For all those who loathe chain stores (and wearing what everyone else is wearing), rejoice! A feisty and stylish startup called Boutiika launched its discovery directory this week. The savvy site highlights independent boutiques in neighborhoods around San Francisco.
At launch, there are about 30 stores featured, like The Residents Apparel Gallery in Hayes Valley, Heartfelt in Bernal Heights, and Loft 1513 in the Castro, and the site will be adding many more in the coming months.
After perfecting its search and directory service for boutiques in New York City, Boutiika relocated its headquarters to San Francisco earlier this year.
Recently, I caught up with the company’s charming and energetic founder, Ruchika Kumar, to find out a bit about the inspiration for her startup. Kumar grew up in Manchester, England, a city known more for soccer than for shopping.
"Where I grew up, it was mostly chain and high street stores, and I disliked those options. There was always someone else who had what I had, and wore what I wore. I had to go to great lengths to feel like an individual and find one-of-a-kind pieces."
She lived in London for a while before moving to New York. “London was my first tasting of that (independent style) and New York was where I really discovered boutiques.” Once she launched Boutiika in Gotham, she made a few trips out to Silicon Valley for business reasons.
“What I really care about isn’t so much fashion or the labels but the ‘look,'” she said. “So when I first started visiting San Francisco, I just fell in love with this city and its independent spirit and style.” That’s when she decided San Francisco was the right place for Boutiika to call home.
Since February, her team has been out about town, establishing relationships with those operating the various shops that are featured on their site. Each shop gets its own page to tell its story, feature designers and merchandise, and alert customers to upcoming sales and events.
From the home page, users can also browse the site by type of store (“Made in SF,” “Thrift & Secondhand,” “Socially Responsible,” etc.), and there are also ten images of recently arrived products that are available in the stores now.
“First and foremost we want to help you find boutiques to shop at,” says Kumar, “and then for our merchant partners, we are driving people into their stores.”
In this way, Boutiika is focused on one slice of the broader offline-to-online shopping phenomenon, which industry analysts believe is a trillion-dollar market in the U.S. Many of the shops do not maintain their own robust websites, so turning to an aggregator for help makes sense. The site itself is also extremely well-designed and easy to browse.
Kumar has ambitious hopes for her company. “I'd like us to become one of the leading fashion startups here. We want to be part of the fabric of fashion culture in San Francisco, to be part of the community, cover events, and so on. The best is yet to come!”