Calling all fashionistas and trendsetters: ClosetBarcode.com is open for business! This independently-owned online clothing retail store is a first of its kind. Owned and operated by Michigan-based entrepreneur Todd Heyboer, Closet Barcode pulls together fashion-forward clothing and handbags for misses, juniors, and young women for affordable prices by selecting items from independent designers. Specific brands include Orange Creek, Hem and Thread, 12PM by Mon Ami, Entro, and Trendology. Closet Barcode works directly with designers who make a selected quantity of each design so that their pieces are unique to those who buy them, and each of their items are hand measured in order to match the customized chart of Closet Barcode. Furthermore, if you’re ever unsatisfied with your purchase, return it! The site offers free and easy return shipping on all items (yes, even sale items) with friendly customer service. Since the company is making an amazing difference in the fashion world, we talked to Todd Heyboer about what makes Closet Barcode so special.
Cliché: What made your decision to become an independently-owned online retail store? Would Closet Barcode ever consider becoming an actual store?
Todd Heyboer: Fashion is something that I’ve been interested in for some time. I’ve always loved seeing what people wear. What makes fashion great is that whether it is something you are interested in or not, this is a medium that everyone participates in. I’ve always wanted to start my own business and see what happens. It’s kind of like an adventure where you don’t know how it will end and you don’t know what path you’ll take. So given how I was interested in fashion, I decided to create an online clothing store.
For now, Closet Barcode will remain an online-only store. I do wonder whether opening an actual store would have been easier than starting an online site. There are pros and cons to starting with either one. An actual establishment provides a certain level of consistent traffic and free advertising with people walking by or driving by the store. Only being online means you have to fight for traffic and be creative in ways of drawing in traffic. When you are in the beginning phase, no one even knows you exist, so it is definitely a challenge in figuring out the best ways to bring in traffic. However, being online means that we are able to reach people throughout the country.
Nowadays, do you feel it’s challenging to create a company that is authentic in its name, genuine in its advertising, and true to its establishment?
Today’s retail environment for any brand in any industry faces this challenge. There are just so many mediums available now than there were a decade ago. The Internet doesn’t forget, so you need to be aware of what is being written about your brand and which places have written about you. The popularity of social media adds to this challenge because there are many channels that are being used and each person uses multiple channels a day. It’s important that each person experiences the same “feel” of the brand no matter which medium they are using.
The positive of this is that consumers have more power now and several ways of interacting with a brand. Before, you just had a customer service number to call and an email, and that placed the consumer in a waiting game. Now there is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and plenty of aggregate review sites. Brands have to monitor these constantly in order to respond quickly and show that they care about what people are saying about them and in order to solve problems that are satisfactory to the consumer.
What inspired you to create a company that specifically selects items from small, independent designers? Did you already have certain designers and fashion labels in mind?
We like to say at Closet Barcode that “real fashion is about your style, not about the label.” What we are trying to create is an online store that places independent labels in the forefront. There are just so many mall stores that feature themselves as the brand, designer, and the label. A lot of these places plaster their own logos on everything that it takes over the identity of the wearer. We want our customers to be their own brand, meaning that they buy a piece from our website and add their own personal touches to express themselves—so again, “fashion is about your style, not about the label.” None of our clothing has outside visible logos, so the focus is on how you style the piece.
We came across these labels through research and searching for items that would meet our requirements. We wanted labels that don’t have a large reach, which helps make our product selection more unique and hard to find. We’re also not exclusive to only certain brands. We’re always looking for those unique pieces and new labels that provide a selection of unique clothing.
Can these small, independent designers be found throughout the country?
These labels are not exclusive to Closet Barcode. However, the exact pieces that we purchase are not mass produced. These are very small and limited lots. When they run out of stock, they do not make any more.
You mentioned how you look for designs that aren’t like the ones massed produced, so is fashion a focus or a factor in Closet Barcode?
Fashion is definitely a focus for Closet Barcode. I just think we approach the fashion part differently. We want people to be able to buy something from our site and create a style that is unique for them. We don’t necessarily believe that fashion has rules. We believe that people should feel confident with what they are wearing and have fun with their style.
We do a lot of work with fashion bloggers and it is amazing what they have been able to do with some of these pieces; pieces that we thought were just for casual attire have been dressed up for work wear and vice versa. They have definitely embraced the idea of Closet Barcode. Seeing their blog posts and their photos is encouraging because it means they understand what Closet Barcode is about and they are having fun with our pieces.
Where do you hope to see Closet Barcode within the next three years, and what are your hopes for the designers you feature?
In three years, I’m hoping that we are able to establish name recognition. We want to be known for having a selection that is curated for interesting pieces. People can buy t-shirts, jeans, and basics anywhere, so we are going to stay away from that. We want to be a destination that carries tops and handbags that have interesting details. We look for different color combinations, accents like chains, different pattern combinations, etc. After establishing ourselves as a destination for unique products, we hope that we are able to expand our offerings with other small labels and work on a relationship where they can design exclusive pieces that only we will carry.
So the next time you’re about to grab those keys to go shopping, we dare you to swap out those car keys for the virtual key – your computer – that you hold to unlock a wardrobe full of pieces that will be the talk of the town and unlike anything you’ve had before in your closet.
For more of the latest fashions, sales, and company promotions, be sure to stay up-to-date via ClosetBarcode.com as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Fashion Alert: Closet Barcode: Photos Courtesy of Closet Barcode