Good style is a complicated concept. And once you add in factors like silhouette pairing, color schemes, budget, and the whole shopping local issue, the idea of putting together a quality wardrobe can be awfully intimidating. This was the problem that faced brothers Russ and Zach Layng every time they went into stores: “We knew there were great clothes out there,” says Russ, “but we had no easy way to search for them.” In a burst of entrepreneurial fervor, they started the site Scout My Style, which aims to pair busy Chicago shoppers with boutique owners who really know their craft.
“I could tell something was my style when I saw it, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what I liked, or any idea how to look for it, especially locally,” says Russ. “We recognized that boutique owners and employees all over the city already possess the knowledge and expertise to make shopping an easy, enjoyable, personalized experience, and they’re happy to help. What was missing was a way to take the collective power of that expertise and make it accessible to everyone.”
Here’s how it works: You take a quick “style interview” on the site to pin down your particular taste. Then, you tell the site what you’re looking for. “Perfect black skinny jeans”? “Cocktail dress suitable for dinner with mother-in-law”? All valid search terms.
Then, you wait, while a real human at a real store near you—the brand has already partnered with 30 Chicago boutiques—looks at your search, the results of your style interview, and your budget, and tries to come up with something you’ll love. In short, they shop for you—and when they’ve found something perfect, they let you know. You can then pop into the boutique in person and try it on.
“We see the site attracting people who are too busy to shop but want boutique styles, people who are local shopping enthusiasts, and people in need of style suggestions,” says Russ.
Scout My Style has currently partnered with trendy, upscale boutiques such as Tribeca Boutique, Comfort Me, Krista K, Adelaide, and Apartment Number 9, and are hoping to work with even more. The brothers are in the middle of a fundraising round right now, and have plans to expand to other cities—but not before growing in Chicago.
In a way, it’s the polar opposite of shopping online, which is an insular experience, one where you’re only accountable to yourself. Involving another human in the process may seem a little old-fashioned, but it’s worth it. “[Store owner] recommendations are at the core of a great shopping experience,” says Russ. In other words, they know where the good skinny jeans are.