who get your brand and are willing to go after a common goal/mission. These make for the best (and most fun) partnerships and end up having the biggest impact!

What advice could you offer entrepreneurs attempting to disrupt an industry with no precedent? What are the primary factors in fostering longevity and an ability to scale?

Clarity, clarity, and clarity. When you’re entering a market that hasn’t been done before it’s confusing for customers, investors, and pretty much everyone. Bringing it back to the basics and outlining 1) why 2) how 3) what makes your business unique - is the difference between customers getting what you do or being lumped into an existing marketing.

Honestly, the primary factors in the ability to scale comes down to 3 phases: 1) Do you have traction? This involves figuring out if you have product/market fit and business metrics that seem possible (ie, CPA < LTV) 2) Can you double down on acquiring your audience? Is there a place where your audience “hangs out” and is there a clear path/channel that works better than others to acquire new users 3) How much can you scale? Is there enough of your audience to make this a long lasting business.

What can we expect to see from Cladwell next?

This next year is going to be exciting! We’re really focused on helping people discover their style and unlock endless outfit possibilities - using their own clothes.

In the short term, we’re going to be releasing the ability to give you full scheduling and logging capabilities for the future and the past as well as new ways to discover more outfit ideas within your closet. We also hope to release an Android app in the near future. :)