We build our lives around choices. Everyday we decide where we want to eat, what we should watch, who we date, what we wear and how we’ll get from point A to point B. Sometimes we make the right choice and it pays off. Other times, we’re so scared of making the wrong decision that we can’t come to a consensus at all. So we let someone else do the work for us, or rather, something else.
Algorithms were designed to understand and anticipate our behaviors. They can be applied to just about anything—social media, GPS, streaming devices. By using data science, ecommerce clothing sites can calculate how likely we are to buy certain items based on what we’ve previously purchased. What they can’t predict, however, are things like personal style, body type and budget. No quiz is going to know that certain pants might make you look taller or what exactly you should pack for your Caribbean vacation.
What you really need is a stylist, not someone who is going to escort you around the mall or a computer system inspired by Cher Horowitz’s closet. You need someone like Worth. Emerging almost 30 years ago as a direct-to-consumer clothing brand, the company now has two lines—Worth New York and W by Worth—in which they design, produce and sell all their own inventory exclusively through their network of hands-on stylists. In essence, they are cutting out the middleman, allowing them to develop personal relationships with customers and giving them access to the most luxurious, high-quality products out there.
Worth was founded in 1991 by Jay Rosenberg and Caroline Davis on the principle of selling clothing and accessories in a personal, in-home setting. Think Avon, minus the makeup. But the two didn’t set out to necessarily create a fashion company. Worth was intended as a platform for women to earn extra income not as sales reps, but as “stylists.” The now President of Worth, Kelly Collins, first came onto the team as a stylist herself, and has since worked her way up the company ranks.
“I started in this business when I was 26 years old while I was working in the insurance and marketing world. On the side, I was always dabbling in fashion to a point where I attended a trunk show with my mom. I became a Worth stylist and it really morphed into a passion for empowering women to look and be their best selves,” Collins told me.
“What we’re looking for is a woman who has a love for fashion, or she may not even know yet that she does. For me, it’s more about the woman who is looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity, and that opportunity just happens to be selling beautiful, luxury fashion. It’s less about her pedigree and what design school she came from. So many women, myself included, came from banking, insurance or were lawyers—it’s about following their entrepreneurial spirit.”
A Worth stylist has the opportunity to invite clients into their home following each seasonal showcase, which happens four times a year—fall, winter, summer and spring. Alternatively, stylists can take shoppers around the New York City showroom (if they’re in the area) or now, thanks to Worth’s newly developed app, they can provide users with hand-picked looks 24/7. During a one-on-one styling session, stylists are trained to consider things like the client’s body type, shape, likes, dislikes and ask informative questions such as: What are your needs? Do you have any events coming up? Any vacations? Is this something you need for work?
When it comes to actually organizing the clothes and creating an outfit, Collins considers that the easy part. “For us, becoming a stylist means we’re going to train them on the fit of our clothes, the merchandising, how things go together, our fabrication. So we’re really training them on our products, and in turn, we produce a collection that’s so accessible that it becomes very easy for a stylist to style her client.” Whether ordering online, through the app or via the stylists themselves, the clothes are then directly shipped to your door.
The client is also given a choice between which line they’d like to shop from based on their budget and personal style preferences. Worth New York is the company’s high-end label, while W by Worth is their more contemporary line. Collins explained, “Worth New York is our luxury, more sophisticated collection so that’s where you’re going to see sumptuous suedes, leathers and fur pieces. All of our fabrics are bought from the same mills where the couture houses are buying them.”
Their New York-based design team which includes designers, pattern makers and fabricators alike are responsible for translating what’s hot on the runway into wearable looks for the everyday woman. Collins refers to it as being “inspired by trends but not trendy.” Both lines offer the classics such as simple white blouses, perfectly tailored blazers and recently, the company introduced denim into their collections.
For Worth New York’s Fall 2018 line, they were inspired by everything from the intrepid spirit of Amelia Earhart seen in their expedition-esq leather pieces to prep school plaid and soft neutrals like tones of agave and pops of lavender opal. W by Worth channeled 1970s Boho-chic with flared hemlines, striped tops, high waisted pants and the season’s boldest color—buttercup.
Where Worth’s strength lies is in their personal connection to the client. To put it simply, Worth has what algorithms want. And although the retail industry industry has been experiencing a transformative time, it’s refreshing to know that meaningful customer relationships will never go out of style.