First Look: Crowd-Sourced Boutique OOTN Lifestyle
Though only a week old, new boutique OOTN Lifestyle is a year in the making. The shop, located in downtown Minneapolis on South 10th Street at Marquette Avenue, is an offshoot of OOTN Magazine, an online look book of crowd-sourced fashion in which the brand's Instagram followers can share their "outfit of the day/night" through the hashtag #ootnmagazine. Since it launched in May 2013, OOTN has gained nearly 80,000 followers on Instagram and over 188,000 on Facebook, and receives over 3,000 photo submissions per day.
The shop is the brainchild of 24-year-old DeSèan Mills, a first-time small business owner who has a background in retail management and buying and in social media, styling and blogging. I chatted with the entrepreneur about his background, the shop's aesthetic and how crowdsourcing is the latest trend in retail.
What does OOTN stand for?
Outfit of the night. It's about people posting outfit images on social media, but it's also catered to people who's all about individuality, people who believe in their own personal style.
Did you always have the store in mind when you created the OOTN brand?
No, it was all online. We wanted to build community and then monitize it through that community and content. The physical shop was never in mind; it was going to be e-commerce.
OOTN has the unique distinction of being a crowdsourced concept. How is it different than the traditional retail model?
We want people to be themselves with their own style. People in this community are in charge of setting their own trends. They set the trends, instead of what GQ is selling you, or In Style, or Glamour, or Vogue. These are real people who are influencing other people--the whole peer-to-peer aspect is really influential.
How do your followers influence that kinds of merchandise you sell?
We get over 3,000 entries per day, so we're constantly learning about different styles, different brands, how people dress. Before we opened the store, we sent a survey out to our community, and over 75,000 people participated in it. They told us about what brands they're wearing, what styles they're into. Then when we feature somebody, we're looking for the response rate we get from that person we feature.
How did your background in retail and social media influence how you run your business?
I started in retail at a really early age, and was a manager of a men's clothing store by 17. After three months I became a buyer. So I've always had both the sales aspect of it and the outfit fundamentals--putting things together. Plus I'm all about social media; I used to be a social media director for a company out of Chicago. I was responsible for getting collaborators, people talking about the brand. So through that I built relationships with bloggers, outside of Minnesota. So starting OOTN, it was helpful to have already gotten the word out there about the brand.
What's next for OOTN? Will you be launching an online store at some point?
We're working on a website, which will be bigger than the store. We want to partner with vendors all over the world to incorporate their catalogs, so people can create outfits from those catalogs and buy it all together. Right now if you shop online, you have to go to individual websites to get that product. We're also bringing the online shopping experience in-store. In two months, we'll have catalogs on iPads. Everything we have on iPads we'll have in the store or backstock to help extend our inventory.
How important do you feel crowdsourcing is when it comes to running a retail business?
I really feel it's important; I think that's where it's heading. Look at Angie's List--it's real people giving you recommendations. I think that's really key for retail right now, and just making things user-friendly.
Now open. 99 S. 10th St., Mpls. 612-338-3437. ootnmagazine.com.
Photos by Jahna Peloquin
More local shopping news:
Monday: 331 Salon Grand Opening: Jon Oulman Salon closes shop above the 331 Bar in Northeast Minneapolis after eight years of business. In its place is the new 331 Salon. They’re open for appointments beginning this month and will host a grand opening day party on Monday, July 7, with $20 haircuts all day and complimentary wine and local chocolates. (Grand opening: Mon. Now open. 331 13th Ave. NE., Mpls., 612-331-3007, 331salon.com.)
Wednesday: July Rhythm & Red Pre-Polo Classic Party: Jungle Red Salon hosts a kickoff party for the 25th Annual Polo Classic held on August 3. It includes an art exhibit by multi-disciplinary artist Lois Stanfield, live country music from Bill Mann, and refreshments. (7-9 p.m. Wed. Free. Jungle Red Salon, 1362 LaSalle Ave., Mpls., 612-870-0653, jungleredsalon.com & thepoloclassic.com.)
Thursday: Tess + Tricia Jewelry Trunk Show: Excelsior-based, mother-daughter jewelry team Tess + Tricia will showcasae their full collection of their boho-chic jewelry at Uptown boutique Kisa. Sip bubbly, shop and meet the artists. (5-8 p.m. Thu. 722 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-5192, kisaboutique.com & tessandtricia.com.)
Friday: MBL All-Star Week presents "Fields of Fashion": Fashion gets its moment as part of this weekend's All-Star Week festivities. Following Friday's FanFest at the Minneapolis Convention Center, the night includes a fashion show, baseball-themed shopping from brands like Alex and Ani, Dooney & Burke and OPI nail polish, plus henna tattoos, hair and makeup touchups from Aveda stylists, complimentary massages, cocktails, apps and a gift bag worth over $75. (7:30-9:30 p.m. Fri. $50. Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Ave S., Mpls., mlb.com.)
Friday: Ping Pong Party: Modern furniture and home goods store Forage Modern Workshop hosts a good, old-fashioned, tournanent-style ping pong party, complete with live music from BBGUN and DJs Chris Hontos and Collin Weiland, food and drink by Parka. (5-10 p.m. Fri. $5 to play. Forage Modern Workshop, 4023 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-886-3603, foragemodernworkshop.com.)
Saturday: The Summer Rox & Pathara Jewelry Trunk Show: Fresh from her debut on ShopHQ, jewelry designer Robyne Robinson and her lines of luxury and exotic gemstone jewelry are popping up at downtown Minneapolis' Instinct Gallery for a summer trunk show, complete with bubbly, lemonade and refreshments. (1-4 p.m. Sat. Instinct Gallery, 940 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-208-0696, instinctmpls.com & roxmpls.com.)
