By Juliana McLeod
Photos: Julia Le
On Oct. 15, the Fashion & Retail Society had the pleasure of welcoming ShopRagHouse co-founder Bridgette Hylton to campus to speak with members about her start-up. ShopRagHouse is an online platform that allows dress designers to get their pieces out on the market — or on the site, in this case. How exactly? Well, as is oh-so well-known in the fashion industry, through competition.
Essentially, anyone — as young as 14-years old — can submit a dress design to the website. Then, it’s up to ShopRagHouse members to vote on the design and choose the winning piece, which Hylton and her business partner/best friend, Joana Florez, will then fund to be created. But what if the founders adore a design that was not chosen by the voters? That’s where Editor’s Picks come in. This is a second competition in which the founders choose their favorite piece to be funded. The designer will receive 10 percent of the profits made by buyers purchasing his/her dress on the site.
Let’s cut back in time, though. A few years ago, Hylton was working as a lawyer in New York, unafraid to don red, leather pumps in the office. It wasn’t until a co-worker said, “Bridgette, you’ve got to stop wearing those shoes,” that Hylton realized law was not for her. When Hylton also embraced her frustration in the male-led fashion industry, in which men were designing clothes for women, she knew it was time for a new venture.
Cut to Hylton and Florez creating their online platform, which allows everyday women to create clothes that fit the needs of other everyday women (yes, women are giddy at the thought of dresses with pockets). Since the launch, and after a successful, 30-day campaign to receive funding on Kickstarter, the site has received submissions from designers in Africa, Southeast Asia, Russia and more locations. The two founders, who met while in school at Harvard, have learned to take a backseat with the designers, Hylton said, and to not micro-manage the designers’ works.
But when asked what the biggest challenge of creating this start-up was, Hylton responded with the word, “fear.” She explained that it was terrifying to quit her job and explain to her father — who is also a lawyer — that she was dropping her steady job to create a start-up… in fashion. She had no idea if she was going to be successful, but she proceeded with the hope that she would be.
Today, Hylton and Florez each wear about 70 different hats a day, trying to nail down technicalities, such as how many competitions should be held each year and how to work with a manufacturer to successfully produce a dress. To those that are looking into the possibility of creating their own fashion start-up, Hylton has a few words of advice.
“Get as much sleep now as you can. And be brave.”