E-tail 2.0: next best thing to a stylist in your closet Katherine Gougeon Have you heard? The Imagineers at Disney are working on a hologram of Rachel Zoe that appears in your bedroom, reviews the contents of your closet, and suggests items to complement what you already own. Okay, well, no. But to watch the latest wave of online retailers connect with busy, style-conscious consumers, your own personal Zoe may be closer than you think. Beyond mobile apps and faster delivery times, the savviest e-tailers have turbo-charged the customer experience, transforming shopping on-line into an adventure in personal style. Here’s what we’re talking about: They emphasize curation and personalization Too busy to browse? Join 39th Avenue and key in your measurements, style preferences and favourite brands. From this, a stylist will handpick three or four outfits from the company’s namesake line and courier the package right to your home or office. According to creative director Catherine Henry (formerly of Judith and Charles), the Montreal-based company was created for the professional woman who loves clothes but doesn’t have a lot of time to shop. “We take pride in getting to know our customers well,” she says, noting that stylists modify future selections to synch up what the customer has kept (and sent back) in the past. Perks like free shipping and returns mitigate the cost of adventure. They believe membership should have its privileges. Committed to ‘helping a generation of men dress and live well’, Montreal-based Frank & Oak design, manufacture and curate a new collection of reasonably priced clothing and accessories every month. A membership to their ‘Hunt Club’ costs $20 per year and activates such perks as free shipping and returns, access to style advisors who handpick pieces based on the customer’s stated preferences and budget, and a 4% store credit on every item the gentleman keeps. They build their business around customer needs and niches. For the ‘lazy’ male who hates shopping, Manpacks doles out razors, underwear, condoms and t-shirts on a subscription basis. In the words of founder, Ken Johnson: “our customers don’t want to have to think about these kinds of things anymore.” For that matter, why blow $1000 on a special-occasion designer dress when online brands like Rent the Runway, Girl Meets Dress, and Rent frock Repeat are lining up to help you choose it, accessorize it, and ‘borrow’ it, often for under $100. They do the hunting and gathering U.K.-based Wolf and Badger discovers, hosts and promotes hundreds of emerging designers from around the world. If you’re searching for the next new thing – whether it’s a Murano-inspired party dress (by Joana Almagro), an Electric Piglet Pink watch (Newgate), or a silk screened sweatshirt covered in colourful pills (Aloha from Deer) – W&B is the place to find it. They turn products into conversation pieces ‘Destined to become heirlooms’ is how Toronto-based Brika describes its artfully chosen wares. Tapping into the maker movement, the site features special pieces by American makers (like a leather and silver bracelet by Miami-based Laira and Lou and an understated cheetah-toned satchel by Oak73 of New York) and bills itself as a celebration of modern craftsmanship, artisans and storytelling. So what if the vintage map cufflinks (Dana Klopfer Designs) never make it to your great grandchild’s wrists? Like a larger-than-life personality, they’ll retain their anecdotal value for years. How powerful a fashion statement is that? Katherine Gougeon (email@example.com) is editorial director of The Co.