What happens when sustainability and fashion combine? Four young Italian entrepreneurs had the answer to that question and the end product was STAIY. Staiy is the first online platform to only offer 100% eco-friendly brands; pretty revolutionary right? By minimizing the environmental footprint of fashion production and keeping the principles of style alive through organic ideas, Staiy just might have the power to change the surface of fashion as we know it.
Mess Magazine sat down with one of the co-founders of Staiy, Ludovico Durante, to find how exactly how and why this one-of-a-kind company got its start:
How did you get the idea of Staiy?
Staiy is an idea that evolved through time. It all started off with a text from one of the cofounders to another: “I have an idea, do you have time and a team?”. We were inspired to create something that could raise the standards of the online fashion experience, as the fast-growing market has room for improvement under many aspects. To reduce the returns that harm both the planet and the businesses, we focused on developing something We wanted a bigger mission to stand for. We needed to be proud of what we were trying to achieve. Keeping the consumer-centric approach, the idea developed into something with the potential of making a change for a better future: the first sustainable fashion marketplace with AI personalization.
Why did you decide to start with Staiy?
The team members were into entrepreneurship since they met. Throughout university, many times while hanging out the discussion focused on startup ideas which never took off. This time was different, we were in our last year of university in Berlin. The city is full of opportunities, startups, and talent, and it’s constantly changing. No wonder that many stories of success come from here. Under many aspects, Berlin taught us how easy it is to have a lower impact on the planet in your daily life and how to think out of the box. It seems almost effortless here, and it’s done in a cool way. Therefore, the decision to start was a mix of perfect circumstances: the city is simply set up for people with ideas, a bigger vision, and drive. Our ESCP studies gave us the right preparation to face the startup world and its challenges. The team had alchemy already ongoing before the start and quickly picked up a fast-paced working rythm. The need for a product that could make an impact motivated us. The market was lacking a point of reference for sustainable fashion. All the elements suggested to try, so we simply said…”why not?”
What is the vision behind Staiy?
Staiy’s vision is “to bring sustainable shopping to every customer.” We believe that the main area of improvement for sustainable fashion is accessibility and personalization: it’s hard for people to find a place where to shop in a better way. So they take the quick path and buy from those fashion giants that offer a bit of everything and are easily found. The sustainable fashion industry can only be effective if it’s able to pick up a portion of these buyers. Our mission, the reason for Staiy to be in the market, is “to accelerate the transition towards sustainable fashion, making it cool, easy and accessible”. Being able to attract every type of customer is for us a must: it’s the way for a smooth transition towards a lower impact fashion. To fulfill our vision and mission, we have set the bar very high in terms of the user interface, experience, and brand selection. Like so, we can show through an appealing app that you can be sustainable without compromising your style.
How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?
The start was quite exciting, but it had ups and downs. The team was facing every challenge with motivation and confidence. We were lucky to have mentors and coaches to support and help us make the right decisions. The period of time in which we were developing the algorithm for style personalization was definitely the most difficult one. Many things were
happening: exams were approaching, group projects and other tasks were due, we had coaching sessions, had to develop the business model and on top, a strict deadline to deliver the metadata for the algorithm. The whole technology process is incredibly lengthy, and overall we graded more than 250 thousand data points. As all of these things were happening, we had to give up our social life. It became difficult to balance university, startup,
friends, and partners. Therefore, we organized brunch sessions at our house on weekends. Our friends would come to have a nice meal altogether and then helped us out with the metadata. It was a great compromise. We felt our friends’ amazing support and approval while moving faster towards the deadline. We ate lots of food and have that bit of social life
for which we barely had time over the last academical year. An all-inclusive solution, where the best of both worlds merged.
Who is your target audience?
We believe that sustainability will become the norm in the fashion industry. In the long run, Staiy aims at attracting the widest public possible. Our goal is to show that sustainable and fashionable go together to the large public so that a real impact in the industry can be made. To start off with, we target everyone that is interested in fashion and sustainability in general,
those people who make an effort to lower their impact while staying stylish. In other words, the Berliners of the world. They are the ones that guide the transition towards a better fashion.
What is the USP of your startup?