Sunday: Hackwith Design House Tasselry Making Workshop: Hackwith Design House's Lisa Hackwith and her team host a tasseltry making workshop at their cooperative studio, the CoMN. The ticket price of $85 includes making your own decorative hanging tasseltry, with all necessary materials--including HDH scrap fabric--on hand. Refreshments will be provided. (1-5 p.m. Sun. The Collective Minneapolis Studio, 219 N. 2nd St. #410, Mpls. hackwithdesignhouse.com.) [Read more: In the Studio with Hackwith Design House] (Now. hackwithdesignhouse.com & thecomn.com.)
Now open: Lily Stan Studio: This week saw the launch of new clothing line Lily Stan Studio by Minneapolis designer Lily Harris. The handmade, limited-edition line is meant to be layered, seasonless and classic closet staples. [Read more: "First Look: Lily Stan Studio"] (Now available. lilystanstudio.com.)
D.NOLO Expansion: Shops-within-a-shop concept D.NOLO--short for Destination North Loop--is debuting two new in-store shops on Tuesday. They include 50th & France casual-chic shop Bluebird Boutique, which D.NOLO owner Veronica Clark says will focus on denim from J Brand and Citizens of Humanity, plus casualwear and coats from Vince and J Brand Collection. The second is Area, which will carry soft lines and footwear by Joie. (Now open. D.NOLO, 219 N. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-584-3244, dnolo.com.)
Mille Summer Sale: Mille, which features a thoughtfully-curated selection of small designers and U.S.-made goods, is hosting its summer sale, with spring and summer merchandise marked 40 percent off online and in store, plus take 10 percent off all online orders this week when you enter "BLUESKY" at checkout. (Now. 316 W. 48th St., Mpls., 612-209-7364 & shopmille.com.)
Pumpz & Co. Summer Sale: Take up to 50 percent off select shoes, handbags and accessories, plus $25 and $50 surprises, at the Galleria designer haven. (Now. 3335 Galleria, Edina, 952-926-2252, pumpzco.com.)
The Annual John Fluevog Thinks You’re Awesome Sale: Take 60 percent off spring and summer footwear at the cult-favorite shoe shop known for its quirky, vintage-inspired designs. (Now. John Fluevog Shoes, 2900 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls., 612-821-1970, fluevog.com.)
Max’s Semi-Annual Sale: The fine jeweler hosts its semi-annual sale with discounts of 40 to 80 percent off selected pieces from the shop’s jewelry, home decor and chocolates collections. This month, the store also introduces two new lines, the New York-based Ten Thousand Things and U.K.'s Deakin & Francis, plus new pieces from Anne Sportun, Rebecca Myers and Lauren K. (Tue.-July 19. Max’s at the Shops at Excelsior & Grand, 3826 Grand Way, St. Louis Park, 952-922-8364, stylebymax.com.)
Stephanie’s Progressive Summer Sale: Through the month of July, Highland Park store Stephanie’s is hosting its annual progressive summer sale: Take 20 percent off one item, 30 percent off two items and 40 percent off three or more items, plus an extra ten percent off if you mention Minnesota Monthly. (Excludes jewelry and select accessories.) (Now through July 31. 758 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul., 651-690-3802, stephaniesshop.com.)
MartinPatrick3 Summer Tag Sale: North Loop men’s and design shop MartinPatrick3 is in the midst of a summer tag sale with markdowns of 30 to 60 percent on select furniture, including Mitchell Gold, Bob Williams floor samples and stock, plus 20 percent off special order upholstery. (Now through July 27. MartinPatrick3, 212 3rd Ave. N. #106, Mpls., 612-317-0045, martinpatrick3.com.)
FinnStyle’s Marimekko Summer Sale: Local Marimekko retailer FinnStyle hosts its biggest sale of the year this month. Shoppers can save 20 to 70 percent on more than 300 Marimekko products spanning bed, bath, kitchen, dining, fabric, clothing and bags both in-store and online. (Now through July 20. 160 Glenwood Ave., Mpls., 612-333-2127, finnstyle.com.)
Now open: Shinola & Filson: Shinola’s first Minneapolis shop (its third brick-and-mortar) carries much of what you’d expect if you’re a fan of the e-store, or visited any of the company’s other locations: Shinola’s beautifully-crafted bicycles, leather-bound journals and leather accessories, watches galore, and quirky-cool giftables like a brass coaster set and bottle opener. A doorway connects Shinola to Filson, which carries reclaimed waxed-canvas bags, outfitted with new leather straps and hardware, as well as new bags, sturdy wool and flannel shirts, jackets and other essentials that are both timeless and au courant. [Read more: “First Look: Shinola's and Filson”] (Now open. 228 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-338-5493, shinola.com & filson.com.)
Now open: Idun: St. Paul's Cathedral Hill neighborhood is the site of internationally-minded, high-design boutique Idun. The shop carries a mix of goods that reflect the shop's minimalist aesthetic, with activewear-inspired detailing, luxe fabrics and clean silhouettes, including quintessentially-French line Bérangère Claire; minimalist Danish label Won Hundred; sporty, streetwear-influenced NYC line Nomia and Toronto-based contemporary sportswear line Priority of Ten. [Read more: "New Shop Alert: Idun"] (Open noon-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Idun, 495 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 610-745-7681, shopidun.com.)
Niki English Handbags Launch & Kickstarter: Two University of Minnesota alumni have joined forces to launch a new handbag line--with the help of Kickstarter. Their debut "Vertigo Collection" is said to be inspired by the streets and lifestyle of New York, offering a balance of function and style. [Read more: “Minnesota native Niki English "Kickstarts" new handbag line”] (Now available at nikienglish.com. Donate to the Kickstarter campaign through July 11 at kickstarter.com.)