#UAEinnovators: Suited and booted with Dubai styling service Mr Draper

Crowded malls can take the fun out of shopping, so one start-up decided to put it back in.

The Dubai-based Mr Draper offers an online grooming service for men where they can discuss the look they want with a stylist, who then assembles a customised set of clothes and couriers the box direct to the customer.

Technology comes into play during the feedback process. When returning the package, customers can comment online on each of the items, with the information used to personalise future packages by knowing exactly what sizes, fits and cuts work best for them.

“We wanted to make shopping convenient for men,” says Mahmoud Gao, the 30-year-old co-founder and managing partner of Mr Draper. The Syrian-American started the company a year ago along with business partners Tiba Al Damen and Mary Freij in Silicon Oasis.

When a customer signs up for the service, he is assigned a stylist. If the conversation takes place by phone or email, details about measurements, style and budget are discussed. Depending on the look the customer wants – casual or classic, for instance – the stylist prepares a box of clothes with between 12 and 15 items, such as T-shirts, jeans, shoes and shirts. Customers also have the option of uploading photographs or the image they want to portray.

Men then have five days to try out the clothes, and are charged by the number of items they eventually keep. The advisory and delivery are free of charge and the interactive nature of the contract raises the company’s grasp of each customer’s needs.

“We now have a better understanding of what they want, and preferences here include colour chinos, blazers and pocket squares,” Mr Gao says. “Because of social media people are out there more, and many want to get a great sense of style.”

The company works with 18 brands of clothing and accessories from the United States, the Netherlands, Italy and France. The prices of the boxes are in the mid to high range, varying between Dh3,000 and Dh10,000.

About 2,500 people have so far signed up for the service, and the two stylists at Mr Draper have sent out about 2,000 boxes of clothes. Around 70 per cent of the customers opt for the boxes to be delivered to their doorsteps. And Mr Draper has delivered in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah.

A majority of the customers are western expats such as British, Americans and French, followed by Arab expats, Indians and Emiratis.

To date most of the company’s marketing has been via word of mouth and Facebook. It has also run advertising videos inside elevators at 48 towers in Dubai Media City, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, DIFC and Jumeirah Beach Residence.

The company, which expects first-year revenues of about Dh1.5 million, measures commissions for the stylists on the number of items a customer keeps.

“We have disrupted the way men do shopping,” Mr Gao says. “It’s all online and all in the hands of the customers.”


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