The merger of sustainable fashion brands and breakthrough personalization technology, in one single platform that is super user-friendly. Many platforms offer great user experience but little, if any, sustainable fashion. Their main driver is sales and not the cause. On the other side, sustainable fashion platforms are too limited in the experience that they offer to really influence the market. Focusing on the cause, they sometimes forget about the consumer journey.
Staiy is the merger of the two, working for the cause while keeping at pace with the giant’s standards. Technology and user experience are our tools to take down any barrier that stops people from buying sustainable fashion.
Can you describe your typical workday?
We are a very flexible team and each one of us has its most productive times of the day. There are morning workers and night workers, and we are more task-oriented than time-oriented. We structure the work for the month based on goals and then break it down. Each one of us has its tasks for the week and that’s the main focus, but we also jump in and help each other out anytime. It’s always good to be on the same page and to discuss doubts and opportunities anytime. Usually, we start off at 9, each one working on his tasks. Mainly emails and calls in the morning when all of the other offices are open. Lunchtime is about 40 minutes, and it’s important to make sure it is a proper break with no work thoughts (even though it’s hard). After lunch, we have a stand-up meeting where we discuss achievements, doubts or important things. Then, we carry on working until about 6.30, when it’s a gym or soccer time. Keeping the body in shape and getting our stress released is key for a healthy routine. After the gym, we have dinner all together and we work while relaxing, maybe laying down on the couch, and we discuss the (many) things to be solved or approached. Bedtime really depends on individual habits.
Where do you see yourself and your startup Staiy in five years?
Staiy will be the leader for sustainable online shopping. We see ourselves managing the company with talented people who believed in the project and worked with us from day one. We see Staiy as the most influential company in driving the transition towards sustainable fashion, with the capability of incentivizing a wiser lifestyle under many aspects. Towards this goal, we are moving one step at the time: it’s always good to take ambitious aims and look at the stars, but it’s equally important to know where you are at the moment and where is your next step to move forward.
What 3 tips would you give other Start-up founders on the way?
- Work out the numbers
In the beginning, it’s easy to get super optimistic about your idea and be sure that you will succeed. And that’s a great start.
The moment you break down all of your potential costs and revenues, your idea starts to become a company. Considering all of the expenses to start and maintain the business not only provides a good overview of the feasibility of your business model, it also means higher chances of receiving an investment. Showing that even small expenses are taken into account is a synonym of professionality and mature understanding.
2. Find the right balance
The startup life is great, but it can become exhaustive. To perform at best, you have to find the right balance both in and out of the “office” (most probably anywhere with a WiFi).
Within your team, each member has strengths and preferences. If they are respected, productivity is boosted. Make sure that everybody has a clear task and that the roles are split: it’s the best way to move forward. As the startup life can absorb you, it’s important to always leave a time frame to get it all out. Gym, sports, and drinks are more than welcome! Also, don’t forget to celebrate your achievements! …But remember, if you do not give up other things and grind for what you believe in, you will hardly achieve what you want!
Communication is fundamental. It’s essential to the success to your startup. There are two main areas where communication is fundamental: outside and within your team.
When you start, it’s a common belief that you have got the next big thing. People are scared to talk about it because they are afraid someone could steal their billions of dollars idea. We learned that every time you engage in a conversation about your startup you see a different perspective. All these perspectives teach you something and help to develop the idea. If we think about our journey within the past months, it has been an incredible ride and evolution. Go talk to people, especially those who have seen more than you or that are experts in your industry. Within your team, organize feedback sessions. Too often people tend to keep things for themselves, and that ends up harming the company and individual relationships. We organize feedback sessions, about every month or a couple of months. In these, each team member says what they like and what they dislike about other team members. It’s a great way to bond by being incomplete honesty while gathering feedback. It worked out great for us to make sure that everybody was aware of where they were appreciated and where they had to improve. If you want a great startup you need a team that is willing to be at their best, and being aware of strengths and weaknesses is the first step.
What you’re excited about?
We are looking forward to seeing a growing interest in the actual story behind the end product. It will be exciting to try to do so in a smooth way: attracting customers with an intuitive website, educating them with the reward system and product information and setting the new standards
for the fashion industry. We want people to look good and feel good. Moreover, we are excited to see the merger of AI and sustainability in one platform and seeing the response to the fresh style approach that we are bringing.