Written by Naomi May
In a bid to streamline and personalise the shopping experience, Bahraini founder Yara AlDhaen designed Sept, which she hopes will become the Netflix of fashion.
You know the feeling: the one where a dress adorned in a sea of sequins or a skirt lined with a string of fuchsia feathers flashes before your eyes on your daily scroll and you’re left scrambling to find out where it’s from.
What you need is a personalised shopping app that merges the images we flick past on social media with retailers that stock the pieces we love, which is precisely the gap in the market that new app Sept, which launched in 2021, hopes to fill.
Founded by 29-year-old Bahraini Yara AlDhaen, Sept hopes to become the Netflix-Goodreads hybrid of the fashion world. The sort of app that streamlines the shopping process. In its founder’s own words, it’s “a social fashion app where you shop with your favourite friends and your favourite virtual style-makers. But it’s all powered by you and your interactions.”
As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention and that’s certainly true in AlDhaen’s case. The idea for the app, whose name derives from the lucky number seven, came one evening when the former lawyer was planning outfits for an upcoming wedding with friends.
“We’d all been shopping with these retailers for years; they know what we’re clicking on, they know our order history, yet my friends and I – who all have different styles – were all looking at the exact same dress,” AlDhaen tells Stylist over the phone from Bahrain. “Which is when I thought, there must be a better way to do this.”
The premise is simple. Download Sept from the App store and take part in a small quiz to help the app understand your likes and dislikes. The app’s algorithm will then create a tailored and intuitive shopping experience based on your likes, where users can swipe right if the item presented is “Me” or left if it’s “Not Me”. If you like the item presented, you click through to a retailer – Net-a-Porter and FarFetch are on board – to purchase. It’s the tailored digital shopping experience that many of us didn’t even know was possible.
“It just felt strange to me that Netflix or Spotify knows and understands us so much – and personalises our experience whenever we use those services – but shopping didn’t,” she says. “Being a fashion consumer – in the Middle East particularly – was when I noticed how broken the system was. We all know what we like, yet all of our shopping app feeds looked the same.”
Despite being an ardent fashion consumer, AlDhaen had little understanding of the world of fashion tech. The founder studied law at King’s College London, Kent University and even passed the California bar before realising her true passion lay in the fashion field.
To those who might be confused as to the difference between Instagram Shop and Sept, AlDhaen is clear about the difference: “Instagram is a browsing tool; you might find a bag while scrolling through family pictures and pictures of restaurants, but its purpose isn’t to shop,” she states. “We highlight young fashion brands that might not break on Instagram unless you’re following them. And Instagram is driven so much by its algorithm, which is in turn driven by ads, that it’s not really based on what you’re liking but what your friends are liking.”
In terms of a five-year plan, AlDhaen is aiming high. “I want to change the way we shop online,” she says. “The online shopping experience is completely broken. It’s been the same for 20 years. Most home pages or websites operate as fulfilment centres; the discovery, the liking of the product, the recognising of a brand has already been made somewhere else and then you’re just searching for the product online and basically getting shipped, so I don’t feel like there’s a real interaction between what the place you buy from and yourself.”
She concedes: “It’s a big vision. There’s a long way to go. There’s more to do, but I just want to make shopping a really fun digital experience.”
Sept is available to download now.
Images: courtesy of Sept
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