Sitting in class one day, Nathaniel Eliason watched as a student shopped for clothing—on ten different websites. What a hassle, he thought. Why couldn’t you just use one?

While still a student at Carnegie Mellon, he launched Tailored Fit, a website redesigning the way we shop online, one personalized suggestion at a time.

For the online shopper, the Pittsburgh tech startup makes shopping an individually tailored experience, says Eliason, now co-founder and CEO. Users can create an online clothing rack by making selections from the site, which is pre-stocked with clothing of every category, color, and price range from different brands and retailers.

As shoppers “heart” and “remove” items on the rack, Tailored Fit begins to understand the users’ style and then fills their racks with more handpicked recommendations. When they are ready to buy, shoppers can purchase through their online cart or visit the retailer’s official site, which currently includes Nordstrom, Macy’s, American Eagle, Forever 21, and Shopbop, with more coming soon.

Tailored Fit’s platform uses an algorithm that is “based on over 1200 clothing ‘genes’ that describe very specific details about each piece,” says Eliason. “The more genes that two pieces have in common the more similar they are, and we can use groups of these genes to describe certain styles in order to make more detailed associations.”

Photo by Brian Cohen
Photo by Brian Cohen

Eliason argues that 90% of the clothing seen when shopping online isn’t what you want. “Our service learns your style and lets you shop faster,” he says.

Tailored Fit is also designed to work for retailers. The site will allow smaller retailers and designers to compete with the big name brands, as well as offer retailers a more targeted audience. As the company gains more users, they will be able to use guided marketing initiatives and research to make the industry more efficient.

Eliason brought his idea to Startup Weekend Pittsburgh in October of 2013. The 54-hour startup competition, which takes place in cities around the world, gives competitors the opportunity to pitch their concept to a panel of local entrepreneurs, develop full project teams, and gain feedback and funding to launch startups. (The most recent Startup Weekend in Pittsburgh took place last month.)

The top ten ideas were chosen by popular vote on the first night of the competition. What followed was an intense weekend of “hustling,” says Eliason, “where it was heads down working for 2 ¼ days.”

It paid off. Tailored Fit was named the winner and a startup was launched.

As the first place winner, Tailored Fit was the recipient of resources such as three months of free office space at Revv Oakland, a community for tech startups in Oakland, along with meetings with Pittsburgh-based investors.

They passed on the office space and instead moved into AlphaLab in early January of this year, as part of the winter/spring cycle of the startup accelerator and mentorship program. On May 20, Tailored Fit will vie for the support of investors during AlphaLab’s Demo Day.

What’s next? A phone app, for one. “We’re in development of a location-sensitive recommendation and we’re working with a local retailer to make sure it’s the best possible experience for boutiques,” he says.

The app will not only let consumers shop, but would sense what stores they are near and recommend clothing to them based on their preferences. “Brick and Mortar retail is having a hard time competing with online sales, and we think by bringing the two together we can really benefit the industry,” says Eliason.

The site will also be adding to their racks in the coming days, expanding the number of users, and creating a life style blog. Another 10 retailers will be launched soon.

What’s the goal? “No fixed number but it will always be more,” says Eliason with a laugh. “We want to have the largest selection possible.”

“We need to prove that people will show up and keep coming back,” Eliason also notes.

Aaron Tainter of AlphaLab has faith they will. “What’s really unique about Tailored Fit is the machine-learning technology that they’re building on top of this product. They’re going after two fronts, the trend of retail shopping online mixed with the personalized recommendation engine that they provide.”

“What we like to look for even more than a great idea is a strong team and a strong CEO,” says Tainter, “and Nat exhibits all the qualities we look for. He is someone who has the development capability and the entrepreneurial spirit. He just hit his stride on all the right things.”

Maeve has just completed her freshman year at Wellesley College, where she plans to major in Economics. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, and a lifelong resident of Shadyside, she is a graduate of The Ellis School. Maeve is happy to be back in Pittsburgh for the summer and, when away at college, she remains passionate about Pittsburgh and her Pug Dog, Perry.