In direct opposition to the more singular body shape represented in most advertising, fashion app Mys Tyler connects users with models and influencers of similar body sizes, allowing them to find styles and clothing that will complement their body shape. Here, the founder of the inclusive fashion brand Sarah Neill discusses the feedback she gets from women on how they feel about their bodies, what she would change today – if she could – about the industry, ways to increase your chances of se
f securing funding, and her vision for a vibrant, inclusive, fun community of users who love to discover, wear, and share fashionable clothes and looks that suit their bodies. Inside Retail: Why do you think the world needs a body positivity app like Mys Tyler right now? Sarah Neill: Research shows us that when we’re exposed to body diversity, we can be less critical of our own bodies. Fashion, by design, is aspirational and exclusive, but as a result, a lot of women don’t see themselves represented. A recent study we commissioned found that 78 per cent of women feel more relevant, better about their bodies, and/or inspired to try new styles when they see women who look similar to them in the fashion industry. We created Mys Tyler to champion all bodies and help users connect with like-bodied women so they could be inspired and shop fashion that ‘fits’. We constantly hear feedback from our users about feeling seen, feeling more confident, and feeling like they belong when they open the app and that’s what we’re all about. IR: What are some of the most surprising or interesting customer insights you’ve gathered since you first launched Mys Tyler? SN: We’ve had nearly 200,000 women complete our body quiz now through our app. Here are some insights: There are more women with an F-cup bra size or larger than an A-cup Women on our platform range in size from 4 to 34; the most common dress size is 16Nearly half of our users describe their body as ‘curvy’ We also conducted research of more than 1,000 Australian women, and found some interesting insights: When we asked women about why it’s hard to find clothes that fit, more women said it was because of their shape, than their size. Height was the other top factor.81 per cent of women don’t feel represented by fashion advertising And through conversations, some really interesting things have stood out: Most women that classify themselves as plus-size find it difficult to shop in retail, as many brands don’t carry sizes above 16 (even if they have a wider range online).It’s really hard to find plus-size clothing that is sustainable.Many women 50 or more years old find it hard to find age-appropriate inspiration – in retail stores or online – and some have said this has made them feel irrelevant in the world of fashion. IR: You had another business called Doodad before you launched Mys Tyler. That business closed after several years. What were some of the lessons you learnt from that experience that have shaped how you run Mys Tyler? SN: Ten years ago, I was living in New York, working in telecommunications, when I had an idea for a pre-paid data SIM card to help international travelers stay connected without the fear of bill shock. I pitched it to the owner of the company I worked for, and rather than giving me a budget to launch a product, he gave me $1 million of funding for me to launch the business. I began building a product, then a brand, then a team and finally we launched and had a growing user base. We made a lot of mistakes, but we did so many things exceptionally well that I’m still proud of today. Ultimately, we shut down 12 months later, but it turned me into an entrepreneur and taught me so many valuable lessons: There are always more steps than you expect, so just get started so you can discover them.Assumptions are just assumptions, get real data as quickly as you can.As a founder, you’re going to spend most of your time doing things you’re not very good at.Be human and create a connection with your users. When things aren’t perfect, or you make a mistake, if you have this relationship, people will be understanding and supportive. Most importantly, Doodad taught me that I could be a CEO and founder, that I could take an idea and bring it to life, that I love problem solving, especially when I can create a solution that can scale and have a huge impact on lots of people. Being a founder is not glamorous, it’s really really hard work, and most of the time you’re going to fail. You have to be so passionate about solving the problem (rather than your specific solution) that you can absorb the difficulties and push through. IR: If you could change anything about the fashion industry tomorrow, what would it be and why? SN: I would love it if every future fashion campaign, catwalk, and photoshoot had to include a woman size 16 or above. This would be just a start, but it would be a massive step in the right direction. In the US, Old Navy has a huge, game-changing campaign called Bodequality focused on inclusive sizing and price-parity. When I was over there, I saw advertising all through the subway and on billboards. I loved seeing the diversity of women being celebrated. Sadly, it’s been considered a failure primarily due to a mismatch between size supply and demand – leaving them with pieces sold out in some sizes, and huge amounts of excess stock in others. I read an opinion piece about this and they said, ‘In a world where it’s all or none, often it ends up being none.’ And I do think this is part of the issue. Doing it all right, representing everyone, thinking of all use cases, is a mammoth task. Yet, often brands get slammed for taking too small a step in the right direction, rather than being rewarded for taking action. I’d love for us to all reward all the small steps, with the intent to continually push in the right direction. IR: What was your journey towards finding investment like? A lot of other female founders have struggled to find investors, as it’s such a male-dominated area. SN: It’s ongoing (‘always be raising’), and it’s really hard. There are gender biases that exist that mean women founders get a much smaller share of the capital. Some tips: Consider joining an accelerator program or incubator that can write the first small cheque. This will give you experience pitching to an investment committee and help you craft your story, to demonstrate validation and traction. If funded, it is a powerful signal for other investors that you’re investible, and they’ll generally have wide networks to help with many starter introductions.Early-stage investing is heavily weighted towards the team and you as a founder, so people who know you and trust you become key targets. Find out if you have anyone in your network who already does angel investing.Network, and be diligent about follow-up. Many investors will want to get to know you and the business over a period of time. You might pitch to them and get the money a year later. Monthly or quarterly business updates are a great way to keep people warm, and updated on your business.Consider corporate venture arms that have synergies with your business.Crunchbase is a great resource. Look up similar companies/competitors to see who has invested in them. If they have already invested in your space, they’re going to understand it. They won’t invest in you if they’re invested in a competitor, but you can find firms that look like them to add to your pitch list.Always get a warm introduction if possible, best if it’s from a well-respected founder. If you can’t, it’s still better to do cold outreach than nothing. Reach out on LinkedIn or send a personalised email. IR: What are your plans for Mys Tyler this year and what is your long-term vision for the business? SN: Our first year was focused on building the core platform and creating a community. Now we have nearly 200,000 users and the most amazing creators, who have posted over 27,000 outfits. So this year, we’ve been focusing on helping women discover all this amazing content already in the app. Daily Inspiration was a new feature we launched in April, it serves up a new prompt each morning, and shows how a number of our creators are styling it, prompting users to dig into their wardrobes and give it a go. It’s been a really nice way to help users discover creators they may not have found otherwise because they aren’t their body-matches. It’s also a nice way to show off the diversity of our community. But the best part is getting users to have more fun with fashion every day. Eight-seven per cent said they had items in their wardrobe that hadn’t been worn in a long time and have enjoyed breaking out of their style ruts and mixing things up. The next big release will be introducing search and filters so you can find a ‘blazer for work for cold weather’ and be served up results that are body and style relevant. We’re also introducing brand accounts, so marketing managers can sign up, claim their brand and engage with our community through content, social, and advertising campaigns. And we just launched a month-long feel-good fashion festival with Mirvac and The Embrace Hub, which consisted of 159 days of activation across two states, including 54 days of styling and more than 30 events. Long term, we want to be the go-to place to find and buy clothes that fit and make you feel good. We want to play a material role in the reduction in return rates, helping brands save money and reducing fashion’s impact on the environment. We will be able to help brands sell stock of all sizes by targeting women based on physical attributes, making fashion more efficient. And because we share commission with creators, we want to have a large community of women who can earn an income doing what they love – discovering, trying on, styling and sharing clothes for our community. We’ll expand to men and children, and into other categories where physical attributes are relevant and be a force for good, helping all people feel welcomed, represented, and inspired